How to bloom orchids?

How to get an orchid to rebloom | The Sacramento Bee

I have had an orchid for about seven years that used to bloom quite often. I accidentally dropped it a few years ago and broke off the stem that contained the flower, and it hasn’t bloomed since. Is there anything I can do to get it to produce a flower again? Other than that, the plant is healthy, a dark green with firm leaves. I have about four orchids, two that bloom and two (including the aforementioned) that don’t.

Merle Heard, Sacramento

We’re going to assume that your orchid in question is a Phalaenopsis, one of the most common orchids available. These orchids often produce new flowers from old stems.

Phalaenopsis or moth orchids tend to thrive on what seems neglect: Water every three weeks and fertilize every other month. Use a balanced fertilizer (such as 8-8-8) with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, the macro-nutrients that all plants need for development. In the wild, orchids depend on decomposing leaves for most of their nutrients, so they don’t need much.

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For best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer specifically designed for orchids. According to experts, orchids planted in bark may need a higher amount of nitrogen (the first number in that three-digit formula) because the decaying bark will use up a lot of the available nitrogen, leaving little for the plant. That’s why some orchid foods are 30-10-10, for example.

Before feeding, water the plant well and get its bark, moss or other planting medium moist but not soggy. Discard any water and/or fertilizer that accumulates.

To get a moth orchid to rebloom, trim the flower spike (but not all the way) and let the plant settle into its new bloom/growth cycle. Moth orchids like a tight-fitting pot. Roots that extend through the air above the pot edges are natural; the plant is seeking moisture and room. Look for nice, green root tips on plump, white roots as a sign of a growth spurt, then choose a slightly bigger pot. Repotting with moss is recommended after blooming, usually every other year in late spring or early summer.

Phalaenopsis are among the few orchids that will rebloom in home conditions. The spike should be cut between the scar that’s left by the first flower and the last node (that little lump) on the stem. One of the lower nodes will then initiate and produce flowers within eight to 12 weeks.

If no bloom cycle starts within two months or if the stem yellows, cut the stem all the way off and allow the plant to go dormant. Water and fertilize every three to four weeks and wait.

Or try this trick: Drop the temperature at night.

Moth orchids are temperature-sensitive. Four to six weeks of cooler temperatures – 55 to 60 degrees – triggers flowering. Professional growers cool their plants for 30 to 40 days at 60 degrees to prompt new flower cycles. This can be accomplished by placing the plant close to a north-facing window in winter or in an enclosed porch. Remember: The orchid still needs indirect light.

Many Phalaenopsis orchid growers express their desire of learning how to get Phalaenopsis orchids to rebloom. They are the most recognized plant among the orchid family and are considered the easiest orchid to care for because of their low maintenance nature. The delicate balance of poise and elegance of this plant has earned it its popularity among orchid growers.

It is commonly called the moth orchid and will re-bloom twice a year under ideal conditions. It is important for you to create the best conditions for your orchid that will promote re-blooming. Ideal conditions include feeding during the growth period, proper lighting, and the right moisture and humidity conditions. Here are some re-blooming tips for you.

After the Flower Falls

To promote re-blooming, cut the spike of your flower down the stem (halfway down) after the last flower falls. Use a blade that is clean and sharp. Seal the cut using wax from a melted candle or use cinnamon powder. This will prevent a bacterial infection from occurring. A re-bloom should flourish in perfection for up to 3 -4 months.

Two months will be required for resting with the plant receiving varying temperatures during the day and at nights. See the point on temperature for the ideal condition further down. The plant will more than likely re-bloom once you care for it continuously and properly following the regular care guidelines.

Lighting

You may already know that these plants strive well indoors under normal growing conditions, but it does not hurt to re-emphasize the point. Indirect sunlight is best as the leaves will burn easily if they are overexposed to the sun. Keep the plants free from cold or warm drafts. A healthy orchid that does not bloom is usually affected by poor lighting.

Temperature

Your Phalaenopsis will need just a slight change in temperature to stimulate blooming. The plants enjoy just about the same temperature as humans do. At nights, the required temperature is 62°F, while during the day the average temperature should be approximately 72°F.

It is ok for you to deviate from these temperatures occasionally as this will not hurt your plant, but be careful once it starts budding because chilly temperatures can cause your Phalaenopsis to stop budding. The cooler conditions of the night temperature works well for the plant during the spike elongation phase.

Watering the Plant

Plants should be kept moist, but avoid overwatering. Phalaenopsis orchids like to be kept well-drained and watered. Water should be at room temperature and applied once a week. Do not allow the plant to dry out between waterings. Keep the moisture level just a little under the medium’s surface.

