When your orchid is finished blooming, it is best to prune it in order to promote further flowering. Pruning the old, dead stems and roots of your orchid helps improve the overall health of the plant, and regular pruning will encourage the plant to bloom and thrive for years to come.
In this article, we will discuss the proper way to prune an orchid, so you will know exactly where to cut when pruning.
Why do you need to cut an orchid?
When you leave an orchid stem intact after blooming, it will eventually dry out naturally. However, an orchid can also dry out for other reasons that may be more concerning. Below are some common reasons your orchid stem may be drying out.
Normal post-bloom drying
In the plant’s natural cycle, the orchid stem will dry out when the bloom is done. This is completely normal and should not be a cause for concern. In this case, you simply need to cut the stem off and wait for the plant to grow a new stem.
If you give your orchid too much fertilizer, the plant can get root burn and this will appear as brown areas on the plant’s leaves and stems. Eventually, these brown areas will turn black and the plant will die.
Avoid fertilizer burn by using a balanced fertilizer, and dilute it to weaken it. It is also better to apply the fertilizer on the growing medium instead of spraying it directly on the roots. Mineral salts from the fertilizer can accumulate in the potting medium, so make sure you flush out any build-up with running water every couple of weeks.
Mealybugs and spider mites can attack your orchid and feed on the sap in its leaves and stems. A small number of insects may not do that much damage, but the longer you allow the insects to remain, the more they will grow in number. Soon, there will be enough to cause irreparable damage and your plant will wilt and die.
Avoid pests by maintaining a humid environment and using insecticidal soap on the plant.
A bud blast is when the leaves and buds of the orchid fall off prematurely. The orchid stem dries up as an after-effect of bud blast, but the bud blast itself is caused by environmental factors, such as changes in humidity and temperature. To prevent these changes, make sure the orchid is kept in an area with a stable temperature and humidity.
Can an orchid regrow its stems after pruning or trimming?
Yes. Whether you cut the stem off completely to the base or just partially above a node, orchids will grow new stems as long as they are healthy.
If a flower spike is not pruned or trimmed every year, it will produce fewer and fewer flowers and will eventually dry out.
When you cut back the stems of your orchid, whether partially or completely, the plant is stimulated to develop new growth and this will result in a much more resilient, healthier plant. The blooms will also become more impressive in the next cycle.
How long will it take the stem to regrow?
If the stem was cut down completely to the base, it can take the plant a few months to produce a new one, but if it was cut just above a node eye, the flower spike will grow out in about two to three months.
While waiting for the new stem to grow, all your plant needs are good cultural care so that it can concentrate on developing the stem and bloom.
How and where to cut an orchid?
Before we discuss where exactly on the stem you should cut your orchid, make sure you sterilize the pruning shears you are about to use. To do this, dip the shears in a cup of rubbing alcohol for 30 seconds. Make sure you open and close the shears a couple of times so that the alcohol gets all over the blades. After 30 seconds, remove the shears from the alcohol and let them air dry on a paper towel for a couple of minutes.
Ideally, you must wait for all of the flowers to fall off the stem before you cut it. If there are still healthy flowers left on the stem, do not cut it off yet; wait until the very last bloom falls.
If the orchid stem has turned brown and is shriveled, it is best to just cut it down to the base. This stem will no longer produce any more flowers so cutting it halfway is not advisable. Cut the stem down as close to the root as possible. Removing these dead and dying stems will ensure the growth of new stems.
If there are any soft, brown roots protruding from the potting medium, trim them off as well. You may need to pull all of the roots out of the pot to check them properly. Dead roots will look brown and feel soft, while live roots will look white and feel firm to the touch.
Trimming off the dead roots can save the plant from root rot
If you are trimming the orchid to encourage flowering, make sure the plant is healthy enough to prune by checking if the leaves are firm and glossy. If the leaves are limp, yellow or brown, you might need to hold off on pruning until the plant regains its vigor.
Check the stem for eyes on the nodes. The nodes are the parts of the stem that form a ring all the way around it, and the node eye will look like a thin layer of beige or brown plant matter on the node. These eyes are what will become new stems or flower spikes, so make sure you do not cut below a node with an eye. Instead, cut the plant half an inch above this node.
If there are no nodes, another way to determine where to cut is by identifying the second node below where the flowers bloomed. Cut the stem half an inch above that node. Make sure you follow the half-inch measurement correctly because cutting too close or too far from the node can have negative effects on the eventual growth of the stem and its ability to produce flowers.
After approximately two to three months, the orchid will flower again if the conditions are ideal. If the orchid is not flowering beyond three months, try lowering the temperature where your orchid is kept by eight degrees Fahrenheit; this should be enough to stimulate new growth.
There are several reasons your orchid’s stem may have dried out and will require cutting. This could be due to normal growth patterns, overfeeding, pests or bud blasts. However, gardeners typically cut the stems of an orchid when they want to encourage flowering.
If the stem is brown and shriveled, cut it off as close to the root as possible since the stem is dying and new growth will simply take its place.
If the stem is healthy and you just want to encourage flowering, make sure you cut the stem half an inch above the node with an eye or half an inch above the second node from where the lowest flower was. Remember that the half-inch is important because this could affect the growth of the new stem and flowers.
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