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Phals at NYBG Orchid Show 2012

So you have a beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid, but its blooms are starting to wilt and fall off. What do you do now?! First of all, don’t freak out and throw your plant in the garbage; fading flowers are totally normal and they do NOT mean that your orchid is dying! Orchids can live for years and years and years with the proper care. Part of this proper care is knowing when and where to cut the flower spike. This is one of the most common questions I get in the comments section of my blog posts, so I thought it would be helpful to write about how to proceed once your Phal (the most widely available type of orchid) has finished blooming.

I recommend doing one of two things once your orchid’s blooms have all fallen off:

  1. Cut the spike at the base of the plant. Doing this will help the plant put its energy toward growing new roots and leaves, which should help give it a longer life. Cut within an inch or two of where the spike sprouted.
  2. Cut the spike just under the point from where the first bloom sprouted. Doing this *sometimes* encourages the orchid to produce a side shoot off of the next node down and then rebloom. Yes, cutting the spike at this spot can bring on gorgeous new flowers, but it also saps energy from the rest of the plant’s growth. Orchids have to work hard to bloom for you, so sometimes you want to give them a little rest! Besides, everyone’s all about energy saving these days, and why not extend that idea to your plants? If you do decide to go for a rebloom (at which, I’m not gonna lie, I have definitely been successful!), where exactly is this magical spot that needs to be cut? I created an uber-professional image* that shows where to snip:

Ignore the spike on the left. Click image to see a bigger version.

Of course, you could also just leave the spike alone and just see what happens. The choice is all yours, really, unless the spike has begun to turn yellow or brown. If that’s the case, the orchid has made the choice for you and at that point you should cut the spike at the base, otherwise it will just dry out and possibly rot. And that wouldn’t good for the plant.

One important thing to know before your plant goes under the knife is that you must use a STERILE cutting instrument. Gardening shears are best, but if you have a fresh razor blade or a very sharp knife those are okay too. You can sterilize the instrument with rubbing alcohol or by heating the blade with a match.

After the surgery has been completed, you’ll want to apply an antifungal remedy to the cut surface. Before you run out to the gardening supply store, just take a look at your spice rack. Cinnamon naturally has antifungal properties, so all you need to do is dab a bit of the powdered stuff directly onto the spot where you made the slice! Just make sure you don’t dump a bunch of cinnamon all over the plant (especially the roots), because it is also a dessicant (ever noticed how it dries out your mouth?) and will suck all the moisture out. As a side note, don’t attempt the Cinnamon Challenge like the kids are doing these days, because that’s just dumb.

Cutting an orchid’s spike for the very first time may seem scary, but once you’ve done it you’ll realize it’s not so bad…plus, it’s for the good of the plant. Happy snipping, and may the blooms be ever in your favor!

*Total side note: this photo was taken when I first brought this orchid home over a year ago. At that point, many of the buds had begun to blast. They shriveled and fell off, never bloomed. But I’m happy to report that this orchid is still alive and doing quite well—it spiked and bloomed for me recently!

P.S. To get really helpful orchid growing tips delivered to your inbox daily, I recommend signing up for the Orchids Made Easy newsletter. It won’t cost you a dime and will provide you with loads of good advice from Ryan “The Orchid Guy.”

45 Responses to “How to Cut a Phalaenopsis Orchid Spike”

  1. dokmaidogma says:

    Thanks for the advice. I grow many wild orchids, but only know little about indoor orchids. Ketsanee

  2. [...] How to Cut a Phalaenopsis Orchid Spike « Brooklyn Orchids [...]

  3. Hello,

    I recently cut down to the node with fresh razor that I sterilized with alcohol. I applied a little powdered cinnamon to the open wounds and now from wound on down, the stems are shriveling up and turning brown. Did I do something wrong? What should I do now?

    • Hi Calista,

      It shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Sometimes cutting a spike down to the node will produce a side spike, but other times the spike will turn brown and die. I recommend cutting the brown spike at the base so that it doesn’t rot and cause issues for the rest of the plant. Good luck!

  4. Win says:

    I have a baby orchid plant growing out of a spike- it has leaves and roots how can I repot it to see if it makes a new plant

    • Hi there and congrats on the baby orchid! Once the baby has at least 2-4 roots that are at least 2-3 inches long, you can remove the it from the mother plant using a sterile cutting instrument. A razor blade works very well. Just slice the baby plant at the base of the spike without severing the spike itself, and then you can pot it on its own. I also recommend applying a bit of cinnamon to the cut portions of the spike and the baby plant, to help discourage fungal growth. Good luck!

