I recently updated my post on how to water orchids, and because fertilizing orchids goes hand in hand with watering, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic as well.
Like all living things, orchids need nutrition in order to thrive. Feeding orchids is an important part of caring for them and eventually getting them to rebloom. This post will focus specifically on fertilizing Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids because Phals are the most common orchids for beginners, available everywhere from your local florist to Ikea and Trader Joe’s.
Like all living things, orchids need nutrition. Feeding (fertilizing) your orchid is an important part of caring for it and making sure that it lives a long and healthy life. This post about how to fertilize an orchid is waaaaayyy overdue…but better late than never, right? I’m going to talk specifically about fertilizing Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids because Phals are the most common orchids for beginners, available everywhere from corner delis to Home Depot, Ikea, and Trader Joe’s.
When I first started buying orchids for my home, I wished I had a list of basic supplies to have on hand. So to help out other beginner orchid growers, I’ve created that very list. Also, I just like making lists, so this post is a fun one for me!
Orchid newbies usually end up with Phalaenopsis orchids; the best type of potting medium for that kind of orchid is either a bark mixture, sphagnum moss, or a combination of the two. First Rays has a really good article about choosing potting media for your orchid plants.
I’ve been following tweets about orchids and it seems that there are a few very common questions from first time orchid owners. So I’d like to take a moment to address the top three FAQs for all orchid newbies out there.
1. My flowers are shriveling and falling off. Is my orchid dying?
A month and a half ago, I blogged about a couple of my Phalaenopsis orchids that were in sad shape. I write today with both good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news first: one of these two orchids now appears to be on its way out. :/
When that leaf on the right started going yellow, I still had hope for this orchid. But when the leaf on the left started turning too, my hope started to fade. I think I will take it out of the potting mix and see if there’s anything left that can be salvaged but I’m wondering if there’s just too much rot under there. 🙁
And now for the good news: the other sad Phal (the one on the left on the photo, in the green bowl) seems to be making a comeback! Last time I wrote, there was just the teeniest root nubbin starting to poke out of the base of the plant. Since then, that root has grown and another two have started to come in. Even better, which I just noticed a moment ago, the plant is beginning to grow a new leaf out of the top of the crown—a definite sign that it’s recovering after all!
A second piece of good news is that my biggest Phal is about to bloom! There are eight buds so far and one of them is just beginning to open up today. I’m super excited about this one – its blooms are GORGEOUS. You better believe I’ll post photos when its blooms open up!!
UPDATE: OK, so I just realized that the dying orchid is a Doritaenopsis, not a Phalaenopsis like I originally thought. The tag says “Dtps. Sogo Kitty” and for some reason this whole time I just ignored those four letters “Dtps” because it looked like a Phal. Doritaenopsis is a hybrid of Phalaenopsis and Doritis, but they need basically the same conditions as Phals. I just removed the dead leaf and some more rotted roots, and repotted the plant with a mixture of sphagnum moss and bark, hoping the mixture will help it get more air circulation and will rot less. We shall see…
Something is poking out of the base of your orchid plant. Is it a new root, or—even more exciting—a flower spike? It can be hard to tell the difference, especially for orchid beginners. In a Phalaenopsis orchid, both roots and spikes are usually green when they begin to emerge, which makes it that much harder to distinguish the two.
I’ve found that with orchids, the easiest way to learn is with our eyes. So, I write bearing visual aids.
The long silvery thing in this first photo is a healthy, dry root. And the small green nub you see to the right of the long silvery root is a new root beginning to poke out from the plant stem. New Phalaenopsis roots usually appear with a green tip, and as they grow longer they will become silvery near the base of the plant. If you click the photo to view the larger version, you will see there are actually two new roots coming in – the green one on the right that I already mentioned, and a second one just above the longer silver root.
This next photo shows a brand new flower spike growing out of the base of another one of my Phalaenopsis orchids. It’s a slightly brighter green and a tad flattened, with what looks almost like a tiny mitten at the tip. It’s this mitten shape that, for me, is what most easily distinguishes a root from a spike.
In the third photo you can see both a new root (silver, on the left) and a new spike (green mitten, on the right).
Cool, huh? I’m always excited to see ANY new growth on my orchids – whether it be a new root, spike, or leaf – because new growth is a sign of a happy and healthy plant. Of course I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more spikes, because that means MORE FLOWERS! but I’ll take new roots too. Growing orchids at home sure is a good way to strengthen your patience muscle.
Updated to add: I receive many questions from readers about orchids that have leaves and roots growing off of the spike. These are called keikis (baby orchids), and they can be viable plants on their own once their roots grow long enough. I have written a separate post about keikis and what to do with them. Read all about keikis here.
P.S. For another great source of information about how to successfully grow orchids, I recommend signing up for a [Affiliate Link] free Orchids Made Easy newsletter from Ryan “The Orchid Guy.” He brings tons of tips and advice straight to your inbox, every day!