Apartment plants

Orchid fertilizer

Orchid fertilizer

Elegant queens of flowers for the home, but also for a beautiful terrace, in the past they were the exclusive pride of a few enthusiasts who had greenhouses and plenty of time for their cultivation. Today it is no longer so, in fact hundreds of new hybrids can be found on the market, which can be purchased already in bloom and are, among other things, able to reproduce and flourish again year after year, giving the viewer an unparalleled beauty and refinement .
Orchids are robust plants and in their natural environment they are able to grow and flourish although the available nutrients are scarce.
We ask the specimens that live in our homes, however, to always be at the peak of vitality and give us frequent, colorful and lasting blooms. The substrate used is practically inert and unsuitable to provide even the little that the plant would require: the help of a fertilizer is therefore indispensable.
In this article we talk about the most widespread orchids on the market and in our homes: phalaenopsis and dendrobium.

Basic elements for fertilizing orchids

The plant, in addition to taking carbon and oxygen from the air, absorbs everything it needs to live from the ground. If the soil is suitable for the plant and therefore rich in nutrients, you will be at a good point, but you must not forget that the little earth contained in a pot is rapidly depleted both by the absorption of nutrients by the roots and by the innumerable watering to which it is subjected.
It is therefore essential to replenish these substances with a fertilizer. Always keep in mind that the essential nutrients for a plant are especially three, namely nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.


Fertilizer 20-20-20

From February to March to November or from June to November

Once a month, diluting as prescribed or ј (for non-specific products)
If once a week dilute again by 1/4
Fertilizer 30-10-10 From February-March to November or from February-March to June Once a month, diluting as prescribed or ј (for non-specific products)
If once a week dilute again by 1/4
Foliar fertilization From February to March to November We dilute by 1/10 compared to the indications and we use for all the nebulizations
Calcium nitrate From February to October 1 gr / liter every other month
Magnesium sulfate From March to November 1 / gr / liter every other month

Nitrogen mainly acts on the vegetative growth of the plant, therefore by administering this element you will have a remarkable development of the leaves and flowers, particularly not insignificant since it is precisely of orchids, which characteristic is precisely the beauty of the flowers, keep in mind that its deficiency causes chlorosis, ie the appearance on the leaves of more or less large areas of yellowish color.
Phosphorus acts on the development of the roots and therefore, although the effects on the plant are less striking than that of nitrogen, it is equally indispensable. If the soil is poor in phosphorus, the leaves at the base appear with blackish marks. Furthermore, this element is indispensable for plants whose seed is used for reproduction, even if for the orchid family it is a bit complicated, in a home environment.
Potassium helps the photosynthetic process by which the plant, by using the energy of light, transforms carbon dioxide into sugar. Its deficiency causes defoliation and in some cases the leaves become poorer, remain small and fold down.

How to use the fertilizer

Each plant needs specific composi and mixtures of nutrients based on specific needs. As far as orchids are concerned, most growers never use fertilizer other than as a nourishment for the leaves.
For the species cultivated in the home, however, it is advisable to fertilize, also I advise you to buy a complex fertilizer, which includes all the chemical elements and specifically the orchids, you should use nitrogen-based fertilizer from the beginning of the vegetation until when the plant is in full development, that is when the flowers and leaves are well reinforced, and then continue with a fertilizer based on phosphorus and potassium to strengthen the roots and keep the plant in full force.
Remember to never use fertilizers suitable for plants grown outdoors, in fact they contain potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus in different proportions from the compositions studied for indoor plants, where the elements are largely eliminated by the innumerable waterings.
Always use products with immediate effect and only during the summer period, when it is the period of growth, you can give it the fertilizer every 15 days, dissolving a gram of fertilizer in a liter of water, so as to administer it with watering.
Do not fertilize when the soil is dry or dry, in this case first I advise you to wet the soil and only at the next watering can you add the fertilizer. Furthermore, you must not fertilize immediately after repotting, but you must wait for 15 to 20 days, the time necessary for the roots to adapt to the new soil.

