Top Three Orchid Newbie FAQs

I’ve been following tweets about orchids and it seems that there are a few very common questions from first time orchid owners. So I’d like to take a moment to address the top three FAQs for all orchid newbies out there.

1. My flowers are shriveling and falling off. Is my orchid dying?

Probably not. Orchid blooms can last from a few hours to a few months. Orchids with short-lived blooms tend to be the trickier ones to care for and don’t frequently end up in the hands of a first time owner.

Common household orchids like Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids that you can buy in big box and grocery stores often have long-lasting blooms—up to three months. Of course, all orchid blooms will shrivel and fall off eventually so losing your blooms doesn’t necessarily signify a dying orchid.

Moth orchids generally bloom between December and May, so if you buy one with beautiful blooms in the spring and they fall off shortly thereafter, don’t despair! If you care for your orchid properly, you can get it to rebloom for you again during the next blooming season. More on proper care below.

2. The flower stem (spike) is turning brown. Help!

Many people panic when they see an orchid flower or stem that looks less-than-desirable, but the degradation of things is just a natural part of an orchid’s life. Once an orchid’s blooms fall off, the spike may also start to turn brown and die. If this happens to your orchid, you can either leave the spike as is or you can cut it with a sterile instrument down near the base.

Spikes that are still green but whose blooms have fallen off may form side spikes and rebloom (I’ve had a couple orchids do this), so some people prefer to leave the spike alone once it has finished blooming to see if more flowers appear. If you decide to cut, the American Orchid Society has a very helpful video on how to cut a phalaenopsis spike after it has finished blooming:

3. I just got my first orchid. What do I do with it?

I addressed this very common question in an earlier blog post, but I will reiterate what I think is the most important thing in caring for orchids: do not over-water! Other key factors in orchid care are light, humidity, temperature, and fertilizing. I published a separate post on how to water a phalaenopsis orchid, so definitely read that over as well.

I hope this info is helpful to all you orchid newbies out there! Orchid growing can seem mystifying for a beginner, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

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  1. I am so scared I may have killed my Phal my bloom was finished so I cut my spike of at the base but my spike was still green did I loose my chance of it ever blooming again? its leaves are a nice green not to dark and not to light and I have a new leaf growing, but will it flower again?

    1. Hi Tracy, it sounds like your Phal is pretty healthy since the leaves aren’t too dark or too light and it has the new leaf growth. Cutting off the spike once it finished blooming was the right decision. It’s definitely possible for it to bloom again if you keep it happy. Just keep doing what you’re doing and hopefully you will see a new spike sometime!

  2. I am a newby to orchids. I bought a phalaenopsis in January. It had 15 beautiful
    blooms & 4 large healthy leaves.
    My question is does it need fertilizing while it is blooming?
    The flowers are falling off one at a time now, but there are still
    13 left. There are 5 mitten like things on the ends of the 5
    branches that have blooms. I water about once every 2-3 weeks.

    1. Hi Susan, sounds like you have a big, beautiful orchid! You can certainly fertilize while it’s in bloom — especially since you’re watering every 2-3 weeks. Just make sure you don’t let the orchid dry out completely in between waterings. Happy growing!

  3. My phalaenopsis orchid has recently put out a half dozen or so new roots that are silvery with green tips. They are growing up away from the soil. Do they need to be in the soil? If so, I will have to repot as the orchid has been in the original pot since September when it was given to me, and there’s no room for the new roots. I don’t see any new spikes, but it must be happy to put out new roots. Thanks for your forum–it’s really helpful.

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