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Last updated: March 10, 2021
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The best fertilizer for orchids will nourish your orchid plants and transform them into healthy, robust plants with spectacular blooms. But how do you know which fertilizer to use given the many varieties on sale? That’s where we come in. Our task is to help you identify and select the right fertilizer for your orchid collection, one that will keep your orchids in excellent condition all through the year.
We’ve tested 20 products so far, out of which we identified the best performing fertilizer and our Editor’s Choice, EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food. An all-natural, organic fertilizer, EarthPods is designed to offer maximum nutrition to all types of orchids. Its non-urea composition and near-balanced NPK ratio ensure all-round plant development, boosting root and foliage growth and stimulating blooming. Read more on why this is our top choice and discover our other top recommendations in the Product Reviews segment.
To come up with our findings, we considered how the products compare when it comes to things like the fertilizer type, active ingredients, NPK ratio, frequency of use, and pack weight, all of which are important features that determine how effective the fertilizer is. In the Buying Guide section, we’ll address each of these features in more detail, explain how they work, and show you how to tell if they are used in the correct way in the fertilizer you’re evaluating. We’ve broken down the details into bite-sized portions that include a table, in-detail reviews of each product, a buying guide, and FAQs.
EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food should be a top choice if you’re looking to bag the best slow release fertilizer for orchids. Available in capsule form, this urea-free fertilizer is made up of natural plant nutrients, minerals, growth hormones, and beneficial microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and humic and fulvic amino acids. All ingredients are sourced from natural, sustainable resources, so in using this product, you’re not only feeding your plants with natural, beneficial matter, but you’re doing so in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Further, the capsules are child and pet friendly.
The capsule design of this fertilizer embodies no-fuss gardening at its finest. Simply push the capsules into the soil and you’re done. Use 1-2 EarthPods capsules for small plants, 2-4 for medium-sized plants, and 4-8 for large plants, and repeat the process every 14-21 days. It’s something the busiest among us can do even if, at best, they can only spare a few minutes for plant care. No measuring needed and no digging around in the soil, which means there is no mess and no chance that you’ll get the measurements wrong. The capsules break down in minutes and slow release directly to the roots. If using EarthPods for epiphytic orchids, open the capsules and spread the contents around the roots and substrate of your plants.
What we liked:
Child and pet friendly
Easy to use
What could be better:
Expensive given the recommended number of capsules per plant and frequency of use
rePotme Feed ME! Orchid Fertilizer is a special formula derived from boric acid and designed for use with reverse osmosis, rain, and tap water with low alkalinity. For a lot of people, this alone greatly broadens its suitability for use, thanks to the flexible water requirements. It’s a rich, urea-free composition that includes nitrogen, phosphate, calcium, potash, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, and molybdenum. It’s formulated to optimally re-hydrate the soil, help with foliage and blooming, and boost the overall health of your orchid plants.
Available in the form of granules, this product requires you to measure out the fertilizer and mix with the required amount of water. The manufacturer recommends ¾ teaspoon per gallon of water, which makes 64 ounces of MSU best liquid fertilizer for orchids. For some people, getting the portion right is a challenge, especially when they have to measure and mix enough product for one or two orchids, and the instructions are not clear about how to measure smaller portions, so you have to use your best judgment when doing the calculation. The instructions are not printed out on the jar, which would be a convenient point of quick reference, but they are enclosed inside the package. On the bright side, the 8-ounce jar is big and affordable, which makes it economical if you have plenty of orchids. Remember to keep the jar closed to protect the fertilizer from humidity, which can interfere with the structure of the granules.
Grow More Premium Orchid Bloom is designed for fertilizing orchids of all types, and, as per our experiment, appeared to boost blooming in all our orchids, not just the cymbidiums for which it’s popularly used. This powdery plant food is derived from ammonium phosphate and is a lower nitrogen fertilizer, as seen from its 6-30-30 NPK formula. As such, it’s ideal for blooming, although the phosphorus and potassium help in the health and development of the stem and roots. It’s a fast release fertilizer, with the nutrients designed for immediate utilization by the plant. The manufacturer has indicated the concentration guidelines on the label, which you’ll adjust accordingly for the number of plants you need to feed. For best results, repeat every 2 weeks.
The 3-pound jar is huge and is perfectly suited for large gardens. Nonetheless, it gives real value for money even for individuals who are only nurturing a few orchids since it will last a long time. The fertilizer itself comes in a blue powder form. Although it’s easy to wash off, you may want to wear your gloves when mixing to avoid staining your hands in case of a spill, just to simplify the process. To make things easy for you, the manufacturer includes a free measuring scoop with this container.