      • Flo says:

        Hi, my baby plant sent out a spike and bloomed. Now blooms all gone but spike still green. Mother plant needs repotting and baby plant has 2 healthy roots, 3″ each. Should I repot mother with baby intact and cut the baby how much later? When or should I cut odd the baby’s spike?

        • Sarah says:

          Hi there and thanks for commenting. It sounds like your baby is ready to be potted on its own! I would cut the spike before you remove it from the mother – that way the baby can focus its energy on growing once you pot it up, rather than trying to bloom again. Good luck and happy growing!

  5. I’m guessing not, since the other comment posted… sigh. Here goes again!

    In Feb. I bought 2 phal orchids. The purple one had one bloom spike and vibrant sturdy green leaves. The yellow one was a rescue to see if I could revive it and had two bloom spikes and leathery, wilted leaves.

    The purple one’s blooms died off and I trimmed the spike as it started to die off (in March), like you suggested in this post. In June, it was growing a new arm and buds right below the cut. A week after, I saw a new bloom spike growing underneath the old one. Both spikes have been in bloom for almost a month now. I moved the plant to the living room so we could see and enjoy the blooms. It gets a bit less light than it had before. Today I noticed the leaves are leathery and wilted, and the roots are shriveled. I water when only dry, and fertilize weakly twice a month. I think the plant is stressed from so much blooming and I am wondering how to help it? Should I cut the bloom spikes? I know cutting the bloom spikes also stresses the plant. Repot it? That also stresses it? What would be the least harmful? just leave it and hope for the best?

    With the yellow one I cut its bloom spikes as I saw on a website to do so if the leaves became leathery. This I did in Feb. Since then, it has appeared to be hanging from a thread between living and dying. I water when dry and fertilize weakly twice a month. Two weeks ago I noticed a firm shiny new leaf growing, as well as two healthy silvery-turquoise roots with green tips growing into the potting media. Which is why I am considering cutting the bloom spikes on the purple one.

    What would you do? Many thanks and love the site!

    • Hi Juliet, thanks for your comment! I wonder if your purple phal took a turn for the worse due to the change in growing location and conditions once it was moved to a new room. You might want to try moving it back to its original location and see how it does there. I wouldn’t recommend repotting at this time unless you have never repotted it before. If you haven’t, you’ll want to do so to make sure the root system is doing okay and trim away any roots that are unhealthy or rotten. Cutting the spike should help the plant refocus its energy on maintaining its overall health and growth, so that may be the way to go.

      With the yellow phal, that’s great news that it’s growing a new leaf and roots! It’s always exciting to see that. :)

      Best of luck and happy growing!

      • Hi,

        I repotted my orchid because it had never been repotted, and I pulled out literally handfuls of sphagnum moss packed super tightly around the roots. Poor orchid was suffocating! I repotted it in orchid media and gave it a good watering (letting excess water drain away) and 2 days later the roots had plumped back up and the leaves were firmer. I’m going to leave the bloom spikes for now because the orchid seems so much happier and I don’t want to add more stress to the orchid after a repotting. Thanks for your feedback, it really helped!

        Juliet

  6. Lin says:

    Hi,

    I have a quick question about my orchid because I’m afraid it’s dying =(. I got my orchid last year in early October and after it bloomed, I cut off the spike and both of its stocks have browned and dried up. In May, I trimmed all the dead roots (it had a lot) and changed it to Phaenopsis media. It didn’t have a lot of roots after trimming. During the summer, it grew two aerial roots and a new leaf. The new leaf stopped growing after reaching around 3.5 inches, however, and I recently moved my plant to a new location after moving. I think the new location may have shocked it because it recently lost one leaf and the aerial root coming out of it dried up. Today, another big leaf fell off (it was only partially yellow) and I’m now left with one full grown leaf and the new leaf that stopped growing, and one aerial root that sprouted out during the summer. The aerial root itself is not very long (~5cm).

    Is there still hope for this orchid? Would love your thoughts!

    • Hi there, it sounds like there’s still hope for your orchid. I’m guessing the leaves are starting to dry up due to the fact that there weren’t many healthy roots remaining after you trimmed away the dead ones. It probably doesn’t have enough healthy roots left to support all the foliage. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to die. You could try soaking your orchid in a rooting hormone like SuperThrive (dilute in water as per directions on the bottle) and that might encourage new root growth. I’ve tried that and had some good results. Good luck and happy growing!

