How to grow orchids: part 2
Fertilizer: Fertilizer is food, and orchids must eat, too! We use Nutricote Total 13-13-13, with minors, 180 day formula. It is sold at Home Depot as Dynamite in the red tube. This is an awesome timed-release fertilizer. We "top dress" (apply on top of the potting medium) as we pot each orchid. For a 6 inch pot, we use one teaspoon. Smaller pots receive less; larger pots receive more. Each time the orchid is watered, it receives a small amount of balanced nutrition. With less frequent watering inside or during winter months when your orchids are growing slowly, your orchid receives less fertilizer. With more frequent watering during the summer when your orchid is growing rapidly, your orchid receives more fertilizer. If you've never used Dynamite, experiment with it now. The doses we use are low because we supplement with other liquid fertilizers. Try the lower doses on one or two of your orchids and continue to fertilize as normal.
Temperature: Remember the children's story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks wanted her porridge not too hot and not too cold, but just right. That's the temperature that orchids prefer. Our orchids grow best between 50 to 90 degrees F. That's the theory. However, with heater failure, greenhouses may drop into the mid 30's. And during one hot, dry summer, a temperature of 115 degrees F. was a daily high for several weeks. But our orchids survived! They definitely took a time out, but, in a couple of weeks, new growth continued. Just pay attention, do your best, and try to compensate for any temperature stress. Orchids are tough!
Light: There are two "laws" in growing orchids. Fender's first law is if an orchid died, you overwatered. Fender's second law is that if an orchid doesn't bloom, it's not receiving enough light. During the summer, with longer, hotter, brighter days, we increase water and fertilizer. All of these work together. When an orchid is in active growth putting on new roots and new growth, this is the time to increase our efforts to produce the strongest, most vigorous orchid we can. A surprise to many people is that orchids do not bloom just for us to enjoy. They don't even know our names! They bloom to reproduce. Generally we try to provide our orchids with as much light as they can tolerate, keeping the temperature, humidity, and nutrition under consideration.
These are some of the basic variables in orchid growing. The choices and combinations are infinite, but it's just not as difficult as it may seem because orchids are very tolerant. You purchase orchids that you like and hope that you can learn how to grow and bloom them. Where you live and where you grow your orchids will narrow the choices. You select a potting medium and container that is available to you and that works with your watering habits. If you are a therapeutic waterer (you feel better when you water but the orchid drowns), use a porous mix!