What Is An Orchid Spike?

What Is An Orchid Spike

An orchid spike is also known as a flower spike or flower stem. Orchids grow new spikes at least once a year, and this is the part of the orchid from which the flowers grow. The spike will have horizontal bands that wrap around it, called nodes. These are where new stems or flowers will grow from.

When the spike is done blooming and all the flowers have fallen off, it will start to shrivel up and die. The plant will then go into a vegetative state while it focuses on growing new roots and leaves. When the orchid is ready, it will bloom again and new spikes will start to emerge.

In this article, we will discuss more about orchid spikes and what they do for the plant.

How do you identify an orchid spike?

Orchid spikes can look a lot like the aerial roots of the orchid when they have just started to grow. Novice gardeners may have a difficult time differentiating these two orchid parts in the beginning, but the longer you handle orchids, the easier it will become to tell them apart.

Flower spikes

Flower spikes can usually be seen on the sides of the orchid plant, growing out from between the plant’s leaves. They are quite pointy and thin and the tip of the spike is shaped like a mitten.

Spikes are much greener than orchid roots, and also much less glossy.

For some species of orchids, the spikes appear in the fall and winter.

As spikes grow, they grow in the direction of the nearest source of light. They take some time to develop fully; usually somewhere between two and three months. The rate at which they grow depends on the type of orchid, the light available, the temperature and the humidity. The more light around the orchid plant, the faster the spike will grow.

Aerial roots

Aerial roots usually grow from the front or the back of the axis. They are rounder and thicker than orchid spikes. Even the tip of the root is rounded, not pointed like the spike’s tip, and the roots are glossier than the spikes.

The roots grow from the plant all year round, and do not necessarily grow in any particular direction.

What does it mean if an orchid spike stops growing?

Heat stress

Orchids may stop blooming if the temperature is too high. The elevated temperature causes heat stress due to an imbalance in transpiration.

Even if it seems to make sense, do not compensate for the hot temperature by pouring water into the orchid’s pot. The best way to deal with heat stress is by watering the orchid normally and simply lowering the temperature around the plant.

You will know that an orchid has heat stress when the plant is exposed to too much light and the leaves start to turn yellow. The leaves will start to wither and feel warm to the touch. There will be visible sun damage, in the form of reddish-purple spots on the leaves and pseudobulbs. The tips of the leaves and roots will turn brown.

Prevention of heat stress is worth the effort because treating this condition is even harder work.
Make sure you water the plant every day in the summer, especially on particularly hot stretches of days. If the temperature is higher than normal, water the plant more often than normal. Make sure the airflow and humidity are high enough that the plant absorbs water as effectively as possible. Use a humidifier to increase the humidity if you need to.

Treat heat stress by applying diluted fertilizer to the plant. Make sure you flush out any buildup of mineral salts in the potting medium with water every couple of months. Also keep an eye out for pests.

Root rot

Another reason your orchid spike is not growing maybe root rot. Root rot often occurs when the plant’s caretaker becomes overzealous with watering and ends up giving the plant more water, more often than it needs. When the plant has root rot, the roots are damaged and can no longer effectively absorb water and nutrients. Because it is lacking nutrients, the orchid spike can no longer grow or produce flowers.

The signs of root rot in orchids include soft, withered leaves on a healthy-looking plant, and withered, brittle roots.

Avoid root rot by using a potting mix that makes the plant less susceptible to overwatering and thus to root rot.

Never allow the soil in the pot to become waterlogged or soggy; only water the plant when the medium feels dry to the touch. If the potting medium still feels a bit damp, wait one or two days and check it again.

Does an orchid grow new spikes?

Yes, your orchid will grow new spikes at least once a year. They will produce flowers when they are fully mature, and they will wither and die once their job of producing flowers is done.

The plant will then go through a vegetative state wherein no flowers are produced while it focuses on growing new leaves and roots.

How do I encourage the orchid to grow a new spike?

You can help your orchid by placing it in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light, and fertilize it once a month with a diluted fertilizer designed specifically for orchids.

Remove the withered spike using sterilized pruning shears, cutting an inch above the base.

Water the plant when it needs to be watered, which is whenever the potting medium dries out.

Before you induce spiking, wait for the new leaf to grow, which will be larger than the leaves that are already present. When you see the new leaf, you can induce spiking.

Winter is the best time to induce flowering because orchids thrive in lower temperatures.

Do not rotate the pot in the sunlight, because you will disorient the spike which always grows in the direction of the closest source of light.


An orchid spike is also called the flower spike or stem of the orchid plant. On it, there are nodes which are the points from which new stems or flowers will grow.

Orchid spikes are usually found on the sides of the plant, growing out from between the leaves. They can sometimes be confused with the orchid’s aerial roots, but they are thinner, flatter and greener than the roots. They have a mitten-shaped tip due to their little triangular bumps, while roots have round tips.

Orchid spikes can have trouble growing and flowering if they experience heat stress or root rot.

You can prune off a dead or dying spike if you want a new spike to grow out. Help induce the growth of a new spike by fertilizing the plant every month, watering it adequately, lowering the temperature and making sure the plant gets as much bright, indirect light as it needs.

Image: istockphoto.com / RenataKa