  7. carogm says:

    I love your blog, and it has really helped me keep from killing yet another plant! I have a question for you about my phalaenopsis orchid. I never cut the spike after it bloomed, since it was still very green and healthy. Now, after receiving it about 6 months ago, it looks like a spike is growing out of one of the old flower nodes, on each of the spike (one new groth is about an inch and a half long, the other only about half an inch). My question is, should I trim the old spike at all? I am just so happy I haven’t killed this orchid, so I am worried if I am doing the right thing or not. Thank you for your great blog, and any advice you can give me!

    • Hi and thanks for the comment! You can trim the old spike back to just above where the side spike is developing. That might help the plant focus more energy into growing the side spike (and eventually more blooms!). I hope that helps, and happy growing to you!

  8. Vivienne says:

    Hi
    Thank you for the useful advice. I just cut the stem the way you suggested. I was given a Vanda Miss Joaquim as gift from a friend in Singapore. Due to some mishandeling during the delivery, the stem suffered a snap just below the flowers. So unfortunately all five flowers wilted and fell off a week after I received the plant. Now one month on, the leaves still look healthy (green and thick), but the stem turned yellow. I have cut it off. I also noticed some new roots coming out and they are growing out of the pot. The plant is placed in a normal pot and another bigger glass pot outside, with space in between so that the water can drain through. My question is do I need to do something about the new roots? Should I just leave them or is repotting necessary (to a bigger pot?). I’m a first-time orchid carer and a bit scared to make a big move. Your advice will be much appreciated. Thanks!

  9. Emily says:

    So, a coworker of mine got a Phal as a gift today. It has 2 very tall spikes with HUGE blooms. I noticed that both spikes are side-spiking at the next node, and upon further inspection, there is new growth, more little side spikes at ALL the top most nodes, going 3 or more nodes down the main spike. If it has enough energy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it side spike at all the nodes.
    My thoughts are that it’s distressed and trying to preserve its lineage. Another coworker said “it must be really happy and healthy!” when I pointed it out. I didn’t want to burst her bubble, but this is unheard of for me. I tried googling it, but either it’s really rare, or I’m not using the correct word combinations.

    Any thoughts?

  10. TH says:

    I cut back my Orchid spike to just above a node last time the flower dropped and it shortly grew out from the node and flowered again. I realized that I cut the spike pretty high the first time, so this time I cut to just above a node lower on the original spike. It was green when I cut it. Now the spike remnant has turned brown and dried. I assume the spike is dead. Should I cut it entirely off (How close to the plant would one cut for that? or leave it as it is?

    • Sarah says:

      Yes, once a spike dries out and turns brown it won’t flower again. I recommend cutting it down near the base. Good luck and happy growing!

  11. Samantha says:

    Hi,

    I have a question about spike cutting which I can’t seem to find an answer to. I cut back my spike to the first node, but wasn’t successful in growing more blooms. This was fine, since the plant started growing loads of new roots and a new leaf instead. But the stem didn’t shrivel up, it’s still green and juicy. Now however, I have a new spike growing up from the base of the plant. Should I trim back the old spike to the base, or just leave it? Will it ever flower again from that spike?

    Thanks!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Samantha,
      That’s great that your orchid is growing new roots and a leaf – that’s a sign that it’s happy! Since it’s also growing a new spike, I’d say it probably won’t bloom again from the old spike. You never know what it may do, but I’d recommend cutting the old spike down so that the plant can focus its energy on the new spike.
      Good luck and happy growing!

  12. Fawn says:

    Help :(

    I have two phal orchids. For one of the orchids, I had to cut the spike back a node. Before I cut the spike I got a pair of scissors, made a solution with bleach and water, and let the scissors sit for 5-10 mins. I then rinsed the scissors with hot water ( until I could no longer smell bleach). Right before I made the cut I noticed that the new node on the stem was starting to turn yellow. I cut the stem right before that node, and eventually water/fertilized the plant before my vacation. On Sunday while I was on vacation my sister cut the spike further down towards the base ( she said the stem was dying out), with the same scissors I used but SHE DID NOT STERILIZE THE SCISSORS. She said she didn’t use the scissor for anything else, and therefore thought it was okay. Last night on wednesday I applied some cinnamon to the area she cut, because i noticed a small black or brown spot on that stem ( which is now down to an inch). Is my plant going to develop fusarium wilt and die? what do i need to look out for and should i move it away from my other orchid ( kinda hard to do cause they are both in the most humid / lit area of our place)

