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How to Trim Orchid Stems after Flowering?

Trimming orchid stems or spikes is one way to encourage the plant to bloom again. Except for Phalaenopsis orchids, most will not rebloom from an old stem, so cutting back the stem is a normal part of taking care of your orchid.

To help you understand what you need to do after your orchid has finished flowering, I’m going to cover the trimming of orchids in two scenarios — trimming a healthy orchid stem and trimming dead stems.

Trimming Healthy Orchid Stems

A healthy orchid stem will look green and firm with no other apparent signs of disease. Whenever you want to cut off a stem, use clean, sanitized pruning shears or blades.

Orchids are susceptible to diseases and viruses, so making a clean cut (literally) is important as bacteria and viruses can make their way into your orchid through the cut.

If you want to just cut back the orchid stem, simply cut the spike back to a node or two. If you want to cut it off completely, simply cut the stem all the way down to the base of the plant.

Cutting Off Dead Stems

Dead stems will look withered, yellow or brown. They can no longer produce flowers, so it’s best to cut them off, and help the plant reorient its energy elsewhere.

Dead stems should be cut all the way down to the base of the plant, where it comes out of the leaves. This will stimulate root production in the plant, only to come back stronger and healthier for the next blooming cycle.

Can Orchids Regrow Stems?

Whether you’re just trimming an orchid stem or cutting it off completely, you may be wondering if it’s going to regrow. Orchids will grow new stems, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Whether they’re going to regrow the same stem is another question. Usually not, at least not for most orchids.

Phalaenopsis orchids will regrow stems that were cut just above a node eye. The plant will grow a flower spike from that same one that was cut, but this will not work on all types of orchids.

Phalaenopsis orchids will also flower from the same flower spike if it’s otherwise healthy and you have left it intact.

If the flower spike is not trimmed and left intact year after year, with time, it will produce fewer and smaller flowers, and eventually dry out.

Therefore, by cutting back on these stems or cutting them down entirely, you’re stimulating the orchid to focus on root development and producing a stronger plant with more impressive blooms in the next blooming cycle.

How Long it Takes for Orchids to Regrow their Stem?

If an orchid stem was just trimmed, i.e. cut above the node eye, it will usually produce a new flower spike within 8 to 12 weeks.

If the stem was cut all the way down to the base, it will take the orchid several months to produce a new shoot.

Therefore, during this time, you need to ensure that your orchid is well taken care of to continue to develop and, eventually, produce new stems and bloom again.

Why Did Orchid Stem Dry Out?

Left intact, orchid stems will eventually dry out. But they can also dry out because of reasons unrelated to their normal development patterns.

And you need to know how to tell the difference between what’s normal and what’s not for your orchid plant.

Below, I’ve put together a list of potential causes with explanations to help you decide if an orchid stem drying out is something you should be worried about.

I’ve also given you tips on how to fix these issues or prevent them from happening altogether.

– Orchid Stem Drying Out After Blooming = Normal

If an orchid stem dries out after the blooms have faded, it’s part of the natural progression in an orchid plant’s development and you have nothing to be worried about.

If the stem is completely dried out, simply cut it off from the base and wait for the orchid to shoot another stem.

If the stem is only partially dried, cut it back to a healthy node. Phalaenopsis orchids will grow a flower spike from that same stem.

– Excess Fertilizing

Using too much fertilizer or fertilizing too often can cause orchid root burn. This will manifest as darkened areas on stems and leaves. As the problem progresses, the stems will turn black and die.

To prevent fertilizer burn, use a balanced fertilizer that’s been diluted into a weak solution. Always apply fertilizer on wet potting medium to avoid the fertilizer touching dry roots.

Fertilizer mineral salts can also build up in the potting medium. To avoid this or avoid harm that can be caused by this build-up, make sure to flush the soil under running water every couple of weeks.

– Pests

Spider mites, mealybugs and other insects that feed on the sap of plants can cause unhealthy stems that will eventually wilt and die. Prevent pest infestations by maintaining a humid environment and spraying your orchids with insecticidal soap.

– Bud Blast

Bud blast itself is not the cause of an orchid stem drying up, but it often happens that after a bud blast (orchid buds or flowers prematurely falling off), the stem will also follow suit and dry out.

Environmental changes, especially ones related to sudden changes in temperature or humidity can cause bud blast and eventually cause the stem to dry out as well. Keep your orchid in a humid, temperature-controlled environment.

Wrapping Up

Trimming orchid stems may seem like a daunting task, but once you understand when and how to cut back flower spikes, you can easily keep your orchid in top shape.

Make sure that any tools you’re using to cut the stem are disinfected to avoid bacterial, fungal or viral infections.

Recognize if the stems of your orchid are drying out prematurely and make the necessary changes to nurse back your orchid to its former glory.

As with most ailments to affect orchids, the cause is most likely related to environmental factors or deficiencies in care.

Updated: October 30, 2020

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