Fall isn’t traditionally the time of year for new plant growth; fall is the season in which the leaves on many outdoor plants start to turn all manner of fiery colors and drop off. On the other hand, certain types of household orchids, such as the ever-popular Phalaenopsis, often begin to put out spikes in the fall that lead to spectacular blooms in the winter and spring. When left to grown on its own, an orchid spike can become heavy with blooms that droop down over the side of the pot, so I highly recommend staking your orchid’s spike to secure it and to make for a lovely cascading spray of flowers like so:
The only materials you’ll need to stake an orchid spike are a bamboo flower stake [paid link] and some flower clips [paid link] or twist ties, all of which are readily available in gardening shops, big box home improvement stores, and online. Oh, and a little patience helps too. 🙂
So you’ve spotted a new spike beginning to grow on your orchid. Congratulations! But…when should you stake the spike? You definitely want to do so BEFORE buds have begun to develop; doing so early enough will make for a more aesthetically pleasing display. If you wait to stake a spike after buds have started growing, the flowers will be more likely to face downward with a sort of sad Charlie Brown look.
A good rule of thumb is to stake an orchid spike is when it has grown to about 6 to 12 inches in length. You want the spike to grow long and sturdy enough to withstand a bit of handling, so be patient—the last thing you want to do is accidentally break the spike before it has a chance to bloom for you!
How do you go about staking your orchid’s spike? First, take your bamboo stake and insert it into the potting medium close to where the spike is growing. Do be careful not to stab any of the roots in the process! Make sure you push the stake down as far as possible into the pot because you want it to help keep the plant stable. Here’s one of my own Phals that I staked fairly early on in the spike’s growth:
Next, gently secure the spike to the stake near its first node (bump along the spike) using a flower clip or twist tie. This is the step in which you want to be the most careful, because if you bend the spike too much while securing it to the stake it could break off entirely (this is why you need to insert the stake into the pot as close to the spike as you can get it: so there’s less bending involved). Here are a couple photo examples of my own staked orchid spikes:
How do you know where to place the clips and how many to use? It depends on how long your spike has grown; a six-inch spike can get away with one or two clips at first, but a longer spike may need two or three clips to start. As the spike grows longer you can add more clips every few inches to ensure stability. I find that my Phalaenopsis orchid spikes don’t usually need more than three or four clips along the spike, but the number of clips needed depends on how long the spike gets. The longer the spike, the more clips you’ll use.
A general recommendation for achieving a nice, arching flower display is to place the topmost clip about an inch or two below the first bud that begins to grow along the spike. This arrangement will encourage the blooms to cascade down in a “shingled” pattern. So once you see a bud starting to swell, go ahead and move that top clip so that it’s situated in the right spot.
This arched look is what you’ll be going for:
Now that your spike is staked, is there anything else you need to know? Actually, there is one more very important detail that will help your orchid’s blooms open up in a lovely, regular pattern: make sure you do not change the orientation of the plant toward the light once the buds have started to develop. Changing the plant’s orientation to the light during bud development will cause the flowers to open up at different angles, making for a haphazard floral display. After the flowers have all opened up, feel free to orient the plant whichever way you’d like for display.
And that’s it! I hope this how-to has been helpful as we get into Phalaenopsis spike season. Phals not spiking? Check out my earlier post about how to get your orchid to bloom again. (My personal current spike count? ZERO, probably due to the fact that I haven’t been giving my orchids a drop in temperature at night. I’ll be remedying that soon.)
Here’s to many spikes and blooms for you over the next few months!