Orchid noob in need of advice!
So, I've recently decided to try my hand at orchids. So far I'm doing alright. I have two phals that I got at lowe's from the clearance rack. The leaves are a bit dark on one so I'm wondering if my lighting will be adequate to bring it back to excellent health. I've read a few care guides online (one of which said that if the light is bright enough to easily read a book, you're fine), but I was wanting to know some personal opinions.
Also, would now be a good time to begin fertilizing? And does anyone have any recommendations on which fertilizer to use, there are plenty of options out there and I feel a bit overwhelmed, none of the fertilizers I've found locally have really instilled me with any confidence.
Welcome to the fold!
Phals are pretty undemanding in general. Bright light is good, but use a curtain to filter any direct sun. Watch for the plant to start turning a little red near the base of the leaves if you're afraid you have too much light.
Now would be a fine time to fertilize. Unless something screwy happened, like the plant was kept in total dark before you bought it, new growth should be popping up. I use a 20-20-20 for them whether they're blooming or not, every other week in summer, once a month the rest of the year. I suppose you would get better results with a "blooming" fertilizer when the plant isn't actively producing new growth, but I've never worried much about them. Make sure your plant is getting enough water, especially when fertilizing. Water once a week (but keep an eye on the substrate) and mist daily in the morning.
I started with Phals and quickly found them a bit boring :P Blooms are less rewarding when you can pretty much ignore the plant and it will still bloom for months a year! Still, they're tough as nails and a great way to learn the basics. Enjoy!
I just feel the substrate and water when it's ALMOST dry. Any brands of fertilizer recommended? I've heared orchids can't use nitrogen derived from urea? is that true?
I use Grow-More brand right now, but I've used Maxsea in the past. The urea issue I've never gotten a straight answer on. I don't put too much energy into worrying about it.
Honestly, I've been thinking of going back to Maxsea once I use what's left of the grow-more. It was a little hard to find when i lived in Texas, but not so here in CA.
Mine are doing well with the Miracle Grow fertilizer. I might switch to Better-Gro soon, as it contains no urea and work well from what I've seen. You can also use water from low pH fish tanks. My 6 gallon planted tank has a pH close to 5 and my Phal put up a new leave on that water alone. Just enough nitrogen, potassium, iron, and magnesium.