Let’s be honest, it’s the flowers in Phalaenopsis orchids that make us love these plants so much. Or at least that’s how we get into them in the first place! Of course with time we learn there’s more to these orchids than just the flowers; the leaves and roots have a life of their own, and are fascinating to watch grow too… The flowers are just one part of the plant!
People who see orchids as plants and not just as flowers don’t treat them as disposable, but keep caring for them even after the plant has withered all its flowers. Once all the flowers are gone we’re left with the old flower spike, so let’s discuss what to do with it below.
How to cut back the orchid flower spike?
You can either cut out the whole spike or trim back only a part of it in hopes of new flowers.
1. To cut back totally; using sterilized scissors/pruners cut the spike from as close to the base as possible.
2. To trim back the spike partially; with sterilized scissors/pruners cut from an inch above the highest node, and seal the cut wound with ground cinnamon.
A spike that has already turned totally brown and dry can’t yield any new flowers, so you can just totally cut it off. Do this at the base of the spike – as close to the crown as possible. Use sterilized scissors or pruners. Cut it off and that’s all you need to do.
Now, if the spike has started to turn brown only at the tip, there’s still a chance to get more flowers from it. Inspect the spike; see the individual spots where the flowers grew from; below them, you can see little ‘nodes’ throughout the spike. These nodes have a chance of growing a secondary branch, which will yield new flowers.
What you need to do is to find the highest node in the spike – it’s located below the spot where the oldest (first) flower grew from. Using sterilized scissors or pruners, cut the spike from an inch (or so) above this node. Take some ground cinnamon and tap some of it on the cut wound – this will kill bacteria and help close up the wound faster. (Don’t let any cinnamon fall on the leaves and roots – it’s dehydrating!)
Next, wait and see if the node will start to grow a secondary branch. This can take weeks, so be patient! If no new growth appears in the node, even after a long time, and you’re tired of the bare spike sticking out, then just cut it off totally from the base.
At this point I’d like to remind you something about flowers spikes. It takes a lot of energy for an orchid to grow and maintain flower spikes. So keep this in mind when your orchid has finished blooming – do you want to encourage your orchid to make more flowers, or it to reserve its energy to something else? When the blooming is finished orchids go into vegetative stage – this is the time when new leaves and roots start to grow.
Leaves and roots are the lifeline of an orchid, so this vegetative stage is important – more important (even if not as beautiful) than the blooming stage! If your orchid is in good health and you want more flowers, then go ahead and try to make it rebloom.
But if your orchid is tired and struggling, perhaps doesn’t have many leaves or roots, and it has already produced many flowers, then it’s better to cut off the flower spike so the plant can start to focus on growing new leaves and roots instead!
HOW TO GET MULTIPLE STEMS ON AN ORCHID
Some Phalaenopsis orchids grow several flower spikes at once, and others only one. I get asked every now and then what causes this, and how to make the orchid grow multiple spikes at once.
Unfortunately, you can’t force your orchid to grow several spikes at a time. It can be simply down to genetics – you might have a type of Phalaenopsis orchid on your hands that rarely grows multiple spikes at once, or vice versa.
If multiple spikes are something you really wish to have, then I’d recommend buying an orchid that already has several spikes growing. Even though not guaranteed (!), I’ve noticed these orchids sometimes grow multiple flower spikes in the future too.
However, some greenhouses pump their orchids with hormones to make them grow more flowers and multiple spikes – meaning, they won’t keep doing that in the future, so don’t be disappointed!
There are some Phalaenopsis orchids with an ID (identification) that are known to grow multiple spikes at once, like “Mini Mark”. This orchid has an orange lip and white petals with orange freckles – very pretty flowers! This orchid can be quite hard to find, but you can always try to search online for one.
Another worthy mention is “Equestris” –type Phalaenopsis orchids. They are impressive bloomers and have pretty flowers that come in different colors. Even though external factors play a part in the amount of flowers and spikes too, this type of orchid is worth a try if you’re after multiple spikes.
On that note; aside from genetics, also the conditions of your orchid play a factor in the amount of flower spikes. With this I mean the amount of light, available energy, and the overall health of the plant;
- Make sure your orchid gets enough nutrition, which is obtained from the potting medium, water and added fertilizer.
