The majority of orchid flowers will have bloomed and dropped by the late fall months. Once your phalaenopsis orchids have bloomed, you’ll need to either maintain the care of the orchid for next year’s bloom or encourage reblooming your orchid.
How do you care for an orchid after it blooms? Orchid care after blooming involves cutting the flower spike back, repotting if necessary, adding fertilizer, moving the orchid to a cooler temperature, and decreasing the amount of water.
To care for an orchid after the blooms have fallen off is not that hard, and in this guide you’ll learn how. There are several things you need to do and depending on your objective, will determine the path you need to take. You can induce a new flower spike you can let the orchid rest and recuperate it’s energy for next year’s bloom.
Despite reblooming orchids or encouraging new root growth, you will be doing the following actions to care for an orchid after the booms have fallen off:
-Cut the flower spike back
-Check for repotting time
-Move your orchid to an area with cooler temperatures
Which Method: Encourage Flowers or Stimulate Roots?
If you have a phalaenopsis (moth orchid), you’ll first need to decide what to do. Do you want to encourage a new flower spike and a possible rebloom, or if you want to encourage root growth, to produce a healthier plant next year?
Not sure which path to choose for orchid care after blooming? Let the orchid tell you. If you have a young orchid, and this is its first year of producing a flower spike, you’ll want to encourage root growth instead of a flower stem.
Any flower spike that is weak, wilted, and not healthy enough to encourage an orchid to rebloom, needs to be cut off at the base of the plant. Just the color is a good clue that it’s time to be cut back: yellow or brown spikes need to go.
Reblooming orchids mean cultivating a second flower spike from the same spike. This process depletes the flower of extra stored energy, making them more susceptible to infection, diseases, and overall weaker.
If you’re new at growing orchids, or in doubt, I’d go for growing a better root system rather than reblooming.That way any possible mistakes made during the course of the next year, the orchid will have more energy to recover from them.
All other orchids will not rebloom using the same flower spike. If you are cultivating dendrobiums, cattleyas or any other species of orchids, their procedure is a little bit different. See their specific section below.
Encourage Root Growth: Cutting the Spikes at the Base
Orchid care after the flowers have fallen off may indicate a totally different path: reinforce root maturity. You’ve decided that you’re going to give the moth orchid a rest for flowering and focus on the roots. This will signal to the orchid to send out new roots and seek stability, which is great for newer orchids.
Our aim is to cut back the flower spike closest to the base, yet not hindering growth or recuperation. Look for the node closest to the roots.
A node is a triangular, brown bump in the stem that indicates where an old flower had bloomed. Using sterilized* scissors, razor blade, or clippers**, cut the stem in an angled fashion a little bit above the node. A little is a little – ¼ inch at most. We’ve seen people leave up to an inch, but it’s really not necessary since that part will shrivel up anyway.
Don’t cut directly on top the node.
If a virus or bacteria is introduced through the cut, this gives the orchid some reaction time at the node to protect itself. If you cut directly on the node, the infection will be sure to spread to the base of the orchid, without that extra barrier of protection.
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Reduce Infection and Promote Rapid Cauterization
This pruning procedure will encourage the orchid to focus its energy and maintenance on the roots, producing healthy, vigorous roots. After cutting the stem, place a cotton swab with cinnamon powder on the open leaf cut. Never use cinnamon on the roots. Cinnamon reduces the chances of infection and promotes rapid cauterization.
We’ve seen other people use candle wax, but we don’t like this method too much. First, you have to place the flame close to the leaves. Although you’re not burning the orchid, the heat and open flame so close to the orchid aren’t the best for it.
The second reason is totally unproven and biased, but yikes… That’s got to hurt. Get that hot candle wax away from our orchids.
*To Sterilize Your Cutting Tools:
First, wash your utensils with normal dish detergent to disinfect the tool and rinse thoroughly. Then you can do one of two things:
1) use rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball and rub the blades to remove any possible microbacteria.
