Two questions I am asked frequently are, “How do I feed my orchid?” or “How often should I feed my orchid”. In this article, I will address both these questions and provide you with a few tips on how to improve your orchid growth, flowering and health.
I will 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 enough to support orchid growth, flowering and health. In terms of orchid nutrition, fertilisers are incomplete and not the best option for you to use, to feed your orchids.
Scientists have determined that for all plants to grow, reproduce and keep healthy, they need a minimum of 16 nutrients. These are referred to as the 16 essential nutrients.
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 the reason why some of your orchids may not be growing or flowering that well, i.e. your orchid may not be receiving enough nutrients.
Most potting substrates used for growing orchids have little or no nutritional value and should not be relied upon to feed your orchids. The substrate primarily exists to allow the roots to anchor the plant, allow for gas exchange to occur and provide a domain for water to be "stored" for the roots to absorb. You have to introduce nutrients to the orchid via a nutrient solution that is added to the water and poured through the potting substrate so that orchid roots can absorb them.
Nutrients exist in the solution as positively or negatively charged ions. When they come into contact with the orchid root they are absorbed, stored by the velamen layer and released to root for transportation throughout the plant. Velamen is the white outer covering found on most orchid roots.
Please note: If you use organic amendments like fish emulsion, seaweed extract or blood and bone, they have to be broken down into positively and negatively charged ions by the biology that exists in the potting media, so that orchid roots can absorb the nutrients. Roots can’t absorb bits of fish and seaweed, etc.
In nature when it rains, water falling through the tree canopy or through the forest floor absorbs nutrients. As the water washes over the orchid roots, the nutrients in the water are absorbed by the orchid roots.
Two things I want to bring to your attention are:
Orchids are not gross feeders and using a nutrient solution that is too concentrated is detrimental for your orchid.
You as an orchid grower should try to replicate nature – feed your orchids a very weak nutrient solution every time you apply water.
The below recommendations are written with these points in mind, feeding a small amount of nutrient every time you water your orchids.
There are two approaches orchid growers use to feed there orchids:
The growth phase is the time 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 and will continue unless hindered by a change in its growing conditions, i.e. lack of nutrients, lack of water, subject to disease or a pest infestation, temperature stress, incorrect light levels, etc.
This is when an orchids energies are directed at reproducing, i.e. flower production.
During the blooming phase, nitrogen is no longer the main nutrient required by your orchids and you now need to feed your orchid more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). This is because plant growth has slowed down and nitrogen is no longer required in large quantities.
Phosphorus is essential for seed germination, photosynthesis, protein formation, overall growth and metabolism, flower and fruit formation and potassium are essential for the formation of sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, cell division. Phosphorus also adjusts water balance; improves stem rigidity and cold hardiness; enhances the colour and oil content of flowers.
Option 1. Use one nutrient solution all year round.
For this program, you can use a product that has a good balance of nutrients to support both leaf and flower production.
Products that are suitable for this are:
Option 2. Using a nutrient solution to match the orchids growing phase.
For this program, you use two nutrient solutions, one for the growth phase and one for the blooming phase. Start with using a nutrient solution suited for the growth phase. As soon as an orchid shows signs of producing a flower, switch the nutrient solutions and use one that is suited for the blooming phase.
a. Growth Phase:
The nutrient solutions recommended for this stage are:
b. Blooming Phase:
Option 1. Strengthen cell structure, improve pest and disease resistance, heat, cold and drought stress and assist with nutrient uptake. Use Pro-TeKt 0-0-3
Pro-TeKt is a supplement that supplies silicon and higher levels of potassium to build stronger plant cell walls. Pro-TeKt is a replacement for the silica normally found in soils and generally is not present in potting media.
Some of the benefits for including silicon with your Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solution are:
Mag-Pro is the blossom booster for growers looking to maximize the beauty of there orchid flowers.
K-L-N Concentrate is a root stimulating solution containing both (IBA) Indole-3-butyric acid and (NAA) 1-Napthaleneacetic acid hormones that stimulate the production of vigorous root development in all plants.
One of your objectives for growing orchids should be to cultivate a good, healthy root mass. It stands to reason that a healthy, vigorously growing root mass, forms a good foundation for growth and flowering. Roots are the main vehicle plants use to absorb water and nutrients.
One way to maintain and stimulate root growth is to use K-L-N once a month. Incorporate it with the Dyna-Gro Nutrition Solution of your choice.
Use K-L-N Concentrate added to your Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solution once a month throughout the growing season. Do not use K-L-N Concentrate during periods of dormancy, or when flower initiation is desired.
Option 4. Improve growth and plant health with a seaweed drench.
A monthly root drench with seaweed concentrate supplies the nutrients that are missing from fertilisers plus a whole lot of the compounds that help to promote growth and health.
It is not uncommon to hear plant fanatics mention how seaweed has changed the well being of there plants.
Please note that seaweed is not a fertiliser it does not contain enough NPK to continuously support plant growth. It should be viewed as a tonic for plants, similar to the concept.
Remember the above recommendations are not absolute. Experiment and find what works with your growing system. Compared to other plants, orchids grow slowly. It may take some time to see the results.
Dyna-Gro has been developing and providing growers with products and information for over 34 years. Their products work and produce excellent results for growers all around the world.
Bio Leaf Orchid Fertiliser consists of 2 bottles, 1 bottle contains the A solution and 1 bottle contains the B solution. Mix 2 ml of each per 1 litre of water.
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