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Orchids: Cutting the Spike for More Flowers

A Step-By-Step Guide

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cut orchid flower spike

You’ve enjoyed your orchid for several months and now the flowers are wilting and dropping.  It is time to trim the orchid stem to allow the orchid to regenerate and prepare to re-bloom.

WHERE TO CUT THE ORCHID FLOWER SPIKE

If buying an orchid, letting it flower and then throwing it in the trash after the flowers have faded is not your profile, read on. I am the same way. I just can’t throw all that potential in the garbage. The orchid is not dead. If given proper care, it will flower again. Once the flowers are spent, it is time to trim the orchid stem, and wait for a new flower spike to emerge.

Free guide

Click here for a FREE PDF download on where to cut the orchid flower spike.

Sterilize the Scissors

Before using the scissors, make sure they’ve been sanitized. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it will help keep your orchids healthy by preventing viruses and other pathogens from being passed between orchids. Think of yourself as a sort of orchid doctor 🙂  There are two ways to accomplish this: rubbing alcohol or  a flame.

Method 1

Tools
  • rubbing alcohol
  • cotton balls
Procedure
  • Soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the scissor blades.

Method 2

Tools
  • small torch. I use a kitchen torch. One day the torch caramelizes creme brulee, the next it sanitizes my pruning shears. Multi-purpose.
  • Any clean, sharp scissors will do the trick. I love my bonsai pruning shears. They are super sharp and get the job done without having to saw through the flower spike.
Procedure
  • Pass the blades of the scissors through the flame for about 4 seconds.

Mystery-solved-now-I-know-where-to-cut-my-orchid-spike.png
Orchid Bliss

Read This Before Cutting:

Let’s talk about the Phalaenopsis orchid or moth orchid, the one you likely got from the grocery store. This is the only orchid that will rebloom on the same stalk. All other orchids will bloom again, but not from the same stalk. . All other orchids can be trimmed at the base of the flower stalk.

There is one more point I want to be really clear about: Just trim the flower stalk, not the pseudobulbs. Phalaneopsis, Paphiopedliums and Vanda orchids don’t have pseudobulbs, but most other orchids do. For instance, if you are growing Dendrobiums or Cattleyas, don’t cut the flower stalk off at the base of the plant, just trim the flower stalk. If you see a bulge in the stem, that is a pseudobulb and you don’t want to cut that. If there are leaves growing off a stalk, don’t cut that.

Cutting a Dying Spike

If the spike is dying, and looks brown, trim the stem at the base of the plant.  In the image below, I am trimming the flower spike of my Cymbidium. As this orchid blooms annually, I will have to wait until next year for more flower spikes to grow. After the flowers fall off the stem starts to die, the stalk is ready to be cut at the base. 

trimming-a-dead-spike-orchid-spike.png

Cutting a Double Spike

If you are lucky enough to have a double-spike Phalaenopsis orchid, cut one spike at the base and cut the other spike about an inch below the last flower. 

trimming-a-double-spike-orchid-trimming - where to cut the orchid flower spike

Cutting a Healthy Single Spike

If the flower spike is a healthy green color, one option is to find the node just below the lowest flower and prune it about an inch above the node.  Another flower spike may emerge, though the flowers will be smaller and less plentiful than they were previously.  

Another option is to trim the spike near the base, with the option of leaving just a couple of nodes.  Usually within 2-3 months new growth will appear and buds will form.  Remember that younger or weaker plants may not re-bloom.  Phalaenopsis with branching stalks will grow up from the base.  It never hurts to trim 2 nodes above the base of the plant and hope for the best. If the stalk dies, you can always trim it down of the stalk dies.

My personal recommendation is to count a  couple notches up from the bottom and make your cut.  Phalaenopsis orchids are tough and can handle another blooming.  If the spike comes up from the base instead of blooming from the cut spike, you’ve lost nothing.

TIP: If you don’t trim the flower spike, the Phalaenopsis may continue to flower from the tip of the flower stalk, but the flower stalk will become longer. There will be fewer, smaller flowers. To give the orchid a fresh, strong start, trim the flower stalk 2 nodes up from the base, or at the base.

trimming-a-healthy orchid flower spike

Check out my EBOOK: WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR GROCERY STORE ORCHID to learn how to care for you Phalaenopsis orchid.