Humidity

Try to maintain the perfect humidity conditions. It tends to get a bit dry during the winter, but during this time and when necessary, one technique you may find useful for maintaining moisture is placing your Phalaenopsis over a tray of tap water, using small stones or pebbles to keep the pot and the tray separate. By doing this, you will prevent the plant from sitting in the water. You can also maintain the right humidity conditions by applying a light mist with a spray bottle.

Feeding the Plant

Fertilizing your plant is just as important as watering. Feed your plant during the growth period. Ideally, this should be once per month with some high-nitrogen fertilizer throughout the year. There are flower fertilizers which are specially formulated for orchids. It is best that you use these fertilizers (5-5-5), or alternatively use a general 20-20-20 fertilizer if the flower fertilizer is unavailable.

Mixing proportions should be 1 teaspoon to a gallon of water, but for the 20-20-20 fertilizer where some instructions may state that you use a teaspoon of powder to a liter of water, it is suggested that you cut the concentration to 25%. Therefore, where it says use 1 teaspoon per liter of water, use a quarter teaspoon instead. Do your best not to over feed the plant and avoid feeding once in bloom. Use the rule of less is more.

Repotting

The pot of choice is the semi-transparent pots as these allow the plant’s roots to get light and stimulate growth. Repot your plant every year and use medium grade wood bark, placing the bottom leaf on the medium’s surface. The same pot can be reused as the plant grows upward and does not spread. Water sparingly until the roots are established.

Sometimes getting a re-bloom can be tricky, so don’t get discouraged. Keep with it and follow these guidelines.

Tell us about your reblooming Phalaenopsis orchids by leaving a comment below!

Discover why Phalaenopsis orchids are everyone’s favorite – moth orchids!

How to get an orchid to flower again

Phalaenopsis orchids are cheap to buy and their flowers last for many weeks. Once the flowers have finally faded, it’s tempting to discard your plant, but with a few simple tricks it’s possible to make your orchid flower again, not only in a few months’ time, but for many years to come.

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Watch Alan Titchmarsh’s video guide to caring for phalaenopsis orchids.

Here’s are some simple steps to getting your orchid to flower again.

Wait until the flowers have dropped off

Once your orchid has flowered, you will be left with a flower spike from which most of the flowers have dropped. Don’t be tempted to cut it right down to the base.

Orchid that has finished flowering

Cut back the stem to the nearest bud

Instead, once all the flowers have fallen, cut off the stem to just above a visible joint (node). This should stimulate the production of another flower stem over the next few months.

Cutting a finished flower spike to just above a bud

Alternatively, cut the spent flower spike down to the base

If no shoot appears and the original stem turns straw-coloured, remove it at the base. The plant should eventually produce a new, strong flower spike.

Removing a dead orchid flower stem at its base

Water correctly

Overwatering is the most common reason that orchids die. If your moth orchid has a transparent pot, look at the roots. Don’t water if they are green – wait until they look silvery. Allow water to drain out the bottom of the pot – don’t allow the plant to stand in water.

Watering an orchid from a kitchen jug

Put it in a warm, bright spot

Orchids like bright but indirect light – too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. A spot near and east- or west-facing window is ideal. Orchids appreciate high humidity, so you could stand your plant on a tray of moist pebbles – the roots absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

Pink phalaenopsis in flower

Still no flowers?

This might be due to the following reasons:

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  • Lack of light
  • Not enough food
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • The plant may need repotting

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

Temperature

Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy a fairly warm climate. The ideal night temperature is 62 to 65 degrees F. and daytime temperature range of 70 to 80 degrees. Since this temperature range is similar to that of many homes, it makes an ideal house plant.

Light and Shade

Phalaenopsis orchids do not require too much light to grow well. 1000-1500 foot-candles is the ideal light intensity required for Phalaenopsis. If grown in a windowsill, an east exposure proves to be the best. One must take care, though, not to burn the plant by allowing too much sunlight to shine directly on the plant. It is best to provide some shade, such as a sheer curtain, allowing perhaps a little more light to hit the plants from the beginning of December through the middle of February.

Watering

Water your Phalaenopsis orchids early in the morning. This insures complete water evaporation on the foliage as well as the crown by nightfall. Water with rain, distilled, or reverse-osmosis water as the mix approaches dryness. Never use water that has been softened by a water softener. Generally Phalaenopsis require watering about once every 4 to 7 days. Plants should never stand in water! Plants that stand in water or that are watered in the evening will develop bacterial or fungal rot. Pull out the plant label and see if there is any water residue on it. If not, it is time for watering. The weight of the pot can also help determine whether it needs watering or not. The pot should be fairly heavy after watering.

