8 Best Orchid Fertilizers | When and How To Use Orchid Food

In the plant world, there are arguably no other exotic flowers as diverse and beautiful as orchids. These complex beauties belong to the largest family of flowering plants in the world, with over 28,000 known species! 

If you want to grow these colorful and fragrant flowers, in your garden or your home, you’ll need to provide them with supplemental nutrients to optimize their growth. But the question is, what are the best orchid fertilizers and when should you use them? Let’s explore all your options right here.

Best Orchid Fertilizer

If you’re in a hurry then here are my top recommendations. Miracle-Gro’s fast-acting spray mist is convenient for regular use and ideal for ailing plants that need a quick boost. Better Gro is a strong water-soluble fertilizer capable of producing wonderful orchid blooms.

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Best Ready-To-Use Fertilizer

1. Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food

With a convenient, built-in hand mister, this 0.2-0.2-0.2 NPK should be applied regularly to roots and growing medium. Fast-acting to revive weak orchids.

Better Gro Orchid Fertilizer

Best Water Soluble Fertilizer

2. Better Gro Orchid Fertilizer

A quick-dissolving orchid fertilizer, with powerful 11-35-15 NPK, produces plenty of healthy blooms. Can be used as a plant spray or bark soak.

Choosing A Fertilizer for Orchids

There are no less than 13 nutrients that orchids need to produce exquisite flowers and large, succulent leaves. The three most important are nitrogen for leaf growth, phosphorus for healthy roots and bud development, potassium to deal with environmental changes (such as pests and climate), and for maintaining overall health.

Orchid Plant Food Nutrients

All orchid fertilizers are labeled with an N-P-K ratio. This is an indicator of the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) that is contained in the product. Since each of these nutrient elements is responsible for a different area of the development of an orchid, it is worth considering why you are purchasing an orchid fertilizer and at what stage of development your orchid is currently.

For example, orchids need high potassium formulas during flower development and in full bloom and high nitrogen formulas for the remainder of the growing season, after flowers have faded.

In addition to nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, check the orchid food ingredient list for the inclusion of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. A good fertilizer will provide a range of secondary nutrients that are essential for cell division, respiration, and growth.

Orchid Fertilizer 20-20-20

An orchid fertilizer with a high N-P-K ratio of 20-20-20 will provide an appropriate ratio of nutrients for soil-based orchids. But, such high percentages would not be sustainable for epiphytic orchids that are typically grown in a non-soil-based planting medium, such as bark or pebbles.

Soil acts as a kind of buffer, which can protect roots from being hit with a tsunami of liquid nutrients. Soil-less mediums lack this buffering feature, leaving roots vulnerable to the ravages of over-fertilizing. If you choose to use a triple 20 feed on all your orchids, it’s best to significantly dilute what you apply to your epiphytic specimens.

What Kind Of Fertilizer Is Available To Buy?

Fertilizer for orchids is available in a range of formats, each offering different methods by which it can be administered. The most popular options are concentrated liquids or water-soluble granules that can be mixed with water. The added advantage of water-soluble orchid food is the ability to water and feed your orchids at the same time.

Plant food spikes are an equally effective method of feeding your orchids. These are inserted directly into the planting medium, without any messy mixing or measuring involved. Spikes break down gradually and, depending on the brand, continually feed from 2 to 9 months. With a longer shelf life than liquids, they can be safely stored away from children and pets until you need them again.

Best Orchid Fertilizers Reviewed

Let’s dive, headfirst, into the market to seek out the best orchid food available. My testing practices reflect an emphasis on appropriate NPK ratio, the inclusion of vital secondary nutrients and trace elements, ease of use and, of course, results.

Our own in-house, expert impressions and customer reviews from major online platforms and growers’ forums have been added to the discussion in order to represent overall customer satisfaction with the products that I’ve tested.

Pros

  • Adds moisture and nutrients instantly
  • Suitable for soil-grown and epiphytic orchids
  • No need to dilute

Cons

  • Can damage orchid blooms if accidentally misted

The beauty of this fertilizer is its premixed formula that comes with a built-in sprayer for easy dispensing. Safe to spray directly on exposed roots, potting medium, and leaves, it’s a great way to get nutrients and moisture to your orchids, straightaway.