- Make sure your orchid gets enough daylight. (Supplement with artificial lights if needed)
- A sick orchid won’t start to grow multiple spikes, because it doesn’t have the needed energy for it – it’s energy consuming to grow spikes! So make sure your orchid is healthy and in good condition.
HOW TO MAKE ORCHID STEMS GROW STRAIGHT
Orchid flower spikes (or ‘stems’) always grow towards the strongest source of light. So if the strongest light to the orchid is coming from above, it will grow the spike upwards. If the strongest light is coming from its left side, it will grow the spike to the left – etc!
The only way to fully control how the spike grows is by staking it. For this you need;
- Clips or twist ties
When a new spike has started to grow it’s still bendable, so start staking it early on before the spike starts to harden! Trying to stake a hard spike can easily make it snap.
First, let the spike grow a few inches, and then put a stake right next to it. Stick it gently in the potting medium, avoiding damaging the roots. Push it deep enough so it stands firmly. Next, take a clip or a twist tie of your choosing, and gently attach the spike to the stake with it.
Leave the spike be so it can grow more, and add new clips/twist ties as the spike gets longer. This way you have full control over the flower spike’s growth. Stop staking the spike before it starts to grow the part where the flowers come from – this part will hang in the air naturally.
If you don’t want to stake your flower spike, but still want it to grow straight, then do not move the orchid pot while the spike is still growing. This is because the spike will keep growing towards the same direction regardless – if you move the pot, even just a little bit, the spike will keep growing towards the same direction but now from a different angle, which results into a crooked or askew spike – even zigzag if you’ve been moving the pot a lot!
It’s also good to remember that some orchid flower spikes grow very long, so make sure there’s enough space around your orchid when a new spike starts to grow. If your orchid is on a windowsill an unstaked spike can quickly run out of space and hit the window – which after you’re forced to move the pot to give the spike more growing space! This moving prevents you from getting that nice straight flower spike you wanted.
HOW LONG DOES AN ORCHID SPIKE TAKE TO GROW?
It’s always exciting to find a new flower spike arising from in-between the orchid leaves! But this is also when the waiting game starts, so please – be patient! (You’ll soon discover, if you haven’t already, that orchids teach us exactly that: patience!) 😉
All Phalaenopsis orchids are different and there are several external factors that affect the speed of the spike’s growth – like temperature, for example; orchids’ metabolism is slower in colder temperature, which results into slower growth. But a drop in nightly temperature is needed to prompt spike growth to begin with, so cooler temperatures aren’t a bad thing!
Generally speaking, the whole process – from the tiny spike peeking out all the way to the finished blooming stage – takes around 2-3 months.
Once the spike has finished growing, you have the blooms to enjoy for about 2 months or even up to several months – this, again, varies greatly from orchid to orchid.
WHAT IS AN ‘ORCHID SPIKE’?
I probably should have mentioned this already in the beginning of this article, but if you’re bran new to orchids, you might not even know what an ‘orchid spike’ is! And that’s okay, we’ve all been there! Orchid spike – also known as ‘flower spike’ or ‘stem’ – is the part of the orchid where the flowers and buds grow in.
Phalaenopsis orchids grow new spikes once or twice a year. When the spike is done blooming and all the flowers have dried up and fallen off, the spike starts to wither away and die. After this the plant will go into “vegetative stage”, during which they grow new leaves and roots. When it’s time for the orchid to bloom again, new spikes will arise.
CAN YOU REPLANT AN ORCHID STEM?
If you accidentally broke off your flower spike and are now wondering if you could replant it – the answer is; no. With Phalaenopsis (or ‘Moth’) orchids it’s not possible to propagate them like this.
Of course you can leave the broken flower spike standing in a glass of water, and see if it would make flowers – sometimes they do, sometimes not. But either way, it doesn’t take much effort to have them standing in water, so it’s worth a try if you’re interested to see what happens. It can take months, though!