Feeding

We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, especially formulated to work with rain, distilled, reverse osmosis water or water low in alkalinity. If the plant is potted in bark, fertilize with Green Jungle every time you water, all year round, then flush with clear water once a month. If potted in sphagnum moss, use Green Jungle every third watering. This is the fertilizer that we developed and use on our own plants. The results have been excellent.
For tap or well water, use Grow More 20-10-20 fertilizer every other watering in the summer and every third watering in the winter. Fertilize at the rate of one-half teaspoon per gallon.

Humidity

Phalaenopsis orchids are of a monopodial growth without any pseudobulbs to help store moisture. For this reason, it is important to provide good humidity. 50-70% is considered ideal. However, if the plant is kept wellwatered, it will adapt to a lower humidity.

Flowering

Commonly referred to as the “moth orchid,” Phalaenopsis are one of the longest blooming orchid genera, producing flowers that last from 2 to 6 months before dropping. Phalaenopsis have also been known to bloom 2 to 3 times per year once they have reached a mature size. After it has flowered the first time, cut the stem just above the node where the first flower bloomed. From the top node a new flower stem should emerge within 2 months. If there is no response or the flower spike turns brown, cut it off near the base of the plant where it emerged.

Potting

Because the Phalaenopsis is watered frequently, the potting breaks down about once per year. Spring or fall is considered the best time to repot because the temperature is generally mild, preventing shock. Use a medium grade orchid bark mix for plants in 5″ and larger pots. We have found that New Zealand sphagnum moss works best for smaller Phalaenopsis as it dries out more evenly.

Bud Blast

There are many factors that can cause buds to dry up and drop off the plants without ever opening. Check the following: Is the room too hot? Is the light level too low? Is the plant too dry or too wet (causing root rot – this is the most common cause)? Are you using softened water instead of clean water? Are you using too much fertilizer? Are the plants being subjected to a cool draft? Is the plant near strong fumes such as new carpets, refinishing woodwork, etc.? Bud blasting is a common problem with Phalaenopsis. Fortunately, there is almost always a reason that can be determined.

How to Trigger Reblooming of Your Orchid

When your orchid stops blooming and enters dormancy, don’t worry, it is not dead. You can encourage your orchid to bloom again with just a little TLC. Phalaenopsis orchids rebloom on old spikes with a new stalk emerging from a triangular node along the stalk. To trigger reblooming, your orchid will need a little more attention than what you usually give it. The thrill when your orchid blooms for a second time, however, makes the small investment in time and effort required to trigger orchid reblooming well worth the effort.

Phalaenopsis orchids expend a lot of energy to create the large, beautiful flowers for which they are prized. Under normal circumstances, your orchid will enter a resting period called dormancy once it has finished blooming. Dormancy allows the plant time to rest and replace the nutrients expended during blooming. Nutrients and water are stored in the plant’s leaves until they are needed for growth and blooming. Dormancy typically lasts from 6 to 9 months and your orchid may rebloom on its own. But sometimes orchids need a little help activating the natural rhythm that leads to blooming.

To trigger orchid reblooming, follow these steps:

  1. When your orchid stops blooming, begin fertilizing it every other week with a balanced houseplant fertilizer (20-20-20) mixed at half strength. Do not water your Just Add Ice Orchid with 3 ice cubes on the weeks you fertilize your plant.
  2. Move your orchid to a cooler environment where nighttime temperatures are between 55 and 65 degree F. until a new flower spike emerges.
  3. Return your plant to its usual location and continue watering with 3 ice cubes once a week.

You got a moth orchid as a holiday gift. Or as a birthday present. Maybe it came from your grandmother, who also informed you that the plant’s horticultural name is Phalaenopsis and that there are dozens of species. But this is not what concerns you: the problem is the flowers have shriveled, leaving behind a bare spike and a couple of waxy green leaves in a pot. You wonder, “When my orchid bloom again?”

Mary Gerritsen understands your pain. Orchid whisperer Gerritsen coaxes hers to flower again every year—and shares her top plant care tips here.

The author of A Bay Area Guide to Orchids and their Culture has been growing orchids since the 1970s and says: “Most of the indoor orchids I have are ones someone got as gift and the flower fell off and so they said, ‘Here,” and gave it to me.”