2) Turn on the burner of your stove and move the blade through the fire for at least 5 seconds
Some articles say to leave the tools soaking for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. This is not necessary. First, 30 seconds won’t do a thing for you. If you’re going to soak, aim for a higher time. But still, you need to use a scrubbing action to mechanically scrape off the microbacteria with the cotton ball. Just soaking it doesn’t produce the friction necessary to thoroughly clean or sterilize the clippers.
Let air dry naturally. Do not shake the blades in the air or blow on the blade, since our mouths have a considerable amount of bacteria. Shaking them in the air will speed up the evaporation time unnaturally. Some bacteria can survive if exposed to the alcohol for shorter periods of time.
An orchid will not rebloom if there is an infection in the flower spike.
2) Turn on the burner of your stove and move the blade through the fire for at least 5 seconds (on both sides.) Electric stove-tops do not work for this. It has to be a live flame. You can use a kitchen torch to do this, too.
Please, don’t touch the blade to see if it’s hot after you’ve placed it in the flame. I’ve seen it many times. Yes, it will be hot. Heat actually kills bacteria more than a luke-warm blade, but the problem is that your finger (a bacterial farm) just contaminated the blade.
So, you have to repeat the process. If you watch several YouTube tutorials, you’ll see so many people pointing to their newly contaminated blades and extensively touching the area as they explain. Ugh…
It is important to sterilize after each orchid trimming, so if the orchid happens to be sick, the bacteria or virus won’t pass on to another orchid.
This process isn’t as important if you are cutting the same plant, like dual-spikes. But be sure to repeat the process before starting to prune a different orchid.
**About the Pruning Utensils:
Make sure that whatever you use, be it scissors, razor blade, trimming shears, etc, that they are sharp.The worst thing you can do is cut your spike and the blade not be sharp. A dull blade forces you to hack away at the spike with several imprecise and tearing cuts. This harms the spike, opening several potential places for pathogens to spread, as the blade constantly squishes the spike instead of cutting it. Surgical precision is my aim. 😊
Cutting the Stem After the Second or Third Node
Another orchid care after blooming is cutting the stem back. If you decide that the spike is firm, a vigorous green color, and probably has the strength to produce a new flower, you might want to encourage reblooming your orchid.
This is done by cutting the stem back after the second or third nodes. The energy in the orchid will not be redirected to the roots, but to producing the stem into a new flower spike. Again, after cutting, use cinnamon to aid the rapid recovery and decrease the chances of spreading infection.
Not all orchids will rebloom a second time during the year.
In fact, the only ones who will rebloom are the moth orchids or phalaenopsis. All others will either produce a new bloom from a new spike or enter a state of rest, to recover from the energy used in flowering.
An example is Dendrobiums, which prefer to have a dormant period anywhere from 6 to 8 months of rest (which also includes less water and fertilizer.)
Orchid care after reblooming always includes cutting the flower spike. Yet the length is what’s important, and determines what will grow.
After cutting back the spike, anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks is when you should see a new spike forming on your phalaenopsis orchid. The flowers on the second reblooming spike will often be smaller compared to the first bloom. This is not a defect, but understandable, compared to the initial energy in store for the first bloom. The stem will also become weaker and a musty, swamp colored green.
How to Cut the Double-Spiked Orchids
If your moth orchid has two spikes, (lucky you) then you won’t want to induce new flowers on both spikes. This is too much to ask for your orchid. Choose the healthiest spike, and induce reblooming from that spike.
Cut it back just after the furthest node on the spike, which would be the closest to the end of the flower. The other spike you can cut back near node closest to the base, saving energy and redirecting the strength to the other spike.
Dendrobiums, cattleyas and other orchids will not rebloom using the same flower spike. They might produce a new spike, which is not uncommon, but also not a habit. So, don’t get too many hopes up that a second spike will come. If it does, count it as an extra blessing.
Differently from phalaenopsis, the dendrobiums store their energy in pseudobulbs. These are near the lower part of the orchid stem, where new spikes and leaves are produced. When the leaves fall off, scars are left, which look like little rings around the stem. This part needs to be left alone, since it’s the storage unit of your orchid.
To prune dendrobiums, you’ll need to make sure that you identify the pseudobulbs. Follow the flower spike back to where it connects with the pseudobulb. Carefully cut the spike part, not the pseudobulb.