What we liked:
High amounts of phosphorus and potassium
Suitable for all types of orchids
Easy to mix
What could be better:
Requires precise mixing to get the concentration right
With an NPK formula of 7-5-6, JR Peters Inc Jack’s Classic liquid fertilizer very closely mimics a balanced fertilizer, and is what you want to pick if you’re looking for orchid food that delivers just a slightly higher amount of nitrogen. Use it if you’d like to see an improvement in foliage and a robust stem. The product is derived from ammonium nitrate, and in our opinion, it’s the best fertilizer for phalaenopsis orchids that we’ve tried so far, great for plant strength and blooming. The all-round plant health it fosters is attributable to the combination of carefully selected micronutrients that, when added to the macronutrients, improve the overall health of the plant.
This is an 8 fl. oz bottle and should last you a long time if your orchid garden is small to medium sized. The manufacturer includes a label with the recommended amount of orchid fertilizer to user per gallon of water. Adhere to the recommended ratios to protect your orchids from burning. It can be tricky to measure small portions for a small number of plants given that the label shows the mix ratio in gallons, but don’t freak out; the fertilizer is completely safe when used as instructed.
The bottle comes in a user-friendly pump design with a built-in cup, wand and nozzle for easy pouring. The manufacturer includes a measuring spoon for extra convenience.
What we liked:
Easy to mix liquid formula
Long lasting, particularly when used in small gardens
Espoma Company Organic Orchid Plant Food is designed for use on orchids and bromeliads. But it also has a lot of similarities with the best organic fertilizer for citrus trees from Espoma, and watching the effect it has on orchids will give you a fair evaluation of the changes you can expect to see in your citrus trees when you use a citrus fertilizer on the trees.
This product is derived from hydrolyzed poultry manure, fish protein, and soy protein; bone meal, potassium sulfate, and kelp extract, and is instantly available for the plants. It has an NPK formula of 1-3-1 and a range of additional active ingredients, including calcium and a host of microbes. It also contains a large number of non-plant food ingredients, among them bacillus licheniformis and humic acid derived from leonardite, and while these are not organic, they are health-boosting for orchids.
The manufacturer recommends adding 1 quart of water to 1 pre-measured dose. Before opening the bottle, turn it upside down, wait a couple of seconds, then flip it back to the upright position. Go ahead and pour out the pre-measured dose of product. Repeat the application every 2-4 weeks. Be careful to follow the instructions when opening the bottle for the first time, as it has a propensity to explode and spill contents far and wide.
What we liked:
Large number of macronutrients and microbes
Includes pre-measured product doses
Easy to use
What could be better:
Prone to exploding; needs careful handling
Contains plenty of non-plant ingredients
Things to Consider
From reading the product reviews, you should have a good idea of specific fertilizers that would be great for your orchids, and which ones would be practical for you either because of the ingredients and nutrients they offer, size, or ease of use. In this next section, we’ll go deeper into how orchid fertilizers work, the specific features that make these fertilizers useful, and what you can do to keep your orchids healthy.
How orchid fertilizer works
Orchid fertilizer is specially formulated for orchids and works by releasing nutrients directly to the root area of the plant. Fertilizers for other flowers – like fertilizers for roses – won’t be the best option for your orchids.
Other fertilizers are fast releasing. This type avails the nutrients to the plant as soon as you apply the fertilizer. Grow More Premium Orchid Bloom is one such example.
Orchid growing tips
Take measures to remedy any issues with your orchid as soon as you notice the problem-whether it’s diseases, crown rot, loss of roots, or pests-to increase its chances of survival.
Drain any runoff in the container. If you leave orchid roots sitting in water, they could easily begin to rot.
Don’t water your orchids from the top as this could cause them to rot.
Don’t use ice cubes to water your orchids as the extreme temperature could damage the roots and lead to death.
Don’t separate the pseudobulbs because they provide the orchid with the energy it needs to grow robustly. Similarly, don’t cut healthy canes. Like pseudobulbs, they provide energy and encourage growth.
Don’t place your orchids in direct sunshine. Direct sun exposure could potentially burn the leaves.
Here’s a video to help you with the orchid improving:
Orchid fertilizers are largely affordable, with prices beginning at $10 for an 8-ounce (fl) bottle and $15 for a 3-pound container of powder fertilizer. Liquid and powder formulations generally tend to last long and are the economical choice for folks with many orchids.
Still, a few fertilizers are expensive. Using EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food on a large orchid garden can be costly, for example, given that a container with 100 capsules costs about $33, and you may need to use as many as 8 capsules on one plant.
The following features will help you choose the best fertilizer for orchids
Now, let’s look at the individual features that determine the efficacy of orchid fertilizer.
Orchid fertilizer is available in four main forms: liquid, powder, granular, and capsules. Capsules and liquids are the easiest forms to use, while powder and granular fertilizers are more involving due to the more rigorous mixing process required to get them ready to add to plants.
Also, consider whether you want organic or inorganic fertilizer. If you like keeping things natural and are ecologically conscious, an eco-friendly, sustainable option like EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food is a good choice.