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What to Expect After Trimming the Flower Spike

new flower spike has not yet emerged - cutting the orchid flower spike

A new flower spike has not yet started to grow. Give it time and I’m confident we will see a new spike emerge.

New orchid flower spike

A new flower spike has begun to grow. The tip of the spike looks like a closed fist.

orchid has rebloomed - cutting the orchid flower spike

The wait has paid off! After cutting the flower spike this orchid has rebloomed. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Trimming a Dendrobium Orchid

Dendrobiums are great because once the blooms are spent, the flowers can be snipped off and more buds will form. This cycle repeats until the orchid’s flowering cycle ends and the rest period begins, in preparation to bloom again. Pictured below is my Dendrobium  orchid. After the flowers fade, I will trim the stalk just below the flower cluster to encourage more buds.

dendrobium-orchid-trim-below-the-flower-cluster.png

For Dendrobiums, trim just at the base of the flower cluster, not the base of the plant. If you’re cutting down into where leaves and pseudobulbs are growing, you’re cutting to far.

What’s Next

Now that you know where to cut the orchid flower spike, you are on your way to re-blooming your orchid. For more helpful advice, be sure to check out my tips for re-blooming orchids. After an orchid has finished blooming, it’s a good time to re-pot your orchid. Find out if the time is right to repot your orchid, and discover how to repot orchids.

Top Tools for RePotting Orchids

Potting Orchids Just Got Easier

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The Why and The When of Repotting Orchids

Pottting at the right time vastly improves how well your orchid will adapt.

Read

Watering Orchids: Find Out What Works

Learn how to water correctly and you'll avoid the #1 cause of orchid death

Read

Free guide

Click here for a FREE PDF download on where to cut the orchid flower spike.

A-Simple-Guide-to-Cutting-an-Orchid-Spike.jpg

 

45 Comments
  1. Ann Larsen says:

    AWESOME! Love the information! I think I will go out and buy an Orchid plant. Where do you recomend I purchase one?

    1. Anna says:

      Since it is close to Mother’s Day, you should be able to find moth orchids on sale in the grocery store. If you want a less common variety, you may have to purchase online. I have purchased from The Orchid Gallery through Amazon with great results. Here is the link:

      Enjoy your orchid!
      Anna

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can u trans. Plant the flower into a bigger pot ?

    1. Anna says:

      If your orchid is ready to be re-potted, use an only slightly larger pot as orchids like to be crowded in their pot.
      Anna

    2. Anna says:

      If you’re orchid is ready to be re-potted, use only a slightly larger pot as orchids like to be crowded in their pot.
      Anna

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear anna thanks for your help I have a phalaenopsis orchid and the leaves are a bit brown but it looks ok

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for bringing up brown orchid leaves. There are several reasons why the leaves might be turning brown. If you fertilize your orchids, it could be fertilizer burn, or salt-build up in the potting medium. If this is the case, I recommend re-potting your orchid as soon as the flowers die off. In the meantime, stop fertilizing and use regular water to flush out the salts. Also, the leaves might be a bit droopy in addition to their brown color.

      Brown leaves could also indicate sunburn. If you think the leaves might be sunburned, simply move the orchid a bit further from your window.

      Yellowing lower leaves is completely normal. These leaves will eventually wither and die and new leaves will continue to grow.

      Brown spots indicate a bacterial infection and can be treated by making and applying a cinnamon and water paste to the spots.

      Hopefully one of these answers fit the profile for your browning leaves.

      Anna

  4. Celia says:

    Hi Anna, can you grow Orchids without a pot, on driftwood maybe? Hanging up?

    1. Anna says:

      Celia,
      Yes you can. Mounting orchids on cork is a popular choice. Mounted orchids look beautiful and natural and prevents roots from rotting, but they also require higher humidity levels and more frequent watering that potted orchids. Begin by mounting one orchid and see how it goes before mounting your whole collection. Anna

  5. ANDREA Jansen van Rensburg says:

    Thank you! I love my plants and your information!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Andrea for taking the time to let me know the information has been helpful! Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Anna

  6. Cari says:

    What if I have a double spike and most flowers fell off weeks ago, but 1 single flower is still hanging on. Should I trim the other spike or wait? Thank you!

