I’m willing to bet that most orchid growers are introduced to the hobby through Phalaenopsis orchids (aka moth orchids) that are already in bloom. Phals are attractive houseplants even when they’re not in bloom, but let’s be honest: when was the last time you fell in love with an out-of-bloom Phal in the store and just had to have it?
With some basic care, it’s 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 toss the “dead” plant away. Please, I beg of you: do not throw your no-longer-blooming orchid in the garbage! Getting an orchid to re-bloom can feel challenging, but once you get the hang of it and your orchid flowers again for you, it’s SO worth the bit of work you put in. You CAN get a healthy orchid to re-bloom! Here are the basics…
Tis the Season
First, remember that Phalaenopsis orchids typically bloom once per year—and sometimes you can coax them to re-bloom from a side spike after the initial bloom. But after the plant has expended all that energy on blooming, it needs time to rest and grow new roots and leaves to help support next year’s blooms. So when is the Phalaenopsis blooming season? Generally these orchids bloom in the winter or spring, but with such a gargantuan variety of hybrids on the market and because commercial growers have the ability to control conditions, some will bloom in summer or fall. Given the ideal conditions, Phals will start to produce a new spike in the fall, and by mid-winter or early spring those gorgeous flowers will open up. What are those ideal conditions for getting an orchid to re-bloom?
Re-Pot After Blooming
Just after a Phal has finished blooming is an excellent time to re-pot the plant. Phals don’t necessarily need to be transplanted into a larger pot (they actually like being pretty tightly potted), but taking the plant out of the pot, checking out its root health, and potting it in fresh medium will help prolong the life of your orchid—and increase the likelihood of future blooms!
Don’t forget about your orchid just because it’s no longer in bloom. Phals need to be watered on a regular schedule year-round in order to produce those blooms you’re dying to see. Orchids don’t like “wet feet,” but you also shouldn’t let them dry out completely (and a humidity tray can help keep your orchids from drying out too quickly). Get all the details on how to water Phalaenopsis orchids here!
Don’t Forget to Fertilize
Orchids grown in the home need a little extra boost of nutrition that they probably aren’t getting from your tap water. This is why it’s important to stick with a regular orchid fertilizing schedule, whether you choose to do it monthly or “weakly, weekly.” Always, always water the plant BEFORE applying fertilizer. Putting fertilizer on a dry plant will damage the roots!
Light the Way
Orchids need the right amount of light in order to stay happy enough to bloom again. Phals like bright, indirect light; a foot away from a southern-facing window, or on an eastern-facing windowsill should do the trick. A Phal’s leaves will tell you whether it’s receiving the right light: dark leaves edged with red aren’t getting enough light, and light green or even yellowing leaves are getting too much. With the ideal amount of light, a Phal’s leaves are typically a medium grassy green.
Last But Certainly Not Least: Cool Down at Night
Here’s the MOST important element in encouraging a Phal to bloom again: drop the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees at night. Remember earlier when I said that many types of Phals will start to put out a new spike in the fall? That’s the time of year when the nighttime temperature begins to cool off. Nighttime temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for a few weeks can help trigger a new spike.
Sometimes, an orchid will even bloom again without engaging in the proper care. In fact, I have an orchid at the office that very recently re-bloomed (with a looong spike and huge flowers!) despite a whole lot of neglect and zero fertilizing.* All I’m saying is, these guys can be hardier than you’d expect:
Happy growing and re-blooming, orchid lovers!
*Of course, I don’t recommend neglecting your orchid…but sometimes it happens. We’re all just human. 🙂