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Are you one of those people who buy an orchid, admires it for a couple of months, and then throws it in the trash after all those lovely flowers have faded? Don’t worry, no one will judge you even if the answer is positive, as you simply didn’t know anything about deadheading orchids and where to cut orchid stem after flowers fall off.
Now, the thing many orchid growers are mostly confused with when it comes to orchid care is how to deadhead the plant and where to cut the orchid stem after flowers fall off. Let’s address those concerns and find out how to get new beautiful flowers from the same flower spike.
What is a Deadheading?
Before we discuss how to remove a dead flower from a Phalaenopsis orchids, Dendrobium orchid, or any other variety, let’s explain the term a bit closer.
As the name itself indicates, deadheading refers to removing dead flowers from your plant’s heads. Spent flowers are much more than just an unsightly detail on your plant. If kept on your plant for too long, they can even slow down its growth.
Younger or weaker plants could be at particular risk as those old flowers could suck all their energy.
When open flowers are eliminated, your plant will look significantly neater and will have a healthy green color. Also, your plant will be encouraged to produce thicker and fuller flowers than it used to.
Why should you deadhead?
- As flowers start fading and dying, the plant looks unsightly.
- Dying flowers are the main targets for gray mold and other diseases that can spread to the rest of the plant. So deadheading reduces the risk of fungal attacks and diseases.
- Fading flowers waste the plant’s energy in the production of seed, while it should focus on the production of new flower spikes.
- Removing fading flowers encourages additional bud production, which can extend the flowering season.
As you can see, this action comes with multiple benefits. If done regularly, it won’t take much of your time. Just like with pruning, deadheading flowers is done with clean hands or disinfected tools.
How to Sterilize the Tools?
Before we discuss how to deadhead an orchid stem, let’s say a few words on tool sterilization. This is by no means an unnecessary step, so make sure you go through it every time you plan on deadheading any plant, Orchids included. The last thing you want is pathogens and viruses found on unsterilized tools ruining your plant’s health.
To disinfect the scissors or pruning shears, you can use either rubbing alcohol or a flame.
If rubbing alcohol is your choice, soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, and thoroughly wipe the blades. In case the scissors are too dirty, you can repeat the process.
For sterilization via flame, you can use a kitchen torch, it’s very practical. Pass the blades of the scissors/ pruning shears through the flame for a couple of seconds. This is enough to destroy all the tiny and invisible particles and leftovers which could harm your plant.
Deadheading an Orchid Plant
Orchids are gracious plants that require a commitment from the gardener but make exquisite indoor plants. The most popular and the easiest to grow is definitely the Phalaenopsis orchid popularly known as the Moth Orchid.
Orchids thrive in warm and sunny locations with good air circulation. The drench-and-dry method using tepid water is essential, as well as medium to high humidity, but orchids must not be misted. Bark chips or horticultural charcoal chips can be used as the growing medium.
Deadheading is one technique of pruning that refers to removing Orchid flowers as they begin to fade and die. It minimizes the risk of fungal attack and saves the plant’s energy.
Related: How to Water Orchids?
How and where to cut an orchid stem?
- When all the flowers on a spike have died, prepare a flame-sterilized knife or razor blade.
- Cut off the spike just above the second or third node.
- The whole of the dying flower head must be removed, including any developing seeds. If not, seed production will waste the plant’s energy.
- Watch for a secondary orchid flower spike to form from the node just below the cut, which will happen within two months.
This means that if the old flowering stalk is cut back to about 12 inches, leaving several nodes. After some time, new flowering shoots or plantlets will develop at the nodes.
How to Make an Orchid Rebloom
The care needed to encourage an orchid to reflower will also keep your plant healthy. A healthy orchid can live for decades and bloom every 8 to 12 months. That’s right, the same spike can produce multiple beautiful flowers if you know how and when to trim orchid stems.
For starters, it has to be a healthy orchid, so avoid those whose leaves or stems have turned brown or yellow. If a plant is not in its finest edition, it won’t be able to re bloom and treat you with new orchid blooms.
To encourage your orchid to produce flowers on the same stem again, do the following:
- Cut back the flowering stems to just above the second pale horizontal band, which will allow the plant to invest its energy into making new leaves and flowers; sometimes those new blooms could appear slightly smaller, which is okay, as the plant is producing new growth for the second (third) time, and is, in a way, exhausted
- Provide plenty of indirect light and dust them to maximize light absorption; if your room is darker and you are afraid that there’s not enough light for your orchids, provide artificial lighting
- Repot the plant if it is tightly root-bound; give the root system enough space to breathe
- Keep the plant hydrated and mist the leaves and aerial roots daily with distilled water; be careful not to overwater it as too much moisture could damage the root system; use well-draining potting media/ orchid mix and a container that has proper drainage so that excess water can go through the holes on the bottom
- Feed during the warm months with a special orchid fertilizer or a balanced fertilizer using half the recommended strength; be careful not to use too much fertilizer, as you risk burning your orchid plant
- Decrease nighttime temperatures to promote new flowers and grow a new flower spike
- Trim dead stems as well as stems that are damaged or turning brown or yellow
- Remove spent flowers after the plant has finished blooming and when the last flower has fallen off
- Increase humidity by misting to promote the next blooming cycle
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Trim My Orchid After the Flowers Fall off?
Yes, you need to prune the orchid after it has finished flowering. You can also remove the flower spike if it hasn’t produced any flowers. Also, cut it if it is getting brown or yellow.
Where Do You Cut Orchid Stems After They Bloom?
Once all the flowers have faded, cut off the flower spikes at two inches from the very base of the plant. In this way, nutrients will travel to the roots rather than being wasted. Make sure to leave two basal nodes.
Do Orchids Rebloom on Old Stems?
Phalaenopsis orchids have the re blooming ability on old stems, but you need to ensure proper care which will trigger the next blooming cycle.