Something is poking out of the base of your orchid plant. Is it a new root, or – even more exciting – a flower spike? It can be hard to tell the difference, especially for orchid beginners. In a phalaenopsis orchid, both roots and spikes are usually green when they begin to emerge, which makes it that much harder to distinguish the two.
I’ve found that with orchids, the easiest way to learn is with our eyes. So, I write bearing visual aids.
The long silvery thing in this first photo is a healthy, dry root. And the small green nub you see to the right of the long silvery root is a new root beginning to poke out from the plant stem. New phalaenopsis roots usually appear with a green tip, and as they grow longer they will become silvery near the base of the plant. If you click the photo to view the larger version, you will see there are actually two new roots coming in – the green one on the right that I already mentioned, and a second one just above the longer silver root.
This next photo shows a brand new flower spike growing out of the base of another one of my phalaenopsis orchids. It’s a slightly brighter green and a tad flattened, with what looks almost like a tiny mitten at the tip. It’s this mitten shape that, for me, is what most easily distinguishes a root from a spike.
In the third photo you can see both a new root (silver, on the left) and a new spike (green mitten, on the right).
Cool, huh? I’m always excited to see ANY new growth on my orchids – whether it be a new root, spike, or leaf – because new growth is a sign of a happy and healthy plant. Of course I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more spikes, because that means MORE FLOWERS! but I’ll take new roots too. Growing orchids at home sure is a good way to strengthen your patience muscle.
Updated to add: I receive many questions from readers about orchids that have leaves and roots growing off of the spike. These are called keikis (baby orchids), and they can be viable plants on their own once their roots grow long enough. I have written a separate post about keikis and what to do with them. Read all about keikis here.
P.S. For another great source of information about how to successfully grow orchids, I recommend signing up for a [Affiliate Link] free Orchids Made Easy newsletter from Ryan “The Orchid Guy.” He brings tons of tips and advice straight to your inbox, every day!