Like all living things, orchids need nutrition. Feeding (fertilizing) your orchid is an important part of caring for it and making sure that it lives a long and healthy life. This post about how to fertilize an orchid is waaaaayyy overdue…but better late than never, right? I’m going to talk specifically about fertilizing Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids because Phals are the most common orchids for beginners, available everywhere from corner delis to Home Depot, Ikea, and Trader Joe’s. Read more
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’m finding that my post about how to identify whether you have an orchid spike or a root is my most viewed post by far. For example, just in the past week, my spike* vs. root post has been viewed nearly 6x as many times as my second most viewed post of the week. Clearly, “is it a root or is it a spike?” is a big question for new orchid owners!
So in the interest of helping orchid growers out even more, I decided to do another post on this topic, this time with LOTS of photo examples to help better illuminate what a root looks like and what a spike looks like. If you haven’t read my original post, I recommend doing so before you dive into this one. All the below photos are of orchids in my own collection. Because you’ll see more roots growing from your orchid than spikes, let’s begin with root pics:
Selecting an orchid to buy can be quite a decision. For those who simply want the instant gratification of something lovely to display in their home, the “Oooh, pretty, I’ll take it!” method works just fine. But if you’re buying an orchid with the long term in mind, there are a few things you’ll want to look for before you head to the checkout counter. Bear in mind that these tips are mainly for Phalaenopsis orchids, but the general principles will work for many other orchid varieties as well.
As always, I’ve included photo examples for your viewing pleasure.
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!