Prepping Orchids for Display

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Discover how to prep your orchids for display

Finally! Your orchids are in full bloom and you’re ready to show them off. Here are some practical tips when prepping your orchids for display. 

Prepping Orchids For Display

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Prepping Orchids for Display

Trim Away Dead Leaves, Aerial Roots, and Pseudobulbs

Start prepping your display by trimming off dead leaves, pseudobulbs, and aerial roots. To remove the dead growth use disposable single-edged razor blades or pruning shears sanitized with a flame torch. To cut away brown leaf tips, cut at an angle following the pattern of healthy leaf tips.

When you’re finished fold duct tape over the sharp edge of the razor blades before throwing away. If you are using a torch, pass the ends of the scissors through the flame after use.

trim away dead leaves - orchid display prep

Clean the Leaves and Pseudobulbs

After trimming away dead leaves, roots, and pseudobulbs, begin cleaning the leaves and pseudobulbs. Using a soft cloth and 70% rubbing alcohol, lemon juice, white vinegar, or even diluted milk gently clean your orchid’s leaves. Avoid using commercial leaf shine.

When prepping orchids for display, you’ll be surprised by how much the little details, like clean leaves and pseudobulbs will enhance the overall effect of your arrangement.

clean orchid leaves before displaying - orchid display prep

Check for Pests and Disease

While prepping orchid for display, check for pests and disease. Check the leaves and pseudobulbs for a white cottony substance, an indication of mealybugs. Hard, whitish bumps may mean scale. Check for other pests such as snails, slugs, and ants.

Brown spotting on leaves is most likely caused by bacteria.

If when prepping your orchid for display, you discover pests and disease, be sure that you display your orchid only in your own home. Keep the orchid away from other plants.

check orchid for disease - prepping orchids for display

This orchid, with leaves covered in scale, won’t be displayed anywhere.

Use a Top Dressing

Now your orchid is ready for a top dressing. The right top dressing is important for a variety of reasons. If your orchid will be displayed near air conditioning or heating vents, a good top dressing will protect the roots from quickly drying out. Also, a top dressing will add to the aesthetic appeal of the arrangement. 

Air Plants as a Top Dressing

Air plants are a popular option at orchid shows. The most widely used is  Spanish moss, which isn’t actually moss but is a Tillandsia, more commonly known as an air plant. Air plants add authenticity to the overall presentation of the orchid display. To keep the Spanish moss alive, submerge it in water once a week for a couple of hours.

orchid display preparation - air plant top dressing

This Tillandsia funkiana is the perfect top dressing for this mini Phalaenopsis.

An Inexpensive Top Dressing – Dried Spanish Moss 

This is an easy-care option in lieu of live Spanish moss, as you won’t need to water it. Though when you water your orchids, you will want to remove the moss.

orchid display prep - air plant top dressing

Dried Spanish moss makes an easy and elegant top dressing.

A Top Dressing That is Soft and Easy to Use: Preserved Reindeer Moss

This spongy moss comes in a variety of colors. It’s soft and tactile and will give a clean finish to your orchid display. When watering your orchids, remove and replace the moss.

 air plant top dressing - prepping orchids for display

A mound of preserved reindeer moss serves as a quiet and natural top dressing for this Phalaenopsis.

Top Dressing – More Pricey, but Beautiful – Mood Moss

This living moss looks great and is easy to use. Nestle it in around your orchid’s roots and it will look like it’s always been there. This moss is available both living and dried.

mood moss top dressing - orchid display prep

For a bright green compliment to the orchid, consider mood moss.

Stake the Flower Spike

Staking the inflorescence should begin when the flower stalk is young and malleable.  The inflorescence includes the flowering part of the orchid, including everything from the flowers and buds to the flower stalk.

If the inflorescence has not been trained to grow upwards do not force it to do so now, as it will snap and break. If the inflorescence has been staked and is growing upwards, manipulate the stake so that the flowers are shown to their greatest advantage. When using a sake, be sure to select a length that suits the height of the orchid flower stalk.

The choice of stake will add a lot to the final presentation of the orchid. Here are a few options:

  • A green stake is the most unobtrusive. If you’d like the stake to be camouflaged, this is the stake you want.
  • Bamboo stakes are a pleasing compliment to the orchids and can add a coastal or Asian feel to the final display.
  • An acrylic rod will add a distinctly modern element to your orchid design.
  • Curly willow branches add elegance and interest to orchid arrangements. These branches look especially stunning when the orchid flower spikes are particularly long, such as can be found on the Phalaenopsis.
  • Leave it be. Sometimes the natural elegance of the orchid looks best. If you’ve already trained the flower spike, it may now have hardened and will stand up on its own. And, if you didn’t stake the flower spike, in some cases it may be too late. Never force the flower spike to the spike as the flower spike may snap and break.