I used this on a couple of sorry-looking phalaenopsis orchids that hadn’t bloomed in a while. I must admit, I was skeptical about spraying this orchid food on the leaves, knowing how prone orchid leaves are to burning. But, I needn’t have worried. The results were quick and impressive and didn’t harm the leaves at all.

One word of caution: Do adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations of avoiding spraying this on your orchid flowers.  I started out with a laissez-faire approach to misting and sadly lost some gorgeous, new blooms.

How to use: Spray your orchids weekly throughout the growing season and water in between feeds. The spray action creates a fine mist that moisturizes the leaves and roots. It’s a quick and easy way of boosting nutrient intake.  I was impressed that my orchids didn’t need any supplementary feeding

Customer reviews: the results were quick and impressive with new growth appearing within a couple of weeks. This is ideal for reviving neglected orchids in any growing medium.

Pros

  • Great for stimulating new growth quickly
  • Produces long-lasting and healthy flowers

Cons

  • Harsh if overused

If your orchid hasn’t bloomed in a while and seems in need of a pick-me-up to encourage new growth, then let me recommend this orchid food by The Sun Bulb Company. Not only does this fertilizer promote the development of new buds, but it also enhances the vibrancy and longevity of your orchids’ blooms by way of its high phosphorus content. 

I use this on my epiphytic orchids throughout the growing season to help replace those nutrients lacking in a soil-less growing environment. The results are strong healthy growth and bigger blooms. It’s no wonder this product has secured a place in our list of the best fertilizer for orchids. 

How to use: Mix the granular formula with water monthly throughout the growing season. I find that it dilutes quickly and easily, making it super convenient for me to give both the foliage and the bark of my orchids a good soak.

Customer reviews: Mature plants put out bigger and brighter blooms and users were impressed with how quickly new growth developed after a short time of use.  Stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often and how much to use this fertilizer as it could be harsh if over-used.

Pros

  • Contains 100% natural ingredients
  • Mess-free

Cons

  • Requires more than one capsule to feed medium to large orchids

Now, for an organic variety of orchid fertilizer, this Earth Pods product from Earthworm Technologies does not disappoint. These are 100% sustainable, pet, child, and eco-friendly and in a handy, no-mess capsule form. These are not only good for the environment, they will also boost root growth and increase foliage and flowers in a completely natural way.

This US manufacturer is all about the careful balance of natural ingredients and unlike some other organic orchid fertilizers, this one has no smell and can be used to feed many other plants, in addition to your orchids. 

How to use: Place the recommended amount of Earthpods fertilizer capsules directly into your orchid’s potting medium or separate the capsule and sprinkle the contents onto the soil-less substrate. Repeat every 14-21 days and water in between feeds.

Customer reviews: This fertilizer is a gentle, slow-release option that is chemical-free and therefore suitable for both robust and young or tender plants.  Some of our reviewers felt that this was an expensive fertilizing option, especially for mature plants that required more than one capsule per feed.

Pros

  • Free from harmful chemicals making it safe for use around children and pets
  • Handy lid dispenser makes fertilizing mess-free

Cons

  • May have an earthy odor when capsules are opened

Next up is an organic liquid orchid food from an old favorite of mine, Espoma.  This company just seems to get the balance of organic ingredients right and still manages to charge a fair price. It’s a brand I go back to time and time again. The high phosphorous ratio in this formula means you can expect your orchids to grow with greater vigor, to last for longer, and to maintain a vibrant color whilst in bloom.

How to use: The easy-pour cap means that feeding your orchids is easy and mess-free. Simply tip the bottle upside down to cleverly dispense the exact quantity needed to mix with 1 gallon of water. The solution dilutes instantly and is ready to pour onto the bark of your orchid. 

I like to give the bark of my orchids a good soak with water before feeding and I always make sure that all the fertilizer liquid has drained off completely before returning the orchid to its ornamental pot. Repeat every 3-4 weeks and presto! Your orchids will be blooming, abundantly.

Customer reviews: Read the instructions on the bottle to avoid any spillages, while using the newly designed cap dispenser. Some reviewers were put off by the smell of this product, but that’s typical of an effective, organic fertilizer.

Pros

  • A slow-releasing, long-lasting product with great value for money
  • Apply directly to potting medium without the need to dilute in water

Cons

  • Spikes may become brittle over time

These Miracle-Gro Orchid Food Spikes take the hard work out of fertilizing. They offer a carefully balanced N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10, making them a great choice for phalaenopsis, or any other orchid.