This refers to the nutritional composition of the fertilizer, meaning the compounds the roots will absorb. The essential ingredients in orchid fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The second group of active ingredients is secondary macronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulphur, which plants consume in smaller quantities. The third group consists of micronutrients, a large group of beneficial components added in trace amounts. They include iron, copper, zinc, manganese, vitamins, and growth hormones, among others.
What is the NPK?
NPK numbers indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium available in the food plant. These are the 3 major components of a complete fertilizer. Nitrogen helps with foliage health. It’s the compound that will boost leaf development in your plants. Phosphorus helps in root growth and development, blooming, and fruit production – so, it is a necessary part of fertilizers for fruit trees. Like phosphorus, potassium helps in root development and promotes healthy stem growth.
The ratio of N, P, and K varies from fertilizer to fertilizer. For instance, EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food avails NPK in a 1.3-1.2-1.1 ratio, rePotme Feed ME! Orchid Fertilizer offers 13-3-15, while Grow More Premium Orchid Bloom avails NPK in a ratio of 6-30-30. These numbers typically indicate the percentage of each NPK ingredient. So a 6-30-30 formula means the fertilizer contains 6% nitrogen, 30% phosphorus, and 30% potassium.
Insects and disease control
To protect your orchids from black rot, drain any water that collects in the container after applying your fertilizer. This will discourage the growth of the fungi responsible for the disease.
Apply only the recommended dose of fertilizer to protect your orchids from fertilizer burn and bud blast. Over-fertilizing causes the potting medium to decay, which can attract fungus gnats, whose maggots feed on roots and any leaves that may be in contact with the potting media.
Pack weight and type
If you have plenty of orchids, consider a bigger pack that can serve you longer. Likewise, the type of fertilizer matters. Powder or liquid fertilizer that is mixed in gallons for every ¼ teaspoon-1 teaspoon, like JR Peters Inc. Jack’s Classic, will last longer. If you only have a few orchids, you can choose whichever variety you like, including the capsulated variety-it won’t be expensive since you only use a couple of capsules per application.
The true measure of a good fertilizer is in the difference it makes to an orchid. You’ll know the fertilizer is working as it should when you see the orchid transform from a limp plant to a firm plant that is robust, with a strong stem and roots. The foliage should also sprout and grow at a steady pace, and the orchid should bloom without fail when blooming season comes around. How often any orchid plant blooms will depend on genera. For example, lots of phalaenopsis bloom almost all year round, miltonia bloom in the summer, and dendrobium bloom between fall and winter.
The first step in fertilizing orchids the right way is choosing the right fertilizer. A bloom booster, for example, has a lower nitrogen percentage. To boost the overall health of your orchids, choose a balanced fertilizer, which has a similar percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Orchids also need micronutrients to thrive, so choose a fertilizer with a broad array of these trace elements.
To apply the fertilizer, mix the recommended ratio of product to water, apply to the root area (as you would when watering), paying attention not to pour the fertilizer mix on the leaves. Let it sit for a few minutes, drain the excess water in the pot as well as any water that has collected in the display container, and put the pot back in the display container.
Follow the frequency suggested in the manufacturer’s instructions. Some fertilizers should be applied weekly, some every 2 weeks, and others once a month. The most important thing is not to overdo it as this could negatively impact the health of the orchids.
Yes. Coffee grounds are excellent sources of nitrogen. They also keep snails and slugs away, two pesky pests that eat and destroy orchids. Always use grounds from brewed coffee because they have a near neutral pH that is plant health-boosting.
Eggshells are just as beneficial and provide orchids with calcium, which fosters blooming. Put eggshells in a container and add water. Let the mixture steep for a few weeks. Mix a cup of the eggshell mixture and 1 gallon of water and water your orchids as normal.
No. Only fertilize during the growth season, feeding it as recommended to boost chances of blooming. Stop fertilizing once the orchid starts blooming and resume when all the flowers have fallen off to replenish the nutrients the orchid used up during blooming and potentially trigger reblooming.
EarthPods Premium Orchid Plant Food is our top choice. The all-natural, eco- child- and pet-friendly ingredients are what make this a star product. The urea-free, odorless composition is another winning aspect. We also like the concept of capsules, which makes it easy to apply and non-messy.
Our second favorite is rePotme Feed ME! Orchid Fertilizer, whose urea-fee composition is what every serious gardener wants for their orchids, and whose granular formula allows for easy conversion to liquid fertilizer. It contains more than 10 macro and micronutrients, and comes in a well-sealed container jar for safe storage.
Espoma Company Organic Orchid Plant Food takes the third position in our best fertilizer for orchids compilation. The easy-to-mix liquid formula, available in pre-measured doses, makes using this fertilizer easy and mess-free. It also guarantees that you’ll get the ratio right each time. We also like that it’s suitable for use with all types of orchids.