There are two types of dendrobiums, one that sends a spike out from the top center of the stem, which imitates a phalaenopsis plant. The other is where spikes shoot out of the middle or sides of the stem, like the dendrobium nobile.
For the first, the process will be exactly the same as the phalaenopsis above, just be careful not to cut the pseudobulb or stem. For the second, trim back the side spikes as close as possible to the stem.
Is it Time to Repot?
Another care for orchids after reblooming is repotting. After all the flowers have fallen off is the best time to repot your orchid. Don’t repot your orchid every year, since the most common potting mediums won’t require a repot for at least two years. If the orchid mix is excellent quality, it can endure five years.
To test if your orchid needs repotting, you can take it to the sink and water it.
How fast does water exit the container? Water should be entering and exiting the orchid potting medium quickly. If the potting mix has begun to decompose, it will be more compact, making the passage for water more time-consuming.
Also, the more it breaks down, the more surface area the water has to travel and more open pores water has to soak into. This means water will take more time to exit the pot.
Another test is the pH test, which requires special testing equipment, like pH test strips. These are to the most part inexpensive (3 to 10 US dollars), so it might be worth the investment. If the potting mix is leaving behind water that is too acidic, then the potting mix needs to be changed. Potting medium that starts to decompose emits acidic chemicals, which can harm the roots. pH strips can easily be found in pet stores at the aquarium departments.
A less complicated method of judging repotting times is to observe the roots. If the roots are tipping/pouring down outside the pot, (cattleyas are easy examples of this) it’s time to get them in a bigger pot. Areal roots are fine, but butterfly (or moth orchids) that have too many roots protruding over the top of the rim, then it’s time to repot.
Not sure what to use as potting mix? Read this article on sphagnum moss as a potting medium.
Time to Add Fertilizer
During the blooming period, you shouldn’t have fertilized the roots at all. Now that the flowers are gone and the orchid needs time to recuperate, it will need extra energy. This is the perfect time for fertilization. Try to find a fertilizer that is 20-20-20 and dilute the recommended dose to half or a quarter of what the instructions say. There are more detailed instructions to fertilization in another article.
Move your Orchid to Cooler Temperatures
If you want to induce a second rebloom, another trick is to move the plant to a cooler area of the house.
Normally, inside temperatures are around 72-75ºF. A second rebloom could be induced if you find an area around 55ºF at night. The drop in temperature then raise to 80 in the day is a sure signal to the orchid that there is time to produce another flower spike before colder weather hits.
Watering After Blooming
Another orchid care after blooming is concerning water. You’ll need to reduce the watering period for a couple of weeks, especially for dendrobiums and cattleyas. Their pseudobulbs will absorb less water and nutrients through the roots and if you constantly water it, root rot may occur.
Phalaenopsis will still require the normal watering, but you might be aware that drying periods might take longer.
This is a hard one to judge because you don’t want to dry out your orchid or dehydrate it. Yet all species will require less watering, since the orchid will go dormant.
Humidity will need to be constant, with no variation. Check out an article about maintaining humidity levels here.
Further Reading Suggestions:
Don’t just take my word for what is written here. Continue researching other articles about orchid care after blooming, because everyone has a different point of view and unique techniques that work for them. Here are a few other articles from other websites if you’d like to continue your research on orchid care after blooming:
–Title: “Care of Phalaenopsis orchids (moth orchid)” written byDave Clement, published on College of Agriculture and Natural resources at University of Maryland Extension talks aboutthe basics of Phalaenopsis Care.
–Title: “Orchids on the Windowsill” published on United States Botanical Garden talks about general guidelines of growing orchids indoors.
–Title: “This florist started caring for ailing orchids on the side. He’s now babysitting 13,000.“ written by Adrian Higgins, published in the Washington Post talks about how once you get into the orchid hobby, it’s hard to get out. It’s very entertaining and an interesting read...and it all starts with one orchid.
Now that you know all about orchid care after reblooming, how to stimulate root growth or another flower spike, and how to let the orchid recuperate during its dormant cycle, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Check out some of our tutorials on how to design a great floral design or build a terrarium with orchids.
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