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Using KelpMax Wisely

KelpMax is a remarkable plant growth stimulant that can help weak plants recover, grow new or better root systems, bloom and produce more fruit, and multiply more quickly.

Dendrobium Chian-Tzy Li-Xia (Photo contributed by Sarah Christine)

We have used it on our orchids for almost ten years, and in consultation with the producer, have come up with the following recommendations for it’s use:

KelpMax is to always be used at a 1:250 dilution (1 tablespoon/gallon, 4 milliliters/liter). For routine use, it should be applied at one watering per month. Here s why:

Plants have a normal physiological cycling of plant hormones – as the root apical meristem (growth front) expands, the cells secrete cytokinins that move upward in the vascular system to stimulate the growth of the plant shoot. As the shoot apical meristem grows, it emits auxins that travel down the vasculum and stimulate root growth. When an outside stimulant is applied, it augments one or the other of those natural hormone supplies, causing a greater growth response with a correspondingly greater secretion of natural hormones that, in turn, accelerates the stimulation of the “opposite” meristem.

Think of it like a steadily burning campfire – throw a little gasoline on it and it flares up for a few minutes, then slowly subsides back to its normal level. In stimulated plants, it typically takes between two- and three weeks for the “flare up” to return to normal levels, so we recommend waiting a month, just to be safe. Then there’s the “concentration” factor…

Many orchid growers are used to cutting back on fertilizer concentration while applying it more frequently, but stimulants don’t work that way. With growth stimulants, there is a critical, minimum concentration for them to activate processes in plants; below that, a treatment does nothing. I liken it to operating a light switch. Apply too little pressure and nothing happens. Apply the right pressure, the switch moves and the lights come on. Apply more pressure and again, nothing happens – the light certainly does not get brighter!

Using KelpMax at the right concentration and frequency is as much about economy as it is plant health, but there are circumstances for which we can “push the boundaries” a bit:

  1. Using warm water, mix the solution and immerse the entire plant for an hour or two.
  2. Without rinsing, pot it up, and water it in with that soak solution.
  3. For the next two waterings, add KelpMax at the recommended concentration.
  1. Pot them up and water them in with KelpMax solution.
  2. Repeat the next two waterings.
  1. Add to irrigation water or fertilizer solution no more often than once per month.

Fortunately, because the complex “elixir” of stimulants and nutrients that lead to substantial growth stimulation when applying KelpMax is not reliant entirely upon hormones, it is physiologically mild compared to that of products containing synthetic auxin hormones, so slight variation from the recommended concentration and application frequency are not as harmful. Excessive application of auxins has been shown to result if flower deformities and stunted growth.