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Above: “Most Phalaenopsis are shipped here from Taiwan, flattened in a container ship, smushed in Sphagnum moss,” says Gerritsen. “When they get here, to get them to bloom they are grown in special circumstances involving light and temperature.” Your job: replicate those circumstances at home.

What should I do when my orchid stops blooming?

The goal is to get your moth orchid to bloom at least once a year, for several months. (Some of Gerritsen’s will bloom for eight to ten months.)

First, cut off the old flower stalk at the base of the plant. Then put your moth orchid in a room in your house that simulates the conditions that will cause it to flower again. For starters, it will need a month’s worth of daily temperature drops of at least 10 degrees from day to night.

“In your house, you tend not to have big drops; the temperature tends to be set to a steady 68 degrees,” says Mary. So put your orchid in a room that gets a little cold by the window—and put your orchid in the window. When the sun goes down, the heat will drop and the cold will stimulate it to re-bloom.

Tip: “My room has a window that faces south, has no heat vent, and basically has glass on two sides and a skylight, so it gets a temperature spike during the day,” Gerritsen says.

Above: In the wild, many moth orchids thrive in humidity and moist climates, in filtered sunlight beneath a canopy of trees. Keep them out of harsh, direct sunlight.

When should I re-pot my orchid?

“Often the ones from the florist have damaged roots,” says Gerritsen. “Make sure it’s not done up as a throwaway, stuffed in a pot with a bunch of pebbles, reindeer moss, and no drainage.”

Tip: Re-pot, after an orchid stops blooming. Take it gently from its pot, shake off the old bark, and cut off any dead roots with a sterile razor blade or scissors. “Don’t make the mistake of putting into a bigger pot, because orchids don’t like that,” says Gerritsen. “They like to have their roots crowded in a small space.” So pot it into a same-size pot, holding its leaves so the roots dangle into the pot. Add bark and gently mix the pieces around its roots to hold them snugly.

Gerritsen recommends a potting medium of Douglas fir bark to aid drainage and air circulation. A 1-gallon bag of Douglas Fir Bark For Orchids is $17.99 from Amazon.

Above: Once established, a moth orchid will bloom year after year. “I have a friend in Washington, D.C. who I have been visiting for 25 years and she has had the same Phalaenopsis in her window all that time, and it blooms every year,” says Gerritsen.

How much sun does a moth orchid need?

Orchids like bright, indirect light. “Most important—no burning hot sun,” says Gerritsen. “Don’t put it in direct sun, which can cook it.”

Tip: North-facing windows tend not to get enough light to satisfy an orchid (“unless the building across the street is white or a shiny material and you get a lot of reflected light,” says Gerritsen).

Above: If you put a moth orchid in a west-facing window, the problem is it gets sun in the hot part of the day. “Move it farther back from the window or put a sheer curtain between the orchid and the window,” says Gerritsen.

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You may not believe me right away, but orchid care is very easy! If you’re wondering “why won’t my orchid bloom,” then you’ve come to the right place.

The truth is, Phalaenopsis orchids (moth orchids) are not hard to grow, and you just need to be aware of their basic needs and be consistent with your approach to care.

You can’t just plop your plant in your home and ignore it and expect it to flourish.

There are numerous reasons why your moth orchid won’t bloom. Here is a list that should help you get your moth orchid to rebloom.

Why Isn’t My Orchid Blooming?

Light

The number 1 reason why your Phalaenopsis orchid isn’t blooming is light. Moth orchids are considered among the “low light” orchids, but they still need sufficient light to bloom!

I want you to walk over to your orchid and look at the color of the leaves. Is it a deep, dark green? If so, your plant probably isn’t getting enough light. Move it to a brighter location.

I keep my Phalaenopsis orchids directly in front of Eastern-exposure windows.

And by directly in front, I mean within 1-2 feet of the window. You can’t expect plants to flourish, especially flowering plants, if they are too far from any window.

The morning sun is great for them, but just be careful not to expose your Phals to too much sun.

You know that your moth orchid is on the high end of it’s light tolerance if you start to see that the edges of the leaves are reddish in color. That’s OK, but your plant is warning you not to get any brighter.

There is one exception that I make when it comes to light. When my moth orchid is in bloom, I move it to various areas in the house purely for display, even if I normally wouldn’t place it there for normal growth.

What’s the point if I can’t enjoy my plant while it is in bloom?

After the plant is done blooming (which could be months!), I’ll return the plant back to its window so it can continue growing.

How to Water Orchids

Walk over and visit your orchid again. How do the roots look? Are they dry and shriveled up?

If so, you’re probably keeping your orchid much too dry.

