Are You Fertilizing Your Orchids?

Fertilize with a light hand and see big results.

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fertilize orchids

Fertilizing orchids is essential to promote the overall orchid health, but it must be done correctly.

An important way to provide your orchids with essential nutrients that they will not get by water alone is to fertilize.  The key is to fertilizing properly is to not overdo it. Orchids are salt sensitive. And salt is the carrier for the minerals found in fertilizers.   That’s why there are a few things to keep in mind, so you can do it safely. 


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The mantra most repeated when fertilizing orchids is weekly, weakly.  Cut the fertilizer to half to one-quarter of the package instructions.  For example, if the fertilizer manufacturer instructions say to add 1 teaspoon of fertilizer to 1 gallon of water, add only 1/2 to 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer to 1 gallon of water. Every fourth watering does not use fertilizer and flush the plant to wash away any salt build-up. 

Additionally, the fertilizer number is representative of a percentage. For example, if the fertilizer labels read 7-7-7. This means that there is 7% nitrogen, 7% phosphorous and 7% potassium. While these numbers do not add up to 100%, they do represent a concentration. The lower the numbers, the lower the concentration of the respective nutrients.

Understanding the Orchid’s Life Cycle and Fertilizer

You may have noticed that sometimes your orchids seem to be doing nothing at all while other times you notice leaves emerging, flower spikes forming and new roots developing. These are all parts of the orchid’s life cycle, including the rest cycle. Observing this cycle will help you know when to fertilize and which type to use.

FEEDING ORCHIDS – Fertilizer by the Number

Understanding fertilizer numbers will help you to get the most out of your orchids and the fertilizer. Don’t worry if the fertilizer doesn’t specifically say that it is for orchids. Knowing the minerals that numbers stand for and diluting the fertilizer is what is most important.

#1 Nitrogen

The first number on the fertilizer label is always nitrogen.  Nitrogen promotes healthy, lush foliage.  High nitrogen fertilizer is recommended if using a wood-based planting media, 9-3-6.  Use this fertilizer when you notice new leaves forming. 


#2 Phosphorous

The second number refers to phosphorous.  To promote flowers, use a higher phosphorous fertilizer such as 3-12-6. Once the orchid is prepared to bloom, you see flower spikes appearing, return to a balanced fertilizer.


#3 Potassium

Potassium is the third number on the label and is important for developing a strong root system, including the overall well-being of your orchids.  Potassium also helps to fight pests and disease and bounce back from unfavorable conditions such as cold and drought conditions. When roots are forming use a fertilizer such as 0-0-3.



You may also notice periods when the orchid plant goes dormant. During this resting period, you will not see any flowers, root or leaf growth. This signals the need to break from fertilizer and cut back on watering as well. When new growth appears, the orchid is beginning the next stage of its growing cycle and will again benefit from fertilizer.

The proper use of fertilizer will enhance the overall health of your orchids. Adding a few drops of fertilizer takes hardly any time at all. Now you’ve unlocked the mystery behind the fertilizer numbers. Being privy to the orchid’s growing cycle will help you to use fertilizer to its fullest advantage and will help you to grow beautiful orchids.

Ready to Learn More About Growing Orchids?

Limp Leaves: Signal a Watering Problem

To solve your problem, read on!


Orchids: Cutting the Spike for More Flowers

A Step-By-Step Guide


Give Your Orchids the Right Light

Learn about natural sunlight and artificial lights, including fluorescent and LED lights, to grow orchids.


It’s No Secret That Orchids Need Humidity. Here’s 4 Tips on Giving Orchids the Right Humidity

4 Secrets to Successfully Give Your Orchids the Humidity They Need


  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for simplifying the process of fertilizing my orchids. I do hope to see some results after following your advice.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you! Keep in touch!

  2. Thea Gaudette says:

    I am new to orchids though I have wanted to try for years. You site is by far the BEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE, and the EASIEST for a novice to use. Thank you so much for giving an old lady the confidence to take on these beautiful plants. Thanks again, Thea

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I cannot express how much they mean to me. I have full confidence in your orchid growing capabilities!
      Have a lovely day,

  3. Terry says:

    Thank you for the info. I’m new to growing orchids and learning a lot from you. Very valuable info and tips!!!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Terry! Please let me know if you have any specific questions!

  4. Holley says:

    Thanks for the great article

  5. Katiusca says:

    Hola, buenas tardes, y que fertilizante casero podemos usar para tal fin?? gracias

    1. Anna says:

      I use Dyna-Gro fertilizer for my orchids. If you purchase through this link, I will receive a commission šŸ™‚



  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you , Anna. Iā€™m trying to follow instructions, I am trying to be good to my plants, because they are good to me.! So again thanks for all your advice.!
    Have a joyous week.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks you for your kind words! I agree that our plants are kind to us.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Where do you purchase your orchid pots? Thanks, Drew

    1. Anna says:

      I like to use these sturdy clear pots:

      Slotted, Clear Orchid Pots

      I then place the clear pot into a ceramic pot for added stability – and aesthetics.

  8. Suzanne pinshow says:

    Anna I also wish to compliment you on your profound understanding of all things orchids. I only have 1 Phal which has flowered twice off the original spikes. One has developed a keiki plus small root. We in South Africa are going into Autumn(fall). Should I leave both spikes until spring? There’s also what looks like a new orchid plant starting at the base, behind the existing plant

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your kind words. Believe me, I have a lot to learn about orchids, and I enjoy sharing everything I learn about them here at Orchid Bliss.

      It sounds like you have two types of keikis (baby orchids) growing off of the mother plant. The keiki that is growing at the end of the flower stalk can be potted up when the roots are several inches long.

      If the keiki growing near the base does not have any of its own roots it is called a basal keiki and should not be removed from the mother plant – as it does not have its own root system.

      After the flowers have faded, trim the flower stalk that does not have the keiki off near the base of the stalk. Leave the flower stalk that has the keiki as it is until you are ready to pot up the keiki.

      Here is a helpful article about keikis:


      All my best,

  9. Gwendolyn Zachery says:

    I have a Phal, it bloomed and was very pretty/ Now I am trying to keep it alive. I cut the flower spike down to the last node and now they are turning brown but the plant is putting out a new leaf and new root. Should i cut the brown spikes off or leave it? This is my first one. Thanks

    1. Anna says:

      It is normal that the flower spike is turning brown – this is nothing to worry about. Yes, you can cut the old flower spike off.
      It is a very good sign that your orchid is growing a new leaf and root. Right now your orchid is in what is called the Active Growth Phase. If all goes well, in 3-6 months, you will notice a new flower spike emerging.

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the ONE email you'll open every week

Saturday mornings I send out an exclusive email sharing my best tips on how to grow healthy orchids.