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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.

To help you further, start by downloading my free cheat sheet to see where to cut the orchid flower spike after blooms have faded to trigger re-blooming. Click here, for the cheat sheet. It’ll be super helpful.


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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.

Sterilization Method 1

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

Sterilization 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

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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, Paphiopedilums 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 of 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

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 too 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.

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FREE Webinar: How to Win with Orchid Roots and Leaves

3 Strategies to Prevent Limp Leaves & Rotten Roots to Grow Healthy Orchids

SAVE YOUR SEAT