If the broken spike was already in full bloom, then absolutely put it in water, so you can enjoy the blooms longer! It’s always a shame when a flower spike breaks – it has happened to most (if not all) of us. Luckily there will be new flower spikes in the future, so it’s not the end of the world.
I hope this article has answered some of your questions about orchid flower spikes! I have previously written about how to make an orchid grow flower spikes, so please do read that article if you haven’t read it yet! Also if you’ve experienced a “bud blast” (all the flowers falling off at once), it’s explained there too.
If you have any questions about orchid flowers and spikes – or about anything else regarding phalaenopsis orchids – you’re more than welcome to ask away in the comment section below! I do read all the comments and reply to questions, and I can even cover requested topics in future articles.
I’d also like to hear about your experiences with orchid flowers – how long do the blooms generally last in your plants, and how many times do your orchids bloom annually?
Thank you for reading! Until next time, enjoy your orchid flower spikes! 🙂
Great content! Keep it up! Orchids are the best. 🙂
Very informative! I have an orchid that has bloomed several times this year. This last time, one of the flowers is missing the middle part. Could this be from over production of blooms?
Wow, you have a busy bloomer! Sometimes the flower spikes just grow like that, growing buds unevenly on the spike. Even plants that haven’t bloomed the whole year can do that, so nothing to worry about. I can’t tell you exactly what causes it! But yes overproduction could be one, or even lack of proper daylight or nutrition. Of course the two latter scenarios aren’t your issues. 😊
Robin Evans says
What does a withered flower spike indicate? I inherited this orchid, so Idon’t really know much about this plant. It is planted in a large ,tall glass container. It looks like there is a layer of brown roots at the bottom of the pot. Most of the leaves are a nice green.There is one large yellow leaf with a shriveled texture.I think I should probably take the whole thing out and inspect it. One of the leaves had a sticky substance on the back of the leaf.Can you answer me by email as I’m not cure I can find you again.
Withering flower spike is totally normal – all flower spikes whither once they’re done blooming. (The orchid will grow a new flower spike when it’s ready to bloom again)
I’d definitely unpot the orchid and see what’s going on root-wise. “Glass container” sounds a bit worrisome to me, because there are no drainage holes? I’d unpot the orchid, clean the roots, and then repot it in a more suitable (breathable/drainable) pot.
(Do you know how to repot orchids? If not, then please see here; How to Repot an Orchid )
The one yellowing leaf – it’s normal for an old leaf to shed, so it’s probably nothing to worry about. The sticky substance behind the leaf is “sap”, like honeydew. It’s totally normal, well as long as you don’t see any pests on the orchid!
Thanks so much for the article. I really appreciate the close-up photo showing where to cut when pruning the spike. An orchid I bought my wife for Valentine’s day just lost its last flower, so I’m wanting to prune it in the hopes of encouraging a second bloom this year. One question I have that I can’t seem to find an answer for anywhere is how to treat a spike that has branched. Our orchid has the main spike and an offshoot that flowered as well. Should I trim each branch just above the fork? Should I trim back to the main stem? The plant is still very green and healthy. Thanks for your advice!
That’s a lovely Valentine’s Day gift you picked for your wife – an orchid!
If the branches (above the fork, as you said) have nodes, then I’d just trim above those.
But there’s no right or wrong, so you can even trim back to the main spike, if you want.
Every ‘unused’ node can potentially yield new flowers.
And even if you trim above the branches, new flowers might still come from the main spike – the orchid decides.
I hope you get new flowers soon!
I have loads of fresh roots with darker green nubbies at the end. What does this mesn????
It doesn’t really mean anything – they’re just new growth! So embrace it!
The roots are obviously happy! 🙂
I accidentally broke my stem with grown orchid flowers and one bud half way open as I tried to put it to stand up straight. There is a node with something growing above the cut portion.
Should I put it in water and hope to help it to rebloom? Or should I just stick it to the
original soil and hopefully there is enough nutrients in the soil to rebloom later??
Thanks….I am sad because it was so beautiful. Purple and white healthy flower growing….Thanks.
Yes, put it in water! Just a glass of water. (Make sure to add more water as needed) 😊
It’s a shame it broke – it happens. Been there, done that!
