Orchid cuttings after flowering

Orchid Care 101: How Do I Care for a Resting Orchid?

When an orchid is finished blooming, its blooms will wilt and fall off before it enters into a resting period. Resting is a normal part of the Phalaenopsis orchid lifecycle in which your plant is storing up energy to rebloom. Continue caring for a resting orchid, and you’ll likely be rewarded with more vibrant, healthy blooms.

Here’s how to care for a resting orchid:

Water Weekly

Just because your orchid does not have flowers does not mean you should stop watering it. Continue to water your orchid with three ice cubes (one ice cube for orchid minis) on the usual day each week. Sign up for our orchid care watering reminders so you don’t forget your watering day!

Fertilize

Orchids differ from traditional houseplants in many ways, including how they get their nutrients. Unlike houseplants that feed from their soil, orchids receive their nutrients from their fertilizer and potting medium. These nutrients are especially important during the resting phase. For optimum health, fertilize your orchid every other week or once a month with a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20 or 10-10-10) mixed at half strength. Do not water your orchid on the weeks you fertilize.

Give it Plenty of Indirect Light

Just like when it’s in full bloom, your orchid needs lots of indirect light during dormancy. Give your plant the light it craves by tucking it behind a sheer curtain in a north or east-facing window to shield it from direct sunlight.

Move It to a Cooler Room

Orchids love warm temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day; however, they prefer cooler nighttime temperatures. Moving your orchid to a room with a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees for a couple of weeks during the resting period can help trigger reblooming.

Dress It Up

Blooms aren’t the only beautiful orchid feature that disappears during dormancy. The orchid stem may dry and turn brown, and orchid leaves take on a dull and faded appearance and may become limp and flat. The good news is you can dress your orchid during this time to help maintain its allure. Add a silk stem of Phalaenopsis orchid blooms (taking care not to disturb the roots of your orchid) or incorporate the orchid pot into a larger display of greenery from complementary plants such as mosses.

Resting is not the kiss of death for your plant. In fact, by following these orchid care tips, you can make your plant’s next bloom the best one yet. For more information about orchid reblooming,

When To Cut Orchid Plants: Learn How To Prune An Orchid

Orchids are beautiful flowers that are great for growing indoors. While these little plants are fairly easy to look after, special care must be taken when pruning orchids. Follow these steps to properly prune off old wood to make room for new blooms.

How to Prune an Orchid

Different types of orchids require different pruning methods. Use the orchid pruning tips below to keep your orchids looking good and healthy.

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Make sure you have super sharp pruning shears to use on your orchid. The sharper the shears, the cleaner the cut will be. A clean cut makes for a healthier orchid.

  • While the orchid is still blooming, cut back the flowers that are fading. Removing the orchid blooms that have finished will not only keep your plant looking neat but will increase its vitality.
  • Make a clean even cut directly back to the main branch. Keep this up while the plant is blooming.
  • When the Phalaenopsis orchid is completely done blooming and all the flowers have faded, you can do the major pruning. Most orchids will go dormant in the fall, so plan on doing your pruning then.
  • Trim the stem that had the blooms on it off about an inch away from the main stalk. Make the cut clean and even. If there are any places on the stalk that have turned yellow or brown, cut them back completely so that the plant will grow back healthier.
  • Remove the orchid from its pot. Prune away any dead or damaged roots.
  • Replant the orchid in a bigger pot each year so that it has more room to grow.

Young Orchids

If your orchid is fairly young, you want to encourage it to grow bigger roots and blooms. The best way to cut orchid plants when they are young is to trim the stalk all the way back to one inch from the base of the plant. As it grows back, it will have stronger roots, bigger leaves and larger blooms.

Dendrobium Orchid

If your orchid is a Dendrobium type, trimming is a little different. Trim the flowers off as they fade but leave the stem. Next year it will flower on the same stalk. Trim roots and re-pot as normal.

More Orchid Pruning Tips

Make sure your plant is near a window for the best lighting. Plants that do not receive enough light will not be as healthy as those that receive sufficient light. The most common problem with not enough light is lack of blooming or quality blooms.

Water your plant carefully. Try to never wet the leaves of an orchid when you water it. If you do, dry the leaves with a paper towel so that no water is left sitting on them.

Don’t allow excess water to sit at the base of the plant. Water that is not allowed to drain away from the pot will cause the roots to rot and possibly kill the plant. Watering too frequently will also cause this. In the summer, water orchids once a week. In the winter, once every 2 weeks is sufficient.

