Orchids are one of the most popular plants in the UK. These pretty flowering plants are reasonably easy to grow, although they do require regular watering and misting, and occasional feeding with an orchid fertiliser.
It is generally recommended that orchid foods have a balanced ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and include all necessary trace elements, including copper, iron and zinc. Calcium and magnesium are also important.
Fertilisers with more than 20% nitrogen should be avoided, as should those with urea, which can impede the absorption of nitrogen. Instead, look for the compounds ‘ammoniacal nitrogen’ or ‘nitrate-nitrogen’, which have been shown to be better for orchids.
The best food for your orchid will depend somewhat on the variety you are growing, but there are foods that are suitable for most varieties, and those are the ones we’ll be looking at here.
To help you choose the best meal for your hungry orchid, we’ve selected our 5 best orchid food products on the market, based on their nutritional content, usability and affordability. Your orchid is sure to send compliments to the chef!
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Let’s begin with our top pick –
Our favourite orchid food is high in nitrogen, highly concentrated and long-lasting
Coming in at number 1 on our list of the best orchid foods is this Orchid Concentrate by Baby Bio. This all-rounder is specially formulated for orchids and will help to boost growth and flowering during the growing season.
This concentrated orchid food has a nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratio of 5.3:2.2:0.85. Whilst this isn’t perfectly balanced, the high amount of nitrogen should encourage growth and bloom in your orchid, and it’s well below the 20% maximum.
The feed is contained in a small 175ml bottle with waterproof packaging, so you’ll be able to leave it around your orchid(s) without fear of it being damaged by watering and misting. Despite the small size of the bottle, the solution is highly concentrated, and only a few drops are required per feed, so it should last a long time.
It is important not to apply too much of the product at once, and always dilute with water, to avoid burning the roots of the plant with the concentrated solution. The manufacturer recommends adding 5-10 drops of the concentrate to half a litre of water when watering weekly, or half a capful if feeding bi-weekly.
This orchid feed does contain the compound ureic nitrogen, which is obtained from urea. It is generally recommended to choose other nitrogen compounds, as this form has to be converted to ammonium nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen before it can be absorbed by the plant, which slows down the feeding process.
However, the overall difference made by this is likely to be negligible, and all things considered, this is still one of the best orchid fertilisers on the market today.
- High nitrogen content will help with growth and blooming.
- Suitable for use with every watering during the growing season.
- Concentrated solution means it will last a long time – only a few drops are required per feed.
- Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio is unbalanced.
- Contains the ureic nitrogen compound, which is slower acting than others.
- Can cause skin irritation.
- No listed minerals or trace elements.
Our best value orchid fertiliser is organic, and rich in nutrients and minerals
We’ve chosen this Orchid Focus Bloom as our value pick partly due to the fact that just one 300 ml bottle is capable of making 120 litres of orchid food when diluted with water. This means it should last you a long time, for a low price. It’s also one of the most nutritious plant foods on our list.
The nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratio of this orchid fertiliser is 1.6:2.4:2.6, meaning that, unlike the Baby Bio formula, there is more potassium and phosphorus than nitrogen. This should encourage your plant to flower for longer.
The great thing about the nitrogen contained in this food is that it comes from nitrate nitrogen, and there is no urea in the formula, so the nitrogen will be more readily available, and quickly absorbed by your plant.
Furthermore, the formula is made from pure mineral salts and organic plant acids and contains many of the minerals and trace elements your orchid needs, including calcium, iron, copper and manganese.
It is recommended to mix 5 ml of this plant fertiliser (20 ml for Cymbidium) with 2 litres of tepid rainwater, to make the perfect food for your orchid. The feed should be applied with every other watering (approximately once every 2 weeks).
The food is especially suitable for Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) in all stages, and for Cymbidium, Cambria, Brassia and other varieties in their growing season. Considering the unbelievable price tag, this nutrient-packed orchid food is hard to beat.
- Made from pure mineral salts and organic plant acids.
- Nitrogen compound is the desirable nitrate-nitrogen – no urea.
- Contains high levels of potassium and phosphorus, to support prolonged flowering.
- Contains a range of minerals and trace elements, including calcium, iron, copper and manganese.
- Long-lasting – makes 120 litres of plant feed when diluted.
- Great value.
- No magnesium in the formula.
- Difficult to pour from the bottle.
These drip feeders will provide your orchid with a constant supply of nutrients
Our next orchid food comes from SMEREKA. Unlike the previous options, this one contains 5 individual sachets of plant food, each of which can be upended in your plant’s compost to drip-feed fertiliser over the course of 2 months.
For this reason, this is a great option if you are going away on holiday, or if you are prone to forgetting to feed your plant – you can simply put one of these in the compost, and forget about feeding for 2 months – although you will still need to water it.
