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Orchids: Cutting the Spike for More Flowers

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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.

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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 πŸ™‚  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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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

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

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.

Ready to Learn More?

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65 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: [email protected]
      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. πŸ™‚
      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 πŸ™‚
      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 [email protected] and I will take a look at them.
      Warm regards,
      Anna

  23. Karin says:

    The leaves yelloed then fell off…no new leaves have appeared…has 1 green root rest shriveled a bit…what do i do?

    1. Anna says:

      Karin,
      Do you know which type of orchid you are growing? Dendrobium leaves can yellow and fall off if they are overwatered – or when they are acclimating to a new environment. If that is the case, ease off on the water and give your orchid time to adjust to your home.

      Follow this link for more info on yellowing orchid leaves:

      https://orchidbliss.com/yellow-leaves-orchids/

      About the shriveled root. If it is an aerial root, I wouldn’t worry about it. At most you could increase the humidity around your orchid. If it is a root that is down in the potting mix, you could increase the frequency that you water your orchid. Just be extra cautious not to overwater your orchid. Check the potting mix, and look at the other roots to gauge watering frequency.
      Thanks for reaching out to me,
      Anna

  24. Peggy says:

    My orchid grows in water. Should i plant in potting mix. If not how often should i change water. It blooms w e ll

    1. Anna says:

      Peggy,
      If your orchid is doing well in water culture – I would stick with it. If not, I would try a more traditional method. I have some orchid growing semi-hydroponically and weekly water changes work best.

      CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEMI-HYDROPONICS

      On the other hand, if your orchid is struggling, here is an article that details when to re-pot your orchid:

      WHY AND WHEN TO RE-POT YOUR ORCHID

      And, here a helpful article that will walk you through the re-potting process:

      HOW TO RE-POT YOUR ORCHID

      Peggy, if your orchid blooms well, you are on the right track. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. πŸ™‚

      Best,
      Anna

  25. Sheri says:

    Can you pot several orchids in a pot together?

    1. Anna says:

      Sheri,
      You sure can! This article with walk you through the whole process of potting multiple orchids in a single container:

      HOW TO POT MULTIPLE ORCHIDS IN A SINGLE CONTAINER

      Have a lovely day,
      Anna

  26. Sharon Hudson says:

    Hello Anna…first let me say that you and your website are fantastic! :o)
    I have a double-spike Phalaenopsis orchid that is finished flowering. I was going to follow your instructions on trimming a double spike, however, both spikes have new growth at the highest node just below where the original flowers began. Two inches of the tips of each of the flower spikes are beginning to brown. I’m stuck in limbo! Can you tell me what you’d do in this situation? Thanks so much. I am new to orchids but am rapidly falling in love with them!

    1. Anna says:

      Sharon,
      Thank you for your kind words! This site has been a joy! I am thrilled that you like it.
      About your orchid. You can let the new buds continue to grow and develop – or you can trim it down. I’ve done it both ways. I base my decision on what the final presentation will look like. If the flower stalk looks too long and gangly – then I will trim it off. But, if the stalk is still compact, then I let the flowers open. It is a good idea to cut off the tips that are beginning to brown. It won’t hurt anything and the orchid will look prettier.
      Best!
      Anna

  27. Johanne says:

    What a great article! I have 4 orchids at my office. 3 full sized and one mini. They go to work to be revived.

    They all have these crazy tentrils growing out them. I just let them go but they are becoming rather bothersome πŸ™‚ Can these be clipped?

    Thanks

    1. Anna says:

      Johanne,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! It can be tempting to clip the aerial roots – as many before you can attest. However, clipping the roots are not in the best interest of the orchid. Here are a couple of ways that you can tame the roots:

      1. Cover them up. You could get some air plants and set them around the base of the orchid to distract the eye from the roots.
      2. Propagate the orchid. Assuming you are growing a Phalaenopsis orchid (or even a Vanda) you could sever the stem from the base of the plant and pot up the top. Just be sure that you have several aerial roots that can be potted. Leave the base of the plant potted as it was, and over time, if all goes well, it will grow new leaves.
      3. Embrace the roots. You could just leave them as-it – all crazy and wonky. I guess this option doesn’t really count! πŸ™‚

      I love to hear what you decide!
      Best,
      Anna

  28. Penny says:

    My phal orchid has bloomed twice this winter and now the stems have all turned a salmon color to me and are hollow. I trimmed it to an inch or so from base of the plant; have I now destroyed it?

    1. Anna says:

      Penny,
      You did the right thing. After your phalaenopsis has finished blooming, cutting the flower spike back to the base will give the orchid time to rejuvenate and power up to bloom again.
      Best,
      Anna

  29. Angie V. says:

    Greetings, Anna! The education given by you on orchids is wonderful. I have a grocery store Phalaenopsis grown in moss given as a gift in 2018. It bloomed for a second time in April 2019 but smaller flowers and shorter spike. Am going to repot tomorrow with bark. Which should I do first: Cut worn flower spike or repot & fertilize? Thanks a million. Blessings.

    1. Anna says:

      Angie,
      Great question and thanks for specifying which type of orchid you are growing. First, cut the flower spike then re-pot. Hold off on the fertilizer for several weeks after potting. Also, if the bark is too fast draining, add a pinch or two of wool rock to the potting mix.
      Have a great day,
      Anna

  30. Michelle G says:

    I was given a pretty lil yellow orchid. I’m quite unsure of what type it is but he sure is pretty. The leaves at the bottoms are super fat & the flowers don’t look like the grocery store kind. (I wish I could show you a picture.) I really want to know what to do with him to keep him healthy.

    1. Anna says:

      Michelle,
      Email me a photo of your orchid: [email protected]
      I’d love to take a look!
      Best,
      Anna

  31. Rita Welch says:

    Dear Anna I went on holiday and my phalenopsis got really dry and the leaves have turned yellow it is still alive but how do I get the leaves back to green or should I cut them off or should I just leave them Rita

    1. Anna says:

      Rita,
      If all the leaves are yellow but still alive, leave them on until new leaves grow.
      Anna

  32. Mary says:

    Anna I received my orchid about three years ago after the flowers fell off I cut the stem. Since I cut it I repotted it twice, I keep getting new leaves and roots but no flowers. Help what am I doing wrong my plant looks healthy, but refuses to bloom.

    1. Anna says:

      Mary,
      The two factors that most influence an orchid’s ability to bloom are LIGHT and TEMPERATURE. Here are a couple of articles that will help you to rebloom your orchids.

      GIVE YOUR ORCHID THE RIGHT LIGHT TO REBLOOM

      THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE WILL HELP YOUR ORCHID BLOOM

      Thank you for reaching out,
      Anna

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