But look at it this way; the plant itself is still healthy. And, it will grow new flower spikes in the future! (If that’s any consolation!) 💚
Hello! So glad to find your website. I have a new spike (yay!) that started growing about three weeks ago. This morning it was finally long enough to stake it but when I went to fasten the spike to the stake, the top 1/2 inch snapped off. I am so sad! Does this mean the whole spike needs to be cut back? Do I try the cinnamon? Will it continue to grow anyway? Thank you for your help!
I’m so sorry about your spike! That’s really a shame. Normally when they snap they’ll stop growing.
I have seen some people tape the broken bit back to the main spike, but it’s not guaranteed it’ll work!
You can try to tape it and see what happens, or just let the spike be.
If the spike starts to dry up then just trim it off.
New spikes are so fragile, so always handle them extra gently!
On a positive note; there will be more spikes in the future! 😊
Helen Reid says
Fabulous info. I am nurturing my first orchid and it is growing well and looking forward to coming into flower. Should I feed my orchid? What do you recommend?
Hi there, Helen
How exciting your first orchid is about to bloom! 💚
Some people feed their orchids and others don’t. If you’re using tap water it’s not a ‘must’, but can still be beneficial!
Personally, I do have a few fertilizers, which I give every now and then – just as an extra boost!
You can read more info about feeding orchids HERE
It’s best to go with a balanced (20-20-20) urea-free orchid food.
Most brands are fine, but e.g. Miracle-Gro is one popular one.
I hope this helped! 😊
Help!! My orchid had 1 flower spike with 7 blooms that lasted about 6 months – the flowers just fell off this week….meanwhile a second spike started to grow from the original spike and it has 9 buds, 6 of which have opened so far. The second spike was so heavy with the new blooms that it snapped off, along with the original spike too 😫😭- clearly my stake was no help.. I’ve attempted to tape it back together…is this wishful thinking?…(I think I’m in denial)…so now the entire top of my orchid is gone…will is still start a new spike with this much damage? Should I leave it taped (do they ever heal themselves?) I appreciate any words of wisdom….this is my first orchid and I’m devastated!
Oh no, I’m so sorry about the flower spike! That’s such a shame – it happens though, to all of us!
I have heard of people taping a broken flower spike – sometimes it works, sometimes not. So just leave it be, taped, and hope for the best! You’ll see if it works soon enough. Otherwise you can put the broken part in water.
Your orchid will grow new flower spikes in the future, so the main thing is the plant itself (leaves and roots) is doing fine!
And this is a valuable learning experience for you; now you know how heavy flower spikes can get, and how easily they can break!
All the best to you! Sounds like your orchid is happy though, blooming so much! 💚
Carolyn Long says
I have used an old milkshake straw slit on one side, and used to hold the stem, and it actually did work once.
Sue Rodgers says
I am a novice since I received an orchid as a gift. It bloomed a little over a year after the blooms withered and fell off. It grew and flourished and has large waxed looking leaves. It now has two small shoots growing from the main stalk, One at the soil level and one just above it. Should I leave these two shoots as is? Your information has been so helpful, and I love my beautiful orchid. It had two spikes with eight large white orchids on each spike. Beginners’ luck!
Well done with your orchid! It’s obviously happy under your care, so keep doing whatever you’re doing!
I’m not quite sure what these shoots are. They grow from the main stalk – with this, do you mean the plant’s “body” or a flower spike? If the shoots grow from a flower spike, they could be secondary branches, or even keikis. And if they grow from the ‘body’ (stem), then they could be new flower spikes or even basal keikis. In any case, yes just leave them be!
Good luck with your orchid! Feel free to ask again if you need any help.
Carolyn Straub says
Will an orchid grow a ne spike if the old nodes are cut off?
Yes, if you trim the spike above a node, there’s a good chance it’ll yield more flowers!
And if you trim off the whole spike (from the base), the orchid will grow brand new spikes at some point in the future.
Can I feed my orchid with tomato feed?