  13. Fawn says:

    ^ O I also forgot to mention… the stem is a light green or yellow, and i’m not sure if that small brown area is “natural” because I cut it back or if its a problem. my two bottom leaves are yellow, one yellow leaf has been on there for several weeks, and the other started to turn yellow earlier this week or last week. In addition to that one leaf if slightly firm, and the top leaves are very stiff and firm. Lastly, the roots are white-greenish ( aerial roots), dark dark green ( inside the pot) and one yellow/green root by the crown.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Fawn, your orchid’s roots and the firm leaves sound like they are doing just fine. The yellow leaves can be a natural thing – I’ve had leaves turn yellow and fall off without any other health issues from the orchid. The spot you’ve noticed on the cut spike might not indicate a problem, and it’s good that you applied some cinnamon to it – that should help. Just keep an eye on it to make sure the spot doesn’t start to spread. You may want to cut the spike all the way down at the base just to get rid of the area with the spot…and of course apply more cinnamon after cutting. Good luck and happy growing!

  14. Crystal says:

    My flowers are wilting and my stem is turning yellow I’ve had my orchid at least 2 months and I was unsure if I should try replanting it? It’s leaves are still very vibrant green. And at this point it’s time for me to cut the stem?

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Crystal, it’s normal for the flowers to drop off and the spike to turn yellow when the blooming period has finished. After the blooming is a great time to repot, so you can check the health of the roots and cut off any rotten ones. Because your spike is turning yellow, I recommend cutting it down to the base at this time. Good luck and happy growing!

  15. Lauren says:

    My flowers fell off maybe 1 1/2 weeks after I got my orchid, I think in May. I did not cut off the stem because I didn’t know I should. Now there are a few brown spots between the node and where there were blooms. Other than that the plant looks healthy (except for the very bottom leaf has brown spots which I cannot figure out how to get rid of). Just wondering if I should cut off the stem, as this explains. Thanks.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Lauren,

      Yes, I would cut the spike down near the base since there are parts of it turning brown. Are the brown spots on the bottom leaf mushy or watery to the touch? If so, that could indicate some kind of disease, and I would recommend cutting that leaf off and applying ground cinnamon to the cut ends. If the spots aren’t mushy or watery you can keep the leaf there but monitor it to make sure the brown spots don’t spread.

      Good luck and happy growing!

  16. Angela says:

    Hello,

    I cut the stem way down to the base after the last bloom dropped off. The fkower stem is now brown and dried out. There is a new leaf growing now though and it has a couple of new green roots. So I think it is still a healthy plant.

    My questions are: Is it normal for the cut flower stem to dry up and turn brown? And is it likely a new stem will develope and more flowers will come?

    Thank you!
    Angels

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Angela,
      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It is in fact normal for the cut spike to dry up and turn brown. When this happens, it’s best to just cut the spike down near the base and keep caring for your orchid as per usual. (The new roots and leaf are signs that it’s happy!) It takes patience, but if you keep up the good care your orchid should eventually put out a new spike and blooms for you!

      • Angela says:

        Thank you, Sarah!!!!

        I feel a lot better now. I thought that by cutting it down so far, I had damaged it. What a relief! Have a great day!!

        Angela

  17. Drea says:

    Hello! I have been looking all over the net for an answer to this: my phal that I have had since the first of May, has sprouted out not one but 2 new blooming lines on two separate spikes, one lower one higher. I have not cut either of these spike as the reblooms took place in both instances, from the place a flower eventually dropped off. Well, actually it went this way: the new sprouts came up adjacent to an original flower and then the flower dried up and dropped. Each has two new flower buds on them. All but one of the original flowers have died and dropped off, and what is weirder is that my phal is also producing a new leaf at the same time it is reblooming. And the top aerial roots are shriveling, but from the healthy sections on these top roots. I am seeing what looks like new roots coming right out of the non- shriveled roots! What I am seeing are small green dots coming out of the side of the roots on top. The bottom roots are lovely. Nice and green, some even purple as my phal’s flowers are magenta like purple. The leaves are beautiful with not one problem.
    I am watering with rain water I collected, I mist with this rain water as well since I live in Texas in an apartment, so the air is a/c cold and dry. I am using a 30.10.10 orchid fertilizer by Miracle Grow weakly every two weeks. She has never been repotted.
    By all accounts she seems happy and healthy, but I am wondering if it is normal for a phal to go through all of this at the same time? I mean she is doing everything growth wise except putting out a keikei.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Drea,
      It’s hard to say without seeing photos of your orchid, but everything you’ve described sounds normal to me. I think I’ve experienced all of these things with my own orchids! You may want to mist the aerial roots more frequently if you see them shriveling up, and I recommend repotting once the reblooms fall off so that you can trim away any roots that may have rotted inside the pot.
      Happy growing!

