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How to Prune an Orchid? The Complete Guide

After blooming, orchids enter a hibernating (resting) period. The flowers then will die and will fall off. But this is the cycle of life, isn’t it?

To get new blooms from your orchids, you need to help them to get the energy for it. This article helps you to understand when and how to prune your orchid plants to get the best out of them.

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Plant Index

Do Orchids Need Pruning?

You might think that orchids are special and very different from other house plants. That’s true, but orchids still need pruning for the same reasons as the other plants.

Pruning your orchids will improve its overall health. You can trim dead stems, leaves or roots.

Pruning your orchid plant can promote flowering. Usually, an orchid will bloom once a year, but if you care for it well, and you prune it properly, then you can be lucky and have your orchids in bloom even twice a year.

Another benefit of pruning is that you are preventing diseases. When you remove dead tissues and parts of the plant, you prevent the problem. These dead parts can attract pests and are a place where fungi can easily appear.

How to Prune an Orchid?

Before pruning, make sure that all your tools and also your hands are clean and sterilized. If you work with dirty or infected tools, your orchid might get infected or can develop diseases.

Also, you can decide how much you prune your orchid. Note that where you make the cuts, it is important to sterilize the plant as well to prevent pests and diseases.

Pruning correctly makes the difference between orchid in blooms and flowerless stalks which are not flowering several years in a row.

Trimming Old Spikes

Before you start trimming, you should examine the spikes. The way of trimming depends on the condition of the spikes.

A healthy spike is green and firm to the touch. This should be pruned ONLY if it has no flowers. Find the node under the lowest flower. The spike should be trimmed ½ inch (1.3 cm) above the node. This type of trimming should be done if you think the specific spike will rebloom.

If you think that it is in a dormant period (fall/winter), then you can cut the whole spike 1 inch above the stem of the orchid. Be careful to trim always above any nodes that are present.

An old and unhealthy spike is brown and dry. This needs to be trimmed because it can cause stress to your orchid. You should cut the whole spike, just 1 inch above the stem.

Cutting Off Leaves

The truth is that you don’t have to cut off any leaves until these are healthy.

Cutting off any leaves should be done when the orchid is in resting mode. So, you should wait until the blooms are all dead.

If the leaf is diseased or is wilting, then you should cut it off. A diseased leaf can spread the infection to the other leaves and the whole plant.

Usually, the dead leaves will detach by themselves, but if not, you can cut it off gently, with sterilized scissors or shear.

TIP: If you cut a diseased leaf it is not sure that you remove the problem as well. First, you should check what is causing damage to the leaf.

Do You Prune Orchid Air Roots?

Before answering this question, let me tell you what exactly is an aerial root.

Aerial roots grow outside of the potting media, like emerging from it or growing from a higher point of the stem.

Most of the orchids are epiphytic plants, so these air roots have the role to anchor the plant and collecting water and nutrients from the orchid’s environment.

So, can orchid air roots be pruned? Well, yes, they can be trimmed, however, it is not recommended. Aerial roots are usually the healthiest part of the orchid, and removing them, will damage your plant.

Removing aerial roots can stress the orchid plants what will cause your plant to struggle as it cannot absorb as many nutrients and water as it needs. Also, it is more prone to infections and diseases.

If you really want to remove the air roots, you should first check if the rest of the roots are healthy and the plant is strong, otherwise, cutting a sick orchid’s air roots will cause its death.

Then sterilize your tool and your hands. If there are only a few aerial roots on your orchid, you can cut them as close to the stem as possible, without hurting the stem of the orchid.

Before doing this, you should water the orchid to make sure it is well hydrated and the air roots are softer.

If the orchid has many aerial roots, you should think twice before starting to trim. If you remove too many roots, your orchid may struggle and could die.

Remember to sterilize the orchid’s wounds to prevent any disease.

When to Prune Your Orchids?

The best time to prune your orchids is after their flowers died and dropped.

So, after every blooming, you should prune your orchids. This means you should prune them once or twice a year, because, as I said earlier, orchids are flowering once or twice a year.

Wrap up

Pruning an orchid is as important as fertilizing, for example. It will survive without it, but it helps in growing, flowering and being healthy.

You should prune your orchids once or twice a year, depending on how many times they bloom. And if you want to prevent diseases, always work with clean tools. Clean them after each plant so you don’t spread any bacteria or fungi.

Now that you know when, why, and how to prune your orchids, I hope you will enjoy doing it and your orchids will be as healthy as possible and they will flower for you to make you happy.

A flowering orchid means a happy orchid.

Updated: March 3, 2021

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