Orchid Care 101: Trimming Orchid Spikes

If your orchid bloomed through the spring and summer, fall marks that time you’ll likely see your orchid enter a period of rest. The blooms will wilt and fall off, but don’t worry—your orchid is not dead! Rather, it is saving up energy to rebloom next season.

Even though bloom loss isn’t cause for concern, it does signal it’s time to help your orchid through its months of hibernation. One of the main ways you can assist in the reblooming process is by trimming your orchid spikes. The decreasing temperatures of the fall season make it the ideal time to encourage reblooming in future months.

For a first time orchid owner, trimming spikes can be a stressful task. However, with the right information, it can easily become part of your orchid care routine. Just follow these four steps!

Step One: Assess Your Spikes

The status of your spikes informs how you should go about the trimming process. Healthy spikes are green and firm to the touch. Unhealthy spikes are brown or yellow in color. Some orchids have a single-spike and some are double-spiked. Know what kind of spikes you’re dealing with before you begin the trimming process.

Step Two: Gather Your Tools

The tools you use to trim your spikes should be clean and sterile. Wash the blades of your tools thoroughly with hot water and soap. Rinse clean to ensure no soap residue remains. For non-coated tools, you can also sterilize with the flame of an alcohol lamp or gas stove.

Step Three: Trim

Remember that how you trim your spikes depends on the condition your spikes are in.

Follow these guidelines:

  • For healthy, green spikes: Find a node under the lowest flower bloom. Trim 1 inch above that node.

  • For unhealthy, brown spikes: Cut all the way back to the base of the plant.

  • For double-spike orchids: Cut one spike at the base of the plant. Cut the other spike 1 inch above the node under the lowest flower bloom.

Step Four: Maintain

Keeping your spikes neat and tidy helps your orchid conserve energy for reblooming. While it might seem like you’re “harming” your orchid by trimming it, you’re actually giving it the best chance for regrowth.

To stimulate reblooming, expose your orchid to cooler temperatures—just be careful to avoid bursts of cold air.

Want more tips for orchid reblooming?

How to Correctly Prune Your Orchid—Plus, When to Do It

Ellie Miller

It may seem intimidating to prune your orchid, but it’s important to your plant’s health. Pruning an orchid can not only help it last longer—as well as flower more—but it’ll also ensure you’re removing diseased leaves and help you get it ready for repotting, according to Bruce Rogers, orchid expert and author of The Orchid Whisperer, Expert Secrets for Growing Beautiful Orchids. So, grab your pruning shears: Here’s when you need to prune your orchid, and how to prune it properly.

Related: 10 Fascinating Plants That Look Like Animals

Sterilize Your Shears

No matter what method you use to prune your orchids—we’ll discuss a few below—start with sterilized pruning shears or scissors. “Sterilization is required because orchids can get viruses and diseases from cuts with dirty blades,” Rogers explains. To sterilize your shears, heat the blades over a gas stove or with a lighter for several seconds, says Rogers. Just be very careful with your fingers.

Prune Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, and Dendrobium Orchids

Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, and Dendrobium orchids are some of the most common varieties people own—and they should be pruned to extend their flowering periods, says Rogers. When you spot the last flower on these varieties ready to die, “count down three nodes—the bumps on the spike where the individual flowers emerge—and use sterilized scissors to cut the end of the flower spike completely off,” Rogers instructs. “This will encourage new branches of flowers to emerge from the lower nodes of the spike,” which should begin to flower within a few months. “Using this method, it is not uncommon for Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, and Dendrobium orchids to carry flowers for more than a year,” Rogers says.

Prune to Remove Rotten or Diseased Leaves

Orchids that have developed black or brown rotten spots on their leaves should be pruned, says Rogers. “It is best to remove them, because these conditions can spread and eventually kill your orchid,” he says. Using sterilized scissors, cut out any rotten and discolored spots you see. “If they are not removed, it is hard to remember how big and how many there are, and hard to determine if they are spreading.”

Prune Your Orchid Before Repotting

When orchids are thriving, they will eventually outgrow their original pots and need to be repotted—and when they do, they’ll need to be pruned. “After lifting the orchid from the pot, remove all moss or bark from its roots,” Rogers says. Then, “examine the cleaned roots carefully: Roots that are dead will appear just that—with only a thread-like string with no root material around it.” (Live roots, on the other hand, will be thick and green or white.) “Cut all the dead roots off clear to where they emerge from the plant,” Rogers says. “And cut off all the dead leaves and bulbs and canes.” Then you can repot it with clean bark or moss.