When staking, consider how you would like to fasten the orchid flower spike to the stake. Here are a few examples that have worked well for me:

orchid display prep - tie stake with ribbon

A blue satin ribbon ties the inflorescence to the stake.

tie stake with raffia - orchid display prep

The raffia that ties the inflorescence to the stake quietly blends in.

Water Your Orchid

Give your orchid a good drink of water before going on stage.


You’ve got the insider tips and tricks for creating amazing orchid displays. With this solid foundation for prepping orchids for display, you are well on your way to creating top-notch orchid arrangements to grace your home, office. Orchid arrangements also make outstanding gifts.

Remember, trim off dead leaves and debris, clean the leaves and pseudobulbs, check for disease, choose and top dressing, select a tasteful stake and tie for the flower spike, if needed, and your orchids will be ready for the limelight!

After your orchids have finished blooming, you’ll want to know where to cut the flower spike. To help you out, I’ve created a cheat sheet that will walk you through the whole process. Click here, for the cheat sheet. It’ll be super helpful.


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  1. Anita lui says:

    Thank you for the tips on orchids care. very helpful.

    1. Anna says:

      You’re welcome Anita!

  2. Barbara says:

    Could you please give me some advice on what to do about my orchid?

    I bought one 2 weeks ago and it was doing beautifully, and yesterday afternoon I brought a second one and placed it next to the first one, for some reason this morning the first orchid’s flowers just closed in and they look somewhat droopy.

    I already gave both of them some fertilizer with water and separate them.

    What do I do?


    Best regards

    1. Anna says:


      Flowers wilting prematurely is so disappointing! I feel your pain. If the leaves and upright and the leaf tips are green. You are probably watering correctly. There are two things I would look at: temperature changes and ethylene gas.

      How near are heating and cooling vents, and frequently used exterior doors?

      Keep orchids away from running engines. Transport orchids in the car, not the trunk. Faulty heaters that run on natural gas, or propane may also emit ethylene gas. Two other sources for ethylene gas are tobacco smoke and ripening fruit and vegetables such as bananas and avocados. Keep your orchids away from the fruit bowl.

      I hope this helps!

  3. Melva says:

    I enjoyed the report

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Melva!

  4. Gail says:

    Brilliant! Many thanks for passing on your knowledge.
    My orchid develops white burn on one of it’s leaves from time to time. I believe it’s from the heat/sunlight through the window. Will it harden off over tome or does it really need a new location to thrive? The remaining leaves are all bright and firm.
    Thanks again

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you! Before moving your orchid to a new location you could try moving the back a bit, away from direct sunlight.

      About the sunburn: I know this will change the look of your orchid, but you should also remove the sunburned leaf with a pair of sterilized scissors. If the leaf is left as-is it may fall victim to a secondary disease (bacterial, fungal, viral). Also, if the entire leaf is not damaged, just be sure to cut about a centimeter into the healthy part of the leaf. As a precaution, make a paste with cinnamon and water and apply to the edge of the cut leaf. This will help prevent fungal and bacterial infections from entering the orchid.

      All my best,

  5. Janis says:

    I have several orchids that I’m growing semi hydroponically they are doing great, in fact, one is about to bloom, however; some are putting on large amounts of aerial roots. The bottom roots are nice and healthy. What should I do or not do?

    1. Anna says:

      Leave the orchid roots as-is. Aerial roots are normal and shouldn’t be trimmed. Growing semi-hydroponically can be a challenge, so congratulations are in order!

  6. Tricia says:

    So I can use white vinegar on a soft cloth to gently wipe and clean my Phalaenopsis orchids leaves and it won’t harm them?
    I’m a newbie and I’m obsessed! My 1 orchid quickly turned into 9 (my husband is the best, I’m just a wee bit spoiled)
    I am really enjoying the emails and reading all of the awesome and very helpful information you share!
    Thank you!

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, you can use white vinegar – just be sure to dilute the vinegar with water. 1-gallon water to 1 teaspoon vinegar.
      It’s a pretty weak solution, but effective.

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Are your orchid leaves limp and wrinkly?

Get your FREE cheat sheet on how to prevent limp orchid leaves.