Orchids, To Cut the Flower Spike Or Leave It Alone?

I recently got in a WHOLE bunch of trouble for telling someone to cut their flower spike close to the leaves or pseudobuld after the blooms had faded. My sister-in-law’s step-mother called me a liar telling me that I destroyed one of her plants. She had two orchids both of which recently bloomed. On one of them she followed my advice and cut the spike low on the plant after the blooms had fallen. For whatever reason, she left the other spike intact. After an undisclosed time, the flower spike that she left on the plant started forming new buds.

So what gives? Did I give her bad advice? Maybe.

It depends on how you look at the plant and what type of orchid you are growing. Phalaenopsis orchids very often will re-bloom from the same flower spike. Some will even bloom for years from the same flower spike. Most other orchids commonly found in homes do not however re-bloom from the same flower spike. Most orchids will only flower once per year. It is their normal cycle of growth to grow new plant growth, usually in the form of new bulbs and then bloom. Keeping an orchid in bloom for long periods of time can affect the long term health of your plant. Just use common sense. If the orchid is large and healthy then there is little reason to not enjoy the blooms as long as possible.

So what can you do to encourage a flower spike to re-bloom? Cut it. However, rather than cutting it completely, you will want to cut it to about a quarter inch above a nice healthy bud. The buds are right at the top of each stem section and are quite easy to see.

So in the end I wasn’t completely wrong. If in doubt, look at the flower spike. If it stays firm, green and healthy, then leave it for a while. If it is brown and brittle, then there is little opportunity for new flowers from the same flower spike.