Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Question Regarding Orchid Fertilizers

(A full year after I bought it, thanks to the right light conditions and regular fertilizing, this Laliocattleya 'Gold Rush' is in full bloom and knocking my socks off! Photo: Alex Feleppa)

While looking for orchid fertilizer retailers I cam across your blog. I hope you can help me with my problem. I wanted to know the names of stores that i could pick up the orchid fertilizers from in the Manhattan area. Could you also tell me the names of good fertilizers specifically for orchids?

To answer your fertilizer question, my default destination for fertilizer and other supplies in Manhattan is Jamali Gardens at 149 West 28th Street. It is a small business but inside it is absolutely packed with every imaginable supply expect plants themselves. They always shift the fertilizers around so you might have to ask where they are, but the staff is usually very friendly and helpful.

As far as what fertilizer to use for your orchids, I typically use Schultz “Orchid Food”. It’s readily available and I’ve been using it for a number of years with good results. The N-P-K is 19-31-17 so you will be providing a good balance of nitrogen and potash with a little extra boost of phosphorous to help the orchid re-bloom. If you are not familiar with the N-P-K reading on a bottle of fertilizer a blog post from May 11, 2007, will help you understand that better. For this fertilizer all the nutrients are in water-soluble forms which becomes quickly available to the plant, so it is different from other kinds of fertilizers that might be more “slow-release”. As a result, and typical for orchids, I like to fertilize with a slightly diluted solution compared to what the bottle recommends and I fertilize every week. The catchy phrase I learned in horticulture school is “weakly weekly” when it comes to fertilizing orchids, and does keep the plants looking, growing, and blooming well. Come to think of it this product does give weekly and monthly dosage recommendations so they make it really easy on you.

As a final thought, some people love a product called Super Thrive. Super Thrive comes in very concentrated form and you have to follow the instructions carefully. The one thing I find that most people are not aware of is that Super Thrive is not a regular fertilizer. This product resembles a certain kind of plant hormone, or “plant growth regulator” as botanists would say, and it helps give plants a boost if they are struggling. Many people use Super Thrive as a fertilizer but I have been educated that Super Thrive can be used in addition to fertilizer, but should not be used in place of.

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