This also means your orchid is drip-fed gradually, which is how they prefer it – a hit of too much fertiliser at once can cause root burn, especially if it’s not diluted enough. In contrast, these sachets will provide your plant with a steady, slow release of nutrients.
The main problem with these drip feeders is that there are no listed ingredients, so it’s impossible to tell exactly what nutrients and minerals your plant will be receiving. Online reviews suggest the feed is effective, but it’s hardly ideal to buy plant food without knowing exactly what’s in it.
The fact that there are 5 individual sachets also means more plastic packaging than the others, and so they’re less environmentally-friendly in this respect. With 10 months’ worth of food supplied, these are also unlikely to last as long as the previous 2 options, despite costing twice as much.
However, they are undoubtedly more convenient, and if you’re not too worried about knowing exactly what’s in your plant’s food, these are an easy way of giving it some nutrients, to improve leaf growth and blooming.
- Easy to apply.
- Ready to use, no dilution required.
- Feeds your orchid a little at a time, the way they like it.
- Great for use when you’re away, or if you’re prone to forgetting to feed your orchid.
- No listed ingredients.
- More expensive than others, and not as long-lasting.
- More plastic packaging.
This orchid food is high in potassium and contains plenty of other nutrients
This Miracle-Gro Concentrated Orchid Food is a blend of 9 essential nutrients, making it another great option for fertilising your orchid, or for bringing a dormant plant back to life.
This one has a nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratio of 4:4.5:8, with the high potassium level designed to promote heavier flowering and longer-lasting blooms.
The nitrogen here comes from a mixture of nitrate nitrogen and ureic nitrogen, which is better than solely ureic nitrogen. There’s no calcium or magnesium in the ingredients, but it does contain important trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc and manganese.
It must be diluted with water prior to use and given to your plant at the time of watering. The instructions specify 1 pump to every litre of water if used weekly, or 2 pumps if used bi-weekly. Based on this, the 236ml bottle should last you a reasonably long time.
The food is recommended for use during the growing season, from February to June. For those looking for a complete orchid care system, it can also be used in conjunction with Miracle-Gro’s Orchid Mist (sold separately).
- Concentrated formula will last a long time.
- Contains trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc and manganese.
- Easy to dispense.
- High potassium level promotes colourful, long-lasting blooms.
- No calcium or magnesium.
- Unbalanced nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio.
- Some nitrogen comes from ureic nitrogen, which is not as easily available to your plant.
This granulated orchid food only needs to be given to your plant once every 6 months
Our final orchid food is another option from SMEREKA. This Slow Release Fertiliser is the first non-liquid feed on our list. Instead, it contains slow-release granules of fertiliser, which are designed to be added to your plant’s compost or mulch.
One application is said to provide nutrition for your plant for 6 months or the entire growing season. Simply add this to your plant’s compost in spring, to boost flowering, and again in the autumn. Be patient, as it may take a while for you to see results.
This also makes it another great option for those who don’t have the time or struggle to remember to feed their plant (although you will still need to water it regularly!)
The nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio of this fertiliser is 14:12:12, which is fairly balanced, and should provide your plant with a good amount of all these essential nutrients. There are no other listed ingredients, so it’s impossible to tell whether it also contains any calcium, magnesium or other trace elements.
As one application lasts 6 months, the bag provides 3 years’ worth of food for your orchid. This makes it probably one of the long-lasting products on this list – which it should be, as it’s also one of the most expensive. Considering how long it should last, and the ease of use offered though, it’s still great value.
Overall, this is a nutritionally-balanced plant food that’s exceptionally easy to apply and ensures your plant will be in the best possible position for flowering when used alongside regular watering and misting.
- Well-balanced nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio.
- One application feeds your plant for 6 months.
- Provides 3 years’ worth of food.
- Pricey, compared to similar products.
- No other ingredients listed.
How To Use Orchid Food
Different varieties of orchids will have different feeding requirements. As a general rule, during the growing season (spring and summer), you should add an orchid fertiliser to the soil every 2-3 weeks. Do this at the same time as watering, and make sure to dilute the food according to the instructions, to avoid burning the plant’s roots.
Some foods also recommend feeding a smaller amount on every watering. Orchids should be watered once a week, or when their compost dries out. Do not allow the compost to become saturated, or your orchid to stand in water, as the roots may rot. Orchids like high humidity, so it can also be a good idea to mist them daily.
For some species of orchid, you should reduce feeding and watering over the winter months, during the orchid’s dormancy period. However, other warm-growing varieties will still need to be watered in winter, so it’s essential to do your research.
Do not feed your orchid if it is weak or diseased, as this will put further strain on the plant. If your orchid has floppy, dark green leaves, this could be a sign of overfeeding, so you should refrain from fertilising for a while. When it comes to feeding orchids, too little is always better than too much.
April is a freelance writer who specialises in writing about home and garden design and the environment. She is an avid wildlife-enthusiast and adventure-seeker, and feels happiest when in the Great Outdoors.