Learning how to prune an orchid is a process not unlike the orchid itself: orchid pruning is subtle, strategic, and sublime when done right.

Knowledgable, careful pruning can make the difference between prize blooms and bloom-less stalks year after year.

It can even encourage your orchid plant to re-bloom!

Why Do Orchids Need Pruning?

Even though orchids are different from all other plants in some crucial ways, they need pruning for the same fundamental reasons as all other plants.

Benefits

Pruning keeps your orchid healthy. It also gives you a great chance to give your orchid a once-over to spot any unfolding issues while they are still minor and fixable.

Another significant benefit of orchid pruning is to remove any diseased or dead matter. This tissue may be harboring pests or fungi, or could simply be stressing the plant out.

One of the most exciting benefits of pruning is to get your orchid to bud and re-bloom.

When Should I Prune My Orchid?

The optimal time to prune an orchid is after the blooms have faded and dropped.

How Often?

In general, orchids do not need to be pruned frequently. Most orchids bloom once per year, although some species bloom more frequently than this.

Typically, you will only need to prune as often as your orchid blooms.

What Is an Orchid Spike?

In orchids, the word “spike” denotes the stem that attaches a bloom (flower) to the plant stalk. This small bit of green is so much more important than its humble appearance might suggest.

Right beneath the base of the spike (where it’s attached to the stem) is where the nodes are located. Nodes are the sites of potential new blooms.

New orchid growers often get spikes and roots mixed up. The truth is, they can look quite similar. The two will always look just a bit different, although the nature of the difference varies depending on the orchid species.

When you hear the terms “single spike” and “double spike,” this refers to the bloom pattern of the orchid species.

Some orchid species will produce only a single spike, which will then produce buds that bloom. Others will produce double spikes that then bud and bloom.

What is most interesting here is that orchids can vary the number of spikes and quantity of blooms from year to year.

For example, the popular and readily available Phalaenopsis orchid usually blooms from a single spike. But some Phalaenopsis will produce double spikes. Genetics and care can both impact the number of spikes and variance in the bloom patterns.

Pruning your orchid will not represent the bulk of your care responsibilities. But correct pruning will help minimize problems and encourage re-blooming.

Make sure you have a sharp pair of shears or scissors before you start pruning

You will need scissors, a pot, and orchid potting media. These must all be sterilized first using a sterilizing solution.

You also have options for how and how much to prune your orchid. It is important to always spray on some sterilizing treatment at the point of any cuts to protect your orchid from pests and disease.

Step 1

Examine your entire orchid thoroughly. Identify any areas (roots, spikes, leaves) that need pruning.

Step 2

If the spike looks green and healthy, wait until the blooms have faded and fallen. Cut back the spike to within one inch of the stalk if you think the orchid will re-bud a second time before the dormant period in fall/winter.

If the spike is healthy but it is close to the dormant season and you do not think the orchid will re-bud again, trim off the whole stalk to just one inch above the base of the plant itself, being careful to trim above any nodes that are present.

If the spike is not healthy, trim off the entire spike just above the node (see next section here for more details about how to do this).

Step 3

For orchid leaves that are diseased or wilting, you can choose to cut away just the portion of the leaf that is affected or, if the majority of the leaf is affected, trim away the entire leaf just above the base of the plant.

Step 4

Only prune an orchid’s roots when you are getting ready to repot the plant.

Traditionally, re-potting is done no more than once annually after the orchid has re-bloomed for the final time before the dormant period.

Trim away any dead or rotted roots before repotting in the sterilized potting media. Refrain from watering your orchid for at least a couple of days to allow the cuts to heal. You can increase ambient air humidity in the meantime if your orchid is dry.

What to Do With Brown, Yellow or Dead Stems

As long as the stems on your orchid remain vibrant, plump and green, it is fine to leave them alone. Healthy orchids often re-bud from these stems.

But if you see that the stems are beginning to turn yellow or brown or to wither up and die off, it is time to prune them to reduce stress to the plant. Plus, compromised orchid spikes typically will not re-bud so they need to be removed for the overall health of the plant.

Always use a sterile scissors for pruning and apply some sterilizing solution to the prune site to protect your orchid from pests and microbes.

Signs your Phalaenopsis Orchid is Not Doing Well
Telltale signs your orchid is in need of help

From dehydration & bad roots, to spotted or leathery leaves; if you’re having troubles with your orchid, the first step to solving it the problem is identifying it. So let’s dive in to to the many signs of a distressed orchid:

Discolored Spots, Damage, or Pits on a Phalaenopsis Leaf

Phals are tropical plants so they are used to operating in a relatively narrow range of temperatures. Leaf damage can come from 3 main things: cold damage, heat damage (generally not from too much light but instead from inferred waves from direct sun), and virus-related damage.