The slow-release formula means you’ll only need to replace the spikes once every two months. There’s no need to use them at all outside of the growing season. Yet, I’ve seen some great year-round results. Blooms are vibrant during the growing season and foliage remains lush throughout.

I love that the spikes come individually wrapped in a handy blister pack, which is great for keeping them away from little hands or paws.

How to use: Simply take a spike from the blister pack and cut it in half. Gently press each half into the potting medium, halfway between the stem and the edge of the pot.  Water regularly to disperse nutrients directly to the roots.

Customer reviews: This product is not recommended for winter use, yet users are reporting their orchids continue to thrive throughout the year.  Some users said the spikes arrived crushed in the packaging.

Pros

  • Can be used for most houseplants
  • Gentle enough to use every time you water your plants

Cons

  • May need to supplement nutrients as the product is not specifically for orchids

This organic plant food with an N-P-K ratio of 3-1-2 is an all-purpose and ready-to-use fertilizer by Houseplant Resource Center. It’s gentle enough to be used every time you water and will provide your orchid with all the nutrients it needs to thrive year-round.

I love the versatility of this fertilizer. It’s a one-stop solution to all my indoor houseplant feeding needs. It doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that may scorch or damage young plants and tender roots.  I can simply dilute it in a watering can and save time, feeding and watering all my indoor plants in one go.

Customer reviews: This product is a cost-effective way of meeting the feeding and watering needs of all your indoor plants. It does a great job of encouraging new growth and vibrant blooms for orchids and other indoor house plants.

Pros

  • Can be used for Bromeliads, as well as Orchids
  • A slow-release formula that lasts for 9 months

Cons

  • Ratio may not high enough to revitalize severely deficient orchids

Fertilizing orchids weekly, or even monthly, may not be an option for some people.  If you tend to forget or simply need more time in between, this might just be the perfect solution.

Florikan Dynamite Fertilizer for Orchids and Bromeliads is a fantastic, slow-release product that means you only need to feed your plants once during the growing season. The high potassium ratio (10-10-17) will stimulate your orchids to increase bud production, by delivering a slow and steady supply of nutrients.

What a relief to know that the nutrient needs of your orchids can be taken care of all in one go!  

How to use: You’ll need to know the size of your orchid’s pot before you measure out and apply these granules around the potting medium.  Then, all that’ i’s required for the next nine months is regular watering and admiration of all the new growth and wonderful blooms.

Customer reviews: This is a great product for those who don’t have time or are a little forgetful when it comes to feeding their plants regularly.

Pros

  • Immediate conveyance of nutrients to stimulate new growth and long-lasting flowers
  • Urea free

Cons

  • Damage from over-fertilizing is common with inappropriate use

This orchid food from Grow More, with its potent N-P-K ratio of 20-10-20, gets to work straight away to provide all the nutrition your orchids need to develop lush green foliage and beautiful, vibrant blooms. 

One of the advantages of this product, compared with other orchid fertilizers, is its lack of urea. While a valuable source of nitrogen, soil organisms must first convert it into a usable form. This can be a problem for houseplants, particularly orchids, that are often potted in sterile soil.  This product eliminates that worry by utilizing other, easily absorbed, nitrogen sources.

How to use: I find a little goes a long way, with this fertilizer and the water-soluble granules dissolve quickly, with little effort. For weekly fertilizing, I mix no more than 1 tsp of granules with 1 gallon of water. I give the bark of my orchids a thorough soak with the solution and allow them to sufficiently drain before placing them back in their ornamental pots. This is a far more efficient use of my time, as I don’t need to water separately in between feedings.

As a general rule, I’ll skip fertilizing with this, once every four weeks, and just use pure water. This helps to flush away any residual build-up of inherent fertilizer salts that may otherwise be harmful to my orchids.

Customer reviews: This is a great value product that should be used sparingly throughout the growing season. Some users found that when they got this product home it was compacted into a solid block in the container which made it difficult to measure out into the desired quantity. 

Top Tips For Selecting The Right Orchid Feed

When buying fertilizer for orchids, read the label and look for the following ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Any fertilizer that uses urea as its nitrogen source is best avoided for houseplants, especially delicate orchids. Sterile, houseplant potting soil typically lacks the microorganisms required for nitrogen conversion.

