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Ask the Grower: Can I Use Tea as Fertilizer for my Phalaenopsis Orchid?

December 29, 2015

Phalaenopsis orchid care is quite simple, but by adding an extra step—fertilization—your orchid can get an extra boost of nutrients it needs to provide you with beautiful blooms for years.

What’s the best method and how often and when should you do it?

There are a few ways to fertilize your orchid. You could use orchid fertilizer that’s specially formulated with the nutrients your orchid needs, or you could use flower fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A question we have encountered recently is whether it’s effective to use tea leaves or bags as a fertilizer. Here’s what you need to know about this method.

Getting Nitrogen and Nutrients From Tea

Because orchids aren’t potted in soil, they need nitrogen for optimal health. Orchid fertilizer and all-purpose flower fertilizer will contain the necessary nitrogen. Another high-nitrogen option for fertilizer is tea bags. With this option, you just open the bag and spread the contents in the potting media. But because using tea as a fertilizer isn’t a widely known option, we asked our head grower, Frank, what he thinks about this method. Here are a few of his recommendations:

  • Phalaenopsis orchids prefer an open and porous growing media. If your orchid’s media is a bark mix, keep in mind that the contents of the tea bags may clog up the growing media. Using one tea bag should be enough to provide nutrients without clogging up the growing media, however, adding more than one tea bag may be a process of trial and error to find the right amount your orchid needs."
  • Since there is no analysis of the nutritional value of the tea bags, it’s difficult to give accurate recommendations on how much should be used.
  • Because of the unknown nutritional content of the tea bags, it also can’t be said that the tea provides a balanced nutritional value, so additional elements may need to be added.

If you choose to use tea as a fertilizer, it will likely be a process of trial and error finding the right tea and other nutrients your orchid needs to thrive.

The When and How of Orchid Fertilization

It’s best to fertilize your orchid after the last bloom has fallen off. After that, aim to fertilize at least once a month. Simply add fertilization to one day on your watering schedule, and you’ll be enjoying beautiful, colorful blooms for many months.

Download Your guide to Orchid Fertilizing