3 Options for feeding your orchids (pot plants) using Dyna Gro
Below I describe 3 techniques for feeding orchids and other flowering plants grown in pots (hoya). The techniques can be adapted for use with all pot plants.
We are often asked "How, should I feed my orchid?" or "How often should I feed my orchid". I will address both these questions and provide a few tips on how to improve orchid growth and health.
I refer to a nutrient solution and not a fertiliser. Typically, a fertiliser refers to a product designed for use in the garden or soil and only contains a handful of nutrients, not the 17 nutrients found in the combinations of Dyna-Gro products. In terms of orchid nutrition, fertilisers are incomplete and are not the best option for you to use because they lack some of the essential nutrients required for optimal health and growth.
Are you starving your pot plants?
Plants are no different from humans. Just as you need a balanced diet to keep yourself healthy and well, so do your plants. Buying any old fertiliser from your local garden supply store may be one of the factors contributing to why some of your orchids may not be growing or flowering that well, i.e. your orchid may not be receiving enough nutrients and are 'starving'.
What are essential elements (nutrients)?
Scientists have determined that for all plants to grow, reproduce and keep healthy, they need a minimum of 20 elements to maintain optimal growth and health. Three of these, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, are supplied from air and water. The remaining 17 elements are supplied via a nutrient solution. Some deem silicon to be beneficial rather than essential.
For an element to be regarded as essential, three criteria are required:
- A plant cannot complete its life cycle without the element.
- No other element can perform the function of another element.
- The element is directly involved in plant nutrition.
Count the nutrients
Check with the fertiliser supplier as to how many nutrients exist in the products. Most manufacturers websites will list the ingredients contained in their products. Counting the nutrients on a label is not reliable because some are at concentration levels which are ideal to achieve optimum crop growth but may be below levels to satisfy the legal labeling requirements.
A note about potting substrates (mix)
Most potting substrates used for growing orchids have little or no nutritional value and should not be relied upon as the only source of nutrition for your orchids. The substrate primarily exists to allow the roots to anchor the plant, allow for gas exchange, and provide a domain for water and some nutrients to be "stored" for the roots to absorb. You have to introduce nutrients to the orchid via a nutrient solution. When you pour the nutrients solution liberally through potting mix, orchid roots can come into contact with the nutrients in the solution and absorb them.
Nutrients exist in the solution as positively or negatively charged ions. When they come into contact with the orchid root, they are stored by the velamen cells and released to the root (stele) for transportation to various parts of the orchid.
Velamen is the white outer covering of dead cells found on orchid roots and they act like a sponge to absorb and store nutrients.
Please note: If you use organic amendments like fish emulsion, seaweed extract or blood and bone, they have to be broken down by the potting mix's biology to convert into a form that orchid roots can absorb. Roots can't absorb bits of fish and seaweed, etc.
Copy how orchids get their nutrients in their nature
In nature, when it rains, water falling through the tree canopy or the forest floor picks up nutrients. As the water washes over the orchid roots, the nutrients in the water are absorbed by the velamen cells.
Two things I want to bring to your attention are:
- Every time it rains, the orchid's roots have access to nutrients dissolved in the rainwater.
- The nutrients dissolved in the rainwater exist in very dilute or minor quantities.
This means that orchids are fed fairly regularly with a weak nutrient solution every time it rains. This is why we say that you should feed orchids weakly, weekly, i.e. feed your orchids a weak nutrient solution often.
Orchids are not gross feeders, and a nutrient solution that is too concentrated is detrimental to your orchid.
There are several methods orchid growers can choose to feed their orchids.
CHOOSING A NUTRIENT PROGRAM
For the programs mentioned below, I recommend that you include the following with your nutrient solution.
To every batch of nutrient solution ad the following products:
- Dyna Gro Pro-TeKt. Pro-TeKt is added as a source of silicon which helps to develop a strong (tough) cell structure and balances the pH effect of the nutrient solution.
- Dyna Gro Mag-Pro. The additional magnesium and sulphur helps to improve the leaf colour and increase flower count and size.
Once a month, add any 1 of the orchid growth booster products to your nutrient solution:
- KLN Rooting Solution will gently stimulate the development of roots.
- Seaweed Soil Concentrate or BioPower Seaweed Flake adds extra nutrients and organic compounds missing from synthetic nutrient solutions.
OPTION I. Use one nutrient solution (fertiliser) all year round.
For this program, you can use one product which has a good balance of nutrients to support leaf growth and flower production.
Products that are suitable for this are:
- Dyna-Gro Orchid-Pro 7-8-6
- Dyna-Gro GROW 7-9-5
OPTION II. Using a nutrient solution to match the orchid's growing phase.
For this program, you use two nutrient solutions, one for the growth phase and another for the blooming phase.
I. Growth Phase (Vegetative Phase)
- The growth phase is when orchids produce new stems, leaves or roots. The nutrient requirements call for large amounts of Nitrogen (N) which the orchid uses to produce chlorophyll and is also a vital component of proteins, hormones, vitamins and enzymes.
- It is during this stage that most of an orchid's growth occurs.
- Stimulating growth (leaf production) increases the total leaf surface area. This translates to a plant having more leaf surface area to photosynthesise. It is the by-product of photosynthesis that plants use to create structure(cells). This, in turn, should contribute to better flowers.
II. Blooming Phase (Reproductive Phase)
- This is when an orchid's energies are directed at reproduction, i.e. flower production.
- During the blooming phase, Nitrogen is no longer the main nutrient required, and fertilisers typically have higher Phosphorus and Potassium levels.
- Phosphorus is essential for seed germination, photosynthesis, protein formation, overall growth and metabolism, flower and fruit formation, and Potassium is essential for the formation of sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and cell division. Phosphorus also adjusts water balance; improves stem rigidity and cold hardiness; enhances flowers' colour and oil content.
III. Dormant Phase
Some orchids have a period when they require little or no water and nutrients. During this phase, follow the recommended cultural guidelines for the orchid.
Use a nutrient solution to match the growing phase. Orchids and most plants have two phases, a growth phase and a blooming phase.
Using Dyna Gro Nutrient Solutions:
- Growth Phase - Dyna-Gro GROW 7-9-5.
- Bloom Phase - Dyna-Gro BLOOM 3-12-6.