Specialized orchid fertilizer is always a high performer. As a cost-effective alternative, however, a general-purpose houseplant feed can be easily diluted to meet your orchid’s needs. Lower doses offered at a higher frequency will net better results than high doses, all at once. Orchids can be highly sensitive to fertilizer and too much will burn the roots.

How to Fertilize Orchids

Step 1. Remove your plant from its ornamental pot and place the plastic orchid pot in your sink or bucket. Before applying the 10-30-20 or an equivalent fertilizer to your orchid, mix it with an equal amount of water at half-strength for outdoor orchids. For indoor orchids, mix a quarter teaspoon of fertilizer with a gallon of water. 

Step 2. Prepare your orchid fertilizer as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Most water-soluble orchid fertilizers require 1/2 to 1 tsp of granules to 1 gallon of water or 1/2 to 1 cap of liquid concentrate to 1 gallon of water. Remember, it’s always better to under-fertilize so use sparingly.

Step 3. Before using the fertilizing solution, give the orchid’s potting medium a thorough soaking with water.

Step 4. Using a watering can slowly pour your fertilizing solution over the orchid’s potting medium. Make sure you don’t get any of the fertilizer on the orchid’s foliage so as to avoid issues with mold or fungus growing on the leaves. 

Step 5. After applying the fertilizer solution, let the orchid drain thoroughly. The last thing you want is for your beloved orchid to sit in a pool of fertilizer. Allow 3 or 4 minutes for the plant to drain before returning it to its decorative container.  

Step 6. Don’t water your orchid on fertilizing days as the water is already mixed with fertilizer. An over-watered orchid will not survive for long! 

Orchids do need a supplementary boost of nutrients so it is best to fertilize using this method on a regular basis. A word of caution though, orchids are prone to damage due to a build-up of sodium both from fertilizing products and water. To flush out any build-up of this potentially harmful mineral you can replace the fertilizing solution with water alone once every fourth feed.

How Often to Give Your Orchid Food?

Whether using liquid, granules or spikes, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dosage and application frequency. As a general rule, these recommendations will only apply during your particular orchid’s active growing season. Some cultivars go at least partially dormant in fall. Fertilizing these at this time may actually do more harm than good. However, warm-climate Phalaenopsis orchids continue to grow year-round. These can still be fertilized in winter, albeit using a much-diluted dose.

Best Time to Give Your Orchid Food?

Fertilizing is most effective right after you have submerged or thoroughly watered the bark of your orchid. Once the bark is wet, you can pour the fertilizing solution over the wet bark and allow it to run off before returning it to its ornamental pot. This will allow the slightly expanded bark and roots to absorb enough fertilizer without saturation.

Fertilizing Orchids During Blooming?

Most orchid varieties bloom once or twice per year. Their delicate flowers are sensitive to fertilizers, especially during the budding and flowering stages. When the plant is producing blooms, you should reduce the amount of fertilizer by applying at a rate of 1-quarter strength (1/4 teaspoon per one gallon of water). Fertilize budding orchids once every 3 to 4 weeks throughout the blooming season. 

Should I Be Fertilizing Orchids in Winter?

This depends on the variety of orchids you are growing. For example, Phalaenopsis orchids grow all year round so you must continue feeding them throughout the winter months. However, when the weather is colder and there is less sunlight to encourage foliage and root growth, your orchid will grow more slowly and therefore require fewer nutrients. Reduce the fertilizing frequency to every 4 weeks during the winter months and feed at half strength. 

Verdict: Best Orchid Fertilizers

It’s fair to say that orchids are delicate and complex in nature and require just a little care and attention. But, with just a little bit of know-how, when it comes to the best orchid fertilizer and how and when to use it, your orchids will flourish and thrive year-long.

https://amzn.to/2PWAcch

Best Ready To Use Orchid Fertilizer

Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food

A convenient 0.2-0.2-0.2 fertilizer mist is to be applied regularly to roots and growing medium. Fast-acting to revive weak orchids.

Better Gro Orchid Fertilizer

Best Water Soluble Fertilizer

Better Gro Orchid Fertilizer

A quick-dissolving orchid fertilizer 11-35-15 produces plenty of healthy blooms. Can be used as a plant spray or bark soak.

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