Yeah should be fine. You can always give only half of the suggested amount to be on the safe side. 🙂
I kept a photo journal of a remarkable orchid. My husband died 19 months ago. just before he died an orchid plant entered a second bloom. That stem has continuously flowered for 19 months. Today only one flower on that stem continues yet a tiny bud appears to prepare to open. Adding to this gift, two months ago a second stem put forth on that plant rather quickly full of buds. The second stem is fully blooming with seven perfect flower. I translate this as my now deceased husband’s encouragement for me to keep blooming. Signs and wonders. Even miracles.
Thank you for your comment. Your story made me choke up! My condolences. But what a beautiful way your husband is sending you a message of encouragement – keep blooming! He wouldn’t want you to be sad.
It’s not ‘normal’ for these orchids to keep blooming for 19 months straight, so it’s no coincidence. Thank you for sharing this story with me. I wish you all the best!
Take good care of that extra special orchid. ✨🙏
Camille Tess says
I love your site and as others have mentioned, I’m not sure I can find my way back to it… please cc your replay to my email address. I am a two year newbie. I have an orchid that I bought on sale after Valentine’s Day. After blooming I cut the flowering stem down to the second node above the plant, now something is growing from it. It’s about 5 inches long. I tied it to a stake as I think it’s a flower branch or is it a keiki? My other orchid is blooming beautifully and I just noticed that the flower stem has grown and added two new flower buds BUT it has another stem in the pot that flowered and has multiple branches on it. There are no buds but they look healthy and green and appear to have a mitten on each tip. What is it doing? Was I supposed to cut that whole stem off even though it has five healthy green branches on it? Please explain the mittens… thank you… my four phals are getting me thru covid❤️
Well done for cutting back the flower spike. If the new 5 inch growth looks like a stem (just like the rest of the flower spike), then it’s just a secondary branch. So it will yield new flowers! A keiki would have big thick leaves, you can see in this article how keikis look like; SEE HERE
About the mittens – that’s how the tip of flower spikes look like! And that’s also how you identify a new flower spike from a new root. So mittens = flower spikes.
With your other orchid, you did the right thing by leaving the stem (I call them “flower spikes”) – you don’t need to cut it unless it’s turning brown. And even then you can let it die naturally. New growth, of any kind, is always a good thing.
You wrote you have trouble finding back to this blog ~ if you bookmark this blog (Ctrl+D), or any page you leave a comment on, then you have no problem finding your way back. 😊
I’m glad your orchids are helping you through this uncertain time! I’m sure we all feel the same. 💚
My orchid has been blooming for at least 8 months now, is that normal? Also can you start another one if the root go in to dirt from another plant near it?
Wow, 8 months of blooming – it can happen, but no it’s not normal! Very impressive, to say the least. Congratulations!
I’m not quite sure if I understand the root question – you mean if that would yield a brand new orchid? If that’s what you meant, then the answer is; No. It’s hard to propagate these orchids, you need a seedpod and a sterile setting to propagate them! A “mad scientist” kind of project. 😊
Liane Brunet says
Hi, My orchid has finished blooming since 3 months but the stem is not dying, it is still green all the way to the end. Should I cut it back completely or at one of the nodes or should I keep waiting till it dries to cut it?
Thanks for your help
Hi Liane. Well, you can trim the spike above the closest node, and see if it would encourage the orchid to make more flowers. If that doesn’t work, then just cut the whole thing off.
They sometimes keep the green spike without making new flowers – I don’t really know why, but I guess they have a mind of their own sometimes. 😊
Not sure what to do… (first time orchid owner) this fall I pruned back my orchid spikes like you mentioned. They are light brown on the inside now. Should I just cut them back to the base of the plant, or can I prune them back above another node? I currently have a spike growing now, but I just wonder what I should do with the ok’d spikes. Thanks!
Hi Carrie. Light brown is always a dying part in a flower spike. So, you can try to trim above the highest node again, and see if that would work. But if the spikes keep turning brown, then just trim them off at the base. (Sometimes the trimming works, sometimes not – always worth a try tough)
Is the brand new spike growing in this same orchid, or in another orchid? If it’s in the same, then it could be that the orchid is simply focusing on that brand new spike now. In which case you could just go ahead and trim off the old spike(s) in that orchid.
Hope this helped. 😊