Most plants obtain the nutrients and moisture they need from the soil. Minerals from underlying rock formations, decayed plant material, and insect and animal matter create a rich miasma that constantly replenishes soil with nutrients. Terrestrial plants use their roots to absorb these nutrients. As tree-dwelling epiphytes, Phalaenopsis orchids cannot profit from the soil’s richness. Instead, they create their own mini nutrient gardens by trapping wind-blown plant and animal matter, grains of soil, mineral flakes and other nutrients between their tangled roots where they can be absorbed by the plant.
Why do orchids need fertilizer?
When we bring orchids into our homes, we remove them from the natural environment that nourishes them. The mixtures of fir bark, sphagnum moss, cork, gravel, peat moss and other materials in which commercially-grown Phalaenopsis orchids are generally potted provide some minimal nutrition as they break down; but hardly enough to provide the plant with the nutrient boost it needs to generate new growth and flower. Fertilizing your Phalaenopsis orchid regularly provides it with the nutrients it needs for optimal health and vigorous blooming.
How often should you fertilize orchids?
Experts recommend fertilizing Phalaenopsis orchids once every other week or at least once a month only after its blooms have dropped. Fertilize your orchid with a weak solution of a balanced plant fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer that contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (look for 20-20-20 on the label). Fertilizer should be used at half-strength, making it with an equal amount of water before applying it to your orchid.
Apply fertilizer carefully. To avoid burning the orchid’s leaves, do not pour fertilizer directly over the plant. Using a narrow-spouted pitcher, gently lift the orchid’s leaves and slowly pour the fertilizer into the pot. Allow the pot to drain thoroughly to remove excess fertilizer. Do not water your orchid on the weeks you fertilize it.
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