Some orchids such as cattleya have pseudobulbs which store water and this makes them more drought tolerant.

Moth orchids don’t have pseudobulbs to store water so you need to be more attentive to the watering. They simply don’t like to dry out completely.

Healthy orchid roots should be plump and look greenish, white or silver.

If they’re shriveled like your grandmother’s neck, or wrinkly but still firm, your plant needs more water.

If the roots are mushy and stringy, you’ve probably overwatered your orchid and caused the roots to rot.

And PLEASE whatever you do, do NOT water your orchid with ice! I don’t care what the label says. Moth orchids originate in the jungles of southeast Asia.

There are monkeys in those jungles. Have you ever seen a monkey with a popsicle? I think not. So don’t give your orchids ice to water them. This is just asinine!

I feel so strongly against this that I wrote a blog post on why you shouldn’t water your orchids with ice. Please read it when you’re done reading this post!

Don’t let your orchid pot dry out completely, if you can help it, but at the same time, don’t let your plant sit in water at any time. You need to strike a balance in between!

Orchids need perfect drainage. In nature, they grow on trees. They are often exposed to rain and deliciously humid jungle air, but they have perfect drainage.

They’re never sitting in water. If you slip your orchid into a decorative pot with no hole, that is fine.

Just make sure that when you water your plant, that it has fully drained into the sink before you slip it back into the decorative pot. I do this all the time.

When to Fertilize Orchids

When I ask people if they fertilize their orchid, I normally get a sheepish “no.”

Well, hell! Every plant needs nutrients to survive, so go get some fertilizer! I’ve used a couple different fertilizers with good results, and are available on Amazon.

My fertilizer of choice for all of my plants is Dyna Gro Grow. I use it on almost all my plants, including my orchids. It is an amazing general purpose fertilizers. All my plants are growing beautifully!

Whatever you do, please fertilize. A good rule of thumb is “weekly, weakly.” Moth orchids don’t need a ton of fertilizer, but a very dilute application weekly for most of the year except during the middle of winter if your plant has stopped growing.

If you let your plant get too dry, water it with plain water first, and then apply a solution of fertilizer. This is so you don’t shock your plant.

And please use room temperature or warm water when you water your orchids. Never cold water.

Temperature for Orchids

Moth orchids are tropical plants and need warm temperatures, so if you are comfortable in a room inside your house, your orchid probably is too.

If you have a stubborn orchid, something that often triggers bloom is a temperature gradient between day and night.

Often times, if you expose your orchid to night temperatures that are 15F (or more) cooler at night versus the day, this may kick-start your orchid into bloom.

Just be sure to keep your plant above a minimum night-time temperature of around 50F or above.

A Summer Outdoors

Summering your orchid outdoors does miracles for your plant, whether it is an orchid or any other houseplant that you have. I can’t emphasize this enough!

I’ve written a whole blog post on this topic so click HERE to read. Just be sure to keep it protected from the sun and place it in a shady area.

If you live in an area with cold winters like I do, wait until the night time temperatures are consistently 50F (10C) or above before placing your orchid outside.

For my region of the Earth, this normally happens around mid-May or so, but I always keep my eye on the weather report and adjust accordingly.

Summer your plants outside whenever possible. Let them reap the benefits of the air circulation, rainwater, and humidity.

Leave your orchid outside all summer until the night time temperatures threaten to go below 50F (10C) and bring your plant back inside at that time.

A few words of caution though if you summer your plants outdoors.

Make sure that your orchids are not sitting in water. If you have it slipped in a decorative pot with no drainage hole, you may need to remove it and place it into another pot with a drainage hole.

Otherwise, after a rainfall, you will constantly have to go and drain the pot.

Keep your plants in a protected area from the wind. You don’t want your plants thrashed around and damaged.

Be especially careful when you first move your plant outside to keep it protected from any sun.

The intensity of the sun outside is different that the sun coming through your windows into your home. Your plant will burn outside, so it needs a period of hardening off in complete shade.

Ideally, put it in complete shade, especially when you first bring them outdoors.

Need More Help With Your Orchids?

If you have more serious woes with your orchid plants, other than just not blooming, you may want to check out Help My Orchid Is Dying!

In this blog post, I describe many possibly problems that you might be having with your orchids and how you can fix them.

If you want the most complete, quick and easy to understand guide on orchid care, please check out my Moth Orchid Mastery.

In under an hour, you will be equipped with everything you need to easily grow these elusive plants! From light, watering, repotting, fertilizing, what to do after your plant is done blooming, and more!

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