  18. Lyla says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve had my phal for about 10 months now and it’s rebloomed once. After its last rebloom, I cut the stem down, leaving about one inch with a pair of sterile scissors (wiped them down with rubbing alcohol before cutting). It’s been about 2-3 months now and it’s grown a big new leaf (the longest on the plant itself) and a new aerial root. I’ve moved the location of the pot since it got sunburnt during the summer. However, the stem has turned yellow and crispy/thin to the touch and when I inspected it, there was a ring of dotty grey/green/black around the bottom of the stem. Not really knowing what to do, I cut it off to as far as I could see using sterile scissors. Should I not have cut off the stem? I honestly think the plant is still very healthy as in comparison to my other phal: its leaves are perky and vivid green in colour. Will it ever grow another stem?

    Speaking of my other phal, it’s grown an aerial root and several leaves. With my second phal, I cut the stems down to about half an inch (it’s been about a month since that’s happened) and they’re still firm when I squeeze them. Does that mean that they’ll have a chance of growing and reblooming again?

    Thank you!
    Lyla

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Lyla,
      It’s hard to tell without seeing a photo of what you’re describing, but it sounds like your cut spike may have started developing some fungal growth. Cutting the stem is fine, and I do recommend always applying a bit of ground cinnamon to the cut surface. This household item has natural antifungal properties and can really help your plant keep from growing mold and other funky stuff!

      For the spike that you cut down to about a half inch, it unfortunately won’t grow and rebloom. Once you cut a spike down that far, the plant will focus its energy on growing new roots and leaves and will prepare itself to eventually put out a brand new spike. Next time you want to try to get a spike to rebloom, try cutting it just below the node where the first flower appeared, and it may put a side spike out from there.

      I hope that helps—happy growing!
      Sarah

      • Kayla says:

        Hi Sarah – the same thing happened with mine, I cut my stems down to about a half an inch – there are no signs of any new stems growing and the stems that have been cut are dried up and have been for a year now :( What do you suggest I can do to help the formation and growth of new stems so my orchid can re-bloom? Thanks again!
        Kindest Regards,

        Kay

  19. willem says:

    Hi There,

    I bought a Phalaenopsis orchid and it bloomed for 2 months, now the flowers has started to wilt and fall off. I have noticed that there is a new spike already growing from a node below the first flower. Should I cut the old spike above the new one or just leave it as it is?

    Thank you!

  20. cali says:

    I have a 2 spike phal orchid. One of the spikes has blooms and is green. On the other spike, flowers have been falling off and the spike is turning yellow, so I realize it needs to be cut. Should I cut it at the base? Is it ok to cut one spike and not the other?

  21. Laura says:

    Hi,
    I received a little orchid a few years back as a gift. I don’t know what kind it is. It had lovely purple blooms. I didn’t do my research then and once the blooms were done I cutted the spike at the base of the plant. The plant is happy and alive (shinny and healthy.) My question is, will it ever grow another spike and bloom? Or am I stuck with a plant that will never bloom again?

    Thank you for your help!
    Laura

  22. elise says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I have a slightly strange orchid question, and haven’t been able to find an answer anywhere online, I hope you can help.

    My housemates forgot to water my phal when I went away for 2 weeks back in October and when i came back it was pretty much dead. Since then it has just been left by the window and completely dried out. I noticed this morning what seems like a tiny new leaf. Is this possible?? what should i do? i am scared to water.

    Elise
    many thanks,

  23. Kayla says:

    Hi there,

    A couple years ago I had a beautiful orchid – once the flowers dropped off, I was told to cut the stems off near the base of the orchid. I did this, continued watering and fertilizing it but I haven’t been able to get it to re-bloom. The ‘stems’ are less than an inch and are brown and dried up but there are several new roots and new leaves, and the leaves are super thick and green, so it’s definitely not dead. What can I do to get it to grow new stems and to get it to re-bloom? I am determined to get this to happen :) Should I cut the two stems completely off, flush to the base? Thanks so much!

    Kayla

  24. Uthra says:

    My orchid seems to be sprouting new leaves from the center of the old leaves. On tip of that, it’s sprouting a leaves near the base. Is this a new shoot’s beginnings?

  25. […] not hard to keep a Phal alive through its blooming cycle, but once those pretty blooms fade and you cut the flower spike, how do you get an orchid to bloom again? Too many people feel intimidated at the thought and just […]

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