Your phalaenopsis orchid has bloomed and the flowers have faded. Now what? When and where should you cut the bloom stem off your moth orchid? That is a question I get asked often and to be honest, there is more than one answer. Let’s talk about the different ways you can trim your bloom stem.

dead orchid flowers

Spent orchid flowers that have fallen off the stem

Before Pictures 

The flowers are amazing and come in a myriad of colors and combinations. I can’t resist them when I see them for sale. Can you? I may not have that color…… If you want more information on how to care for these plants,  here is a blog post for you.

Wait! Don’t Cut It

If you see, as in the pictures below, that another spike is forming, so don’t cut the entire spike off until it is done flowering, too. 

Cut Some of It Off

As you can see in the pictures below, there is another spike coming but the top of the original spike is turning yellow and the flowers have dropped. Therefore, I’m cutting the yellow part off, as it is unattractive and when the second spike is done, I will cut the entire stalk off near the base of the plant.

cutting an orchid

Cut the yellowing spike off near the new offshoot

The one below is ready to be cut off and has been for a while. Oops! 

Orchid flower spike

This flower spike is completely dead and so can be cut

A Few Opinions

Okay, here is where it becomes controversial, at least according to my Instagram post when I cut the flower spike completely off. Some people weren’t happy with me and said I should have left it for more blooms, but it was yellowing which wasn’t apparent on my video, so I cut it off. Others told me I should have cut it above a lower node to stimulate another flower spike to grow and one person even told me they bloom on the old spikes which is true of some orchids, but not phalaenopsis.

Learning from experts

Cutting your orchid above a node is a fine thing to do, but after watching an orchid demonstration at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, where they grow 1,000s of orchids, I decided to cut my flower stalks as I was shown at the demonstration. They explained that when you cut the spike clear to the bottom of the plant, you are allowing the plant to put all its energy into growing new roots and leaves to give it more energy for next year’s display of flowers. It makes complete sense to me. Kind of like cutting off aglaonema flowers. Below are pictures of nodes on the flower spike and they are the swollen areas on the otherwise smooth spike. 

The Node Cutting Way and Which Node

Many people thought I should have cut the spike above a node to get another round of blooms. But which node? There are two schools of thought on that subject. One is that you cut it right above the second node from the plant as you can see in the left picture. (It is hard to see but there is another node below the one I’m pointing to.) The second thought is that it should be cut a bit above the node that is the first one below where the first blossom appeared, as in the right picture. Moth orchids bloom from bottom to top.

What Happens Then?

If you are lucky, after cutting it above one of the nodes, the plant will send out another bloom stalk. Some are of the opinion that by doing that you are forcing the plant to bloom itself possibly “to death”. Now, if you are simply using your orchid for a “bouquet” of flowers, then keep it blooming for as long as possible. Many people compost an orchid after it is done blooming or in my case, people hand them off to me because I can’t say no to a plant. My husband has even intervened at church and tried to give the orchid to anyone else. It never works. (I’ve seen a lot of poor orchids that SHOULD be composted in offices and businesses…) However you decide to cut your bloom stalk and it works for you, then do it.

Keep It Clean

When I cut this flower spike off the first time, I should have cut it as close to the plant as possible. Dead stems are a great place for disease to start or insects to hide, which is not a good thing. Be careful of the roots and leaves when trimming them down. 

All Cleaned Up

Below is a picture of everything I cleaned up off the plant. There is the yellowing flower spike, the old flower spike I cut closer to the plant, and a couple of flowers. You want to keep any dead parts cleaned up off the plant and potting medium so disease and insects can be kept at bay. Insects would love to hide under an old flower or in a cut flower spike or disease could start in those areas. It is always best to keep plant debris cleaned up. 

Orchid debris

Here is everything I cut or cleaned up off the plant

 

The point is, do what works for you. Not everything that works for me will work for you as our experience is different and our growing conditions, too. Have fun with your plants and enjoy them however you choose to take care of them. All your plants ask is just to please take care of them the best you can.

Have a great week, plant friends! 

 

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