    1. Anna says:

      Cari,
      Yes, you can go ahead and cut the spikes if you want to. But, if you want to wait, sometimes new buds will grow…you just never know. Still, if you don’t like the look of a long spike with only one flower, there is no harm done if trim the spike now.
      Anna

  7. Lori says:

    How do you handle leaves that went quite a ways up the stalk, bloomed and now have (air?) roots?

    1. Anna says:

      Lori,
      You are so lucky!You have a keiki- a baby orchid! Once the leaves and roots are about 2-3 inches long the keiki can be removed from mother plant. To learn how to care for your keiki click on this link.
      Congratulations and Best of Luck!
      Anna

  8. Cori says:

    I have a double spike. Both spikes turned brown, so I cut them both down at the base. The leaves are healthy and I have at least 3 or more psuedobulbs. Are the spikes (and flowers) going to come back? Or did I ruin it by cutting too low?

    1. Anna says:

      Cori,
      Do you know what kind of orchids you have? If you just cut the spikes and not the pseudobulbs, I’m sure they’re fine. If you did cut off the pseudobulbs, it may just take longer for the orchid to rebloom. In any case, orchids are resilient.
      Best!
      Anna

  9. Durga says:

    Great information. Thanks a lot. Can you suggest some homemade fertilizer for Dendrobiams and Phalaenopsis?

    1. Anna says:

      Durga,
      I don’t have a recipe for a homemade fertilizer, but here is a link for some organic fertilizers.
      When I come across a homemade fertilizer, I will be sure to let you know.
      Anna

  10. Cathy says:

    I found white almost like webbing in between the leaves at the bottom and on the stalks themselves. I don’t see any bugs. Is this a form of pollenation or bacteria?

    1. Anna says:

      Cathy,
      It sounds like you may have mealybugs. Click on this link and find out how to treat pests and disease. If you have any trouble or need any help, don’t hesitate to contact me: anna@orchidliss.com
      These bugs are 100% treatable!
      Good Luck!
      Anna

  11. Leigh says:

    Anna-I have noticed some shiny round brown scales adhering to the underside of some leaves on one of my moth orchids. There is also some sticky residue visible. I have scraped the scales off. The plant seems otherwise healthy. What is this? Thanks for your help.

    1. Anna says:

      Leigh,
      Augh! It sounds like you may have the nemesis of all orchid growers: scale. Be sure to check out: How to Treat Pests & Disease. After scrubbing the scale away with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol, be sure to use a horticulture oil as an extra precaution. Also, if you have any other orchids, or houseplants, quarantine the orchid with scale.
      You can beat this!
      Anna

  12. Charlotte Garron says:

    Hi, I am so excited to have found you! My orchids have done really well in spite of my lack of knowledge. However, I have a minute snail-like infestation that has shown up twice now on two of them. It leaves a sticky trail in the plant as it moves. It clusters under leaves. It has traveled to other plants. I have segregated them and physically clean them with warm water and cotton balls. What is it and how do I get rid of it and keep it from happening again?

    Thanks,

    Charlotte

    1. Anna says:

      Charlotte,
      I am so excited you found me too! Congratulations on your orchids! They are so rewarding. You can get rid of snails using Sluggo, which contains iron phosphate. Whatever the snails don’t eat becomes fertilizer.
      Keep in touch!
      Anna

  13. Russell Horwich says:

    I was taught by a guy that had two very large green houses behind his house how to cut back the orchid spike. The way you are showing is correct. I never put ice on them, just water every week for about two minutes in the sink and let the cold water run through them. I had one about 2 years ago bloom for 3 years without stopping. It now only blooms about twice a year and for only about a month. To get them to bloom, sometimes I place them in my garage at night to chill them and that forces them to bloom. I also leave them by my sliding door and that keeps them a little on the cold side. I now have 3 of my 7 blooming.

    1. Anna says:

      Russell,
      Sounds like your orchids are doing great! Thank you for sharing what has worked for you.
      It was great to hear from you!
      Anna

  14. Kathi-Ann Charles says:

    Anna just looking at your responses makes me excited to grow my orchids. keep sending great information. I’m addicted I must admit.

