I’ve been given a gift of an orchid at Christmas. It’s now finished blooming. What should I do in terms of cutting it back?
Of all the more commonly available orchids, only the Phalaenopsis species will re-bloom from its old spike (stem). If you have a large Phalaenopsis you’ll find a number of nodes (which contain dormant buds) all along the stem. You can cut the Phalaenopsis stem off just above a node or between two nodes. Usually, a new bud will form and it will rebloom in two or three months. If you leave the stem on it may continue to bloom but the spike can become ungainly and the flowers smaller. Some growers find it best to cut the stem off at the base. If you do cut the stem, be sure that your tool is sterilized so there’s no risk of infection.
If you are unsure of what species of orchid you have, I suggest you leave the stem on and see what happens.
A younger or weaker plant may not re-bloom. If your orchid does not show signs of re-blooming in a couple of months, or the stem starts to yellow and wither, cut the spike back to the base. Continue to water and feed it and you may be rewarded with more blooms as the plant grows more vigorous.
For advice on the general care of orchids, check out ‘Growing Orchids: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide’ at www.torontomastergardeners.ca. Click on ‘Ask a Master Gardener’, then search on ‘Orchids’. The American Orchid Society (www.aos.org) also has general care advice for people new to orchids.