Orchids (family Orchidaceae) may seem fussy, but they are relatively easy to care for and trim if you know your way around the prickly parts. The bloom on an orchid is only a small part of what is happening with the plant.
When the blooms wither and fall off, the plant is reserving energy to rebloom. Give the blooming plant the right amount of water, trim it when needed and repot as necessary to enjoy the orchid all year long.
Trim a dead orchid stem at the nodule an inch or so above the base of the plant.
Prepare to Cut Orchid Stems
Before you start the process to help your orchid thrive, gather the tools. When cutting the stem on an orchid, all materials should be sterile and knives or cutting tools should be sharp for a clean cut. Orchids are susceptible to viruses when the stem is cut with a dirty tool or when placed in an old pot that wasn't thoroughly cleaned between uses.
Pruning shears will make a clean cut. Make sure to clean the shears by washing them well with hot water and soap; disinfect the blades by dipping them in rubbing alcohol. If you're repotting the plant after cutting the stem, the new orchid pot needs to be thoroughly cleaned with hot water and ready to receive the plant.
Stems and Spikes of Orchids
The flower stem is the long slender growth that rises from the thick, glossy leaves of the orchid. The buds form on this long, green stem before blooming. The healthy stem of an orchid can rise more than a foot from the base.
An orchid will show healthy stems that are green and firm while unhealthy spikes will be yellowish-brown. Cut any discolored stems from the orchid as soon as possible.
There are many long, thin parts of the orchid, so it can be confusing. The greenish-gray aerial roots spread out above the ground from the base of the plant. They run perpendicular to the oval leaves and stem of the orchid. If they begin to turn yellow and look withered, which can happen in homes with low humidity, cut these with a sterile knife after the orchid blooms have fallen.
Bloom Cycle of Orchids
Orchids go into a dormant phase in fall. The blooms will fall off and the stem will remain as the plant saves up the energy to create fresh blooms. After the flowers fall from the healthy green stem, it's time to trim the orchid. Trimming the stem will allow the plant to put more energy into producing beautiful blooms on a long, healthy stem.
Trim Dead Orchid Stems
Once the flowers have fallen, the stem should be cut. Look for the nodes on the stem, which are bumps along the stem. Cut the stem two nodes above where it rises from the base of the plant. One of the nodes will more than likely grow and produce flowers within the next two to three months.
You can also leave more stem for possible future flowers. Look for the node on the stem that is just below the place where the flowers began to bloom. Make a clean cut at that juncture. The healthy green stem will have the chance to bloom again.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.