Heat Damage – Burnt Phal Leaves

Heat damage is the easiest to identify – it happens during high temps or from direct sun, and if it’s the latter the symptom is a giant white (or black) spot of dead tissue. Heat damage is irreversible. If your phal gets heat damage, hopefully it’s not bad enough to kill the plant, and it only affects a section of the leaf or top leaves. If you start to see yellow stippling on the surface of your phal’s leaf and it’s growing near a bright window where sun is in contact with the leaf – move it. All it takes is a hot day, or a very bright day to scorch the leaf.

Cold Damage – Orchids & Fungus

People are warned not to water in the evening specifically because of cold-related damage, but Phals can suffer from cold damage even if they’re not wet. To prevent cold damage, keep your orchids away from open windows in the fall, and avoid letting your grow area temps go below 16C. You might be okay with temps down to 13-14C briefly during shipping, but don’t grow them this cold.

A phal can experience two types of cold damage:

  1. Fungal Infection – this is more of an educated guess than proven fact, but I’ve heard it discussed multiple times. It’s believed that many phals have or carry a Taiwan form of micro fungus (whatever the hell that is) and when the temperatures go too low, the fungus is able to overtake or damage the plant. This results in yellow spots, or necrotic tissue. It also looks similar to viral damage, but I haven’t managed to find clarity on the details. The takeaway is this: cool temps can result in yellow or black spots on your phal – and the spots begin within the leaf and can spread quickly. If you’re seeing this problem get your plant to a warmer place, isolate it away from other plants (as it’s reported to spread quickly across a collection) and if possible use a systemic fungicide such as Phyton27. Also, be sure to keep your phalaenopsis away from open windows…if it’s fall or winter and you have a window open a crack, a sub-zero night can create drafts across your plant, quickly killing the tissue – THAT type of damage looks a bit different;
    *For more information about this micro fungus, or here.
  2. Mesophyll Cell Collapse caused by cold air or cold water on the leaves. The condition is quite common in the fall as temperatures drop, especially in the evenings – but symptoms of damage may not be visible for weeks after the drop in temperature happened. The American Orchid Society has a detailed page on the topic, so go there and read their info. The takeaway is this: water should be above above 50° F (10° C), and ideally within 25° F (4° C) of the leaf temperature. Keep plants away from open windows in the fall, and if you have your plants outside, be very careful about seasonal changes. Bring plants in if the temps are expected to go below 15C…just to be safe.

Images of Phalaenopsis Leaf Damage – Mesophyll Cell Collapse
(possibly caused by cold damge, microfungus or viral infection)

Lack of Water – Phalaenopsis Symptoms

In the home, the main reason plants die quickly is because they’re not hydrated. Phalaenopsis can suffer dehydration from either under-watering or over-watering (which can kill the roots). A lot of online resources on ‘how to grow phals’ are geared toward people who have greenhouses or who live in humid areas. If you live a dry climate (under 60% humidity) like I do, then you need to pay close attention to the below water-related issues. It’s good to know: lack of water will likely affect our plants more drastically than someone who lives in an ‘ideal orchid climate’.

Does this sound like your orchid? Then read:

Signs & Symptoms of a Dehydrated Phalaenopsis – Wrinkled Leaves & Roots

Your Orchid is not a cactus – don’t grow your orchid like it is one! A lot of online sites stress about the importance of “not over watering”, but if you’re watering once a week, you’ve got to make sure your plant is doing well and getting sufficient water in the first place or it’s just going to die a slower death. I sometimes have to water two (occasionally three times in a week)! Over watering is less likely to happen if you have the proper medium — you can read more about proper potting and watering methods here.

Light Related Phalaenopsis Issues

If your watering is good but your phal still isn’t actively growing your next challenge may be light! A lot of online resources deem phalaenopsis as ‘low light’ plants. The problem with this is our understanding of “bright” vs. “low light” because our eyes can see in very low light.

Let’s say for example, that you’re in a basement with some overhead potlights. That light illuminates the room and appears to be “low light”, but it’s actually SO LOW that your phal would die for sure, but that process would take months, or up to a year before it eventually bites the dust. When considering an orchid’s need for “low light”, we need to beware that this is actually quite bright by our visible light standards.

Looking for Tips on Orchids & Light? Then read:

Is your Phalaenopsis Orchid is getting Enough Light?

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