Which fertilizer to choose

Before buying a fertilizer it is good to know, at least in broad terms the composition. Depending on the fertilizer element they contain, in fact they can be nitrogenous, phosphate and potassic. Depending on their nature, that is their composition can be organic if they are composed of compounds of animal or vegetable origin, minerals if they are composed of mineral elements or mixed if they include both.
Fertilizers can also be simple if they supply only one of these elements or compounds if they are formed by a mixture of two or more simple fertilizers.
Finally, depending on the speed with which they perform their action in the soil, they can be ready, medium or slow release and effect. In practice, if the product is liquid or in powder, and once dissolved in water, it is administered to the plant with waterings, absorption will be immediate, if instead the fertilizer is in the form of tablets that must sink into the ground, and then they will slowly melt with the waterings, the effect will be prolonged.
The most common orchids grow well using continuously balanced NPK fertilizers, for example 20-20-20. They provide an adequate supply of nutrients and the plant does nothing but absorb what it needs, leaving aside what remains.
For those wishing to be more scrupulous, it is possible to vary the formulations according to the seasons and specific needs. A common practice is to distribute a balanced product only from mid-summer to the end of winter. From March to June a fertilizer will instead be chosen where nitrogen is prevalent (for example NPK 30-10-10): we will thus have greater vegetative growth and therefore the emission of new foliage and roots.
In any case, if we do not find specific fertilizers, we can address the generic ones by checking that they are similar to those illustrated above and as water-soluble as possible.
Recent studies have shown that the absorption of fertilizers, as well as through the roots, can also occur through the leaves. Consequently special products have been prepared, called foliar fertilizers, based on nitrogenous foods that can be quickly assimilated by the leaves. They are found in spray cans or diluted with water to be sprayed on the leaves. In relation to the latter type of fertilizer, it is not recommended for orchids, or at least you do not recommend it in the period in which it blooms, as it could ruin the inflorescence, which is the main characteristic of this type of plant.

How to fertilize?

We can choose to "feed" our orchid by immersion or from above. The first option is certainly preferable because it guarantees greater homogeneity and allows the substrate to be well impregnated. In any case we always try to start with non-dry roots: it will be an additional protection against "burns".
By immersion we prepare a basin by diluting the fertilizer in lukewarm water: we insert the plant so that all the substrate is bathed, but not the collar. We wait at least 15 minutes or at least until the roots have taken on a nice bright green color. We extract and drain very well.
From the top: we distribute the fertilizer from above trying to impregnate the substrate and all the roots as much as possible.

Dilution of the fertilizer

In specific fertilizers for orchids it is clearly indicated how much to dilute the product and how often it is distributed. Instead, "generic" fertilizers should be diluted much more because they are created for greener plants: in order not to risk it is good to reduce the concentration by at least 4 times, gradually increasing to reach, eventually, the half.

Fertilization frequency

We recommend (at the dilutions indicated above) to fertilize once a month; for varieties that require a rest period, it is also advisable to suspend fertilization at the same time.
But we can also decide to fertilize every time we irrigate further diluting the concentration. For example, watering once a week will divide and distribute mensile of the monthly dose each time.

Foliar fertilization

On the market there are highly water-soluble products that can be used for foliar fertilization by spraying. It is a strategy recommended to everyone, especially in the summer months, but it is the only one possible for plants grown on a raft. We dilute the doses of 1/10 and use the mixture continuously insisting on the leaves and roots.

Calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate

For a perfect health of our plants it is important to regularly administer these two supplements. The first is important for strengthening cell walls. It should be administered once every two months at a concentration of 1gr / l. Magnesium sulphate is equally important: let's distribute it at the same concentration, alternating it monthly with the other.

Which water to use?

The most widespread orchids in our homes are epiphytes: in nature they grow attached to the trunk of trees. The water they need comes from the rains from the air (very humid) and almost mineral-free. That of our homes, on the other hand, is very rich, particularly in calcium which, in the long run, can crystallize on the roots and inhibit its functions.
To work around we can collect rainwater or buy osmotic water. That of the tap can be used after being boiled for about 15 minutes over low heat, keeping the lid on.
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