    1. Anna says:

      Kathi-Ann
      I’m so glad to hear from you! I agree that orchids are addicting. I don’t think I can have too many or learn too much about them!
      Anna

  15. Chanti says:

    Great video! Super helpful to see it in video form – thanks for doing this!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Chanti! I’m glad the video was helpful!
      Anna

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great advice! Thank you for taking the time to share.

    1. Anna says:

      I’m always happy to help. Please, feel free to ask any questions you may have about how to care for your orchids or to share your orchid growing experiences.
      Thanks,
      Anna

  17. Suzanne Lloyd-Simmons says:

    Great article wish it could be printed.

    1. Anna says:

      Suzanne,
      I’ve added a PDF download on where to cut the flower spike. Let me know if you have any problems accessing the download.
      Thanks,
      Anna

  18. Lindie says:

    What conditions do the orchids like best filtered light , humid , cold? I’m a newbie and still learning 😄

    1. Anna says:

      Lindie,
      The best temperature for orchid growing depends on the orchid variety. Orchids generally fall into one of three categories: warm growers, intermediate growers, and cool growers. The Phalaenopsis orchid, the most common orchid is a a warm grower, which means it likes normal household temperatures with a few weeks of intermediate temperatures. In the fall or spring, give your Phalaenopsis a few weeks where the temperature drops down to around 58 F.

      Phalaenopsis are considered a low-light orchid. Try a few feet away from a bright window. If you live in an area with low humidity, turning a humidifier on its lowest setting is a good idea.

      Lastly, all orchids appreciate good air circulation. Turing on a fan to its lowest setting, and then pointing the fan away from your orchids, so that it’s not blowing directly on them helps keep bacteria from growing on their leaves.

      Follow this link for more tips on orchid care:

      Orchid Care

      Enjoy your orchids!
      Anna

  19. Charlotte Shaver says:

    I’m assuming that I have a moth orchid with 2 spikes. It stopped blooming and I only cut off what had turned brown. Leaves began to emerge from the spikes. Now they seem to be at a standstill and I am wondering – do I do anything or just leave them alone? Do you think they’ll rebloom ?

    1. Anna says:

      Charlotte,
      Your orchid is growing and developing normally. The fact that new leaves are growing is a very good indication that all is well. You can cut the flower spikes lower if you want to. As they have turned brown, no new flowers will grow on those spikes. Eventually, a new flower spike will grow.

      Follow this link on reblooming orchids:

      https://orchidbliss.com/all-about-blooming-orchids/

      Give it time. In the meantime, if you’re impatient for flowers, buy a new orchid. 🙂
      Anna

  20. Karen says:

    I have a moth orchid that sent up a spike and bud, then the bud dropped off leaving just the spike. It has been 4 months and nothing is happening. What can I do?

    1. Anna says:

      Karen,
      Aborted buds are tragic and Phalaenopsis/moth orchids are prone to bud blast when they have been subjected to an environmental stress. Follow the link below to learn more about bud blast and how to prevent it:

      BUD BLAST

      Once the buds have aborted the only thing to do now is wait. If your orchid is otherwise healthy and gets enough sunlight, it will go through another growing cycle and will
      eventually grow another flower spike. It may take up to 6-12 months for a new flower spike to emerge. In the meantime, you could buy another orchid to keep you company while you wait 🙂
      Yours,
      Anna

  21. Nurperi Gazioglu says:

    Mrs Anna, thank you for all the information you provided for us, orchid lowers. I would like to ask you about my problem with some of my orchids affected by coccinella citrus . I tried some pesticides but could not eradicate them. Can you please advise me? Thank you.

    1. Anna says:

      Nuperi,
      I’m confused. The most familiar of coccinella is the ladybug and they are beneficial insects and will eat aphids and other harmful pests. Please send more information.
      Thanks,
      Anna

  22. Kate says:

    My orchid has regularly re-flowered. As the last flowers started to fade a second spike was produced. This has grown very quickly but seem to have only small leaves which I haven’t seen before. It’s slready about 20” long

    1. Anna says:

      Kate,
      That is wonderful that your orchid is flowering so frequently. If the new leaves are concerning you, send me a picture at anna@orchidbliss.com and I will take a look at them.
      Warm regards,
      Anna

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YES! THANK YOU!