Orchid plants are a well-known favorite of gardeners and green thumbs around the world. Being a member of the largest family of plants on the planet, orchids are excellent all-around houseplants, as they are relatively easy to care for and have large, colorful blooms.
Orchids can make an elegant statement in your indoor space, but the flowers don’t last forever. So, what should you do with your orchids after the flowers have withered and died?
Read on to learn expert tips on how to care for Orchid Plants after blooming.
Table of Contents
Post-Bloom Care Overview
- If the spike is green and healthy, trim them from the node.
- If the spike is brown, cut it off from the base.
- Less watering and fertilizing are required during the dormancy period.
- Mimic the natural conditions of orchids for reblooming.
- Lower the temperatures for re-blooming.
- Use a bark-based potting medium.
How Long Do Orchids Bloom?
Most orchids only bloom once a year and can have flowers on the spike for 3-5 months. However, Moth Orchids and Phalaenopsis can bloom 2 to 3 times a year after reaching maturity.
If you have just bought orchids from the flower shop, and their flowers start to wither within days, don’t worry, as you don’t know exactly how long the flowers have bloomed.
To avoid this issue, look for a plant with unopened buds when purchasing your orchids. Doing so will ensure a longer initial bloom after bringing it home.
Also, avoid buying a plant with yellow or dry leaves, as this indicates the flowers have likely been in bloom for some time and will soon fall. Look for a plant with a new flower spike or two; they almost certainly will bud and bloom soon.
How to Care for Your Orchids After they Bloom
Once the orchid flowers have fallen, the orchid plant needs to be maintained for the following year’s bloom or reblooming in the same year. A few steps need to be followed if you want to stimulate root growth or encourage reblooming.
Orchid Spike Care
After the orchid blooms fall, the spike is left on the plant. There are three options for treating the spikes, which we cover below.
Tools and Supplies to Prepare
- A pair of sharp, sterile scissors or a cutting tool for trimming
- Cinnamon powder as a natural root hormone.
- A diluted solution of 10% bleach and 90% water for sterilizing tools.
Sterilizing the Tools
Before using any tool to cut your orchid stems, it is important to sterilize your tools. Sterilizing your tools is the best option to prevent the spread of infection or disease to the plant. Take your bleach solution and add it to water; 9 parts water and 1 part bleach. Soak the tools in this solution for 15-20 minutes, then rinse them with plain water and let them dry.
Option 1: Leave Spikes As Is
When the flowers of Phalaenopsis (the moth orchid) wither and die, you can leave the spike as it is on the plant. It will again show some bloom, but the new growth will be smaller and have longer and ungainly stems. The Moth Orchid is a species of orchid that will bloom more than once in a growing season.
Option 2: Cut the Stem Above the Node
When the stem is still healthy and green after the orchid has finished flowering, it has the potential to produce another bloom, depending on the different species of orchids you might have. However, trimming the stem will stimulate growth.
For this reason, look for the node on the spike. Nodes are the noticeable triangular bumps on the spike from where new growth can occur. There are nodes every few inches on the spike, so choose the node below the lowest flower bloom on the spike.
Next, cut the bloom spike 1 inch above the node. According to the American Orchid Society, a cut on the stem can make the spike vulnerable to infections.
- Potted Exotics Pro Tip: Use cinnamon powder to prevent infection on your stem cutting. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide that inhibits spores that cause rot in stem cuttings. Cinnamon also helps plant cuttings root more easily, as it is a 100% natural root hormone. Any cinnamon will work, even grocery store cinnamon.
This option is recommended by collectors and growers. The flowering can be extended on the spikes by stimulating new, long-lasting blooms without waiting for a new spike to grow.
However, only Phalaenopsis orchids can re-bloom from the same spike. For another type of orchid, this could be exhausting and harmful to the plant.
Option 3: Cut the Flower Spike from the Base
If you notice yellowing, browning, or drying of the flower spike, cut it from the base of the plant, as Phalaenopsis orchids will not produce new growths on brown spikes.
For this purpose, take sharp scissors and sterilize the tip with rubbing alcohol. Next, cut the whole flower spike. Ensure that you snip as close to the bottom of the plant as possible and avoid damaging the leaves.
This step will encourage more leaf growth by strengthening the orchid’s root system. You can typically expect a new shoot within 8-12 weeks.
This method is recommended by many, as it saves the plant from wasting energy and nutrients. Instead, it helps to conserve energy and focus on new growth.
Post-Bloom Orchid Care Regimen
Orchids are quite low-maintenance, and post-bloom care is not much different from the regular care of orchids. Orchids normally bloom in early spring, and the beautiful flowers stay for 3-5 months, depending on the different types of orchids you may have. After the blooms fall near the winter season, the plant goes into a period of slow growth.
Some orchids, like Endrobium, Cymbidium, Catasetums, Clowesias, and Habenaria, go through a regular period of dormancy during winter. While the most common orchid, Phalaenopsis or moth orchids, don’t have a dormancy period, they do have a resting period when they don’t flower.
Post-Bloom Care of Orchids during Resting or Dormancy:
Flower loss and dormancy are part of the regular life cycle of the orchid plants, so don’t worry if you see flowers falling and then no bloom for long periods. Dormancy usually lasts 6-9 months, in which the plant rests and gathers energy for reblooming.
The flowers will bloom themselves after the period of dormancy ends. However, you can provide proper care to help the plant in the dormancy period by providing the right conditions of light, water, and fertilizer.
The dormancy period doesn’t mean that the plant is dead; it simply means that the orchid is resting. Therefore, keep giving it water but avoid heavy watering.
Instead, you can do heavy misting every 5-10 days so the soil doesn’t become too dry. However, although orchids need ample watering, they should be allowed to dry out between some waterings.
Orchids like Phalaenopsis that don’t go dormant require normal watering post-bloom. The drying will take a longer time than usual. Therefore, you can also water with about three ice cubes a week for a mature plant or one ice cube a week for a small plant.
Heavy watering during this period results in a non-blooming orchid and affects the roots, causing the plant’s death.
During the resting period, halt any fertilizer application. Too much fertilizer during this period could be detrimental. When you see any new leaves, you can start fertilizing again.
Use a 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer every week, as orchids don’t take nutrients from the potting media but from the fertilizer.
Too much direct sunlight is not good for orchids at any time of the year, but you must ensure they receive enough light. To ensure they receive bright, indirect sunlight, you can place your orchid behind a sheer curtain or something similar.
However, when orchids are dormant, place them near an east-facing window where they will receive enough bright indirect light. A south-facing window may give too much direct natural light.
Tips to Rebloom Your Orchids
After the dormancy period ends, the orchids will rebloom, producing beautiful new flowers. However, Moth orchids or Phalaenopsis can bloom 2 to 3 times a year after reaching maturity. There are a few tips that you can follow to make your moth orchids or Phalaenopsis bloom again.
When the last flower drops, the spike must be taken care of for reblooming. As discussed above, if the spike is still green, trim it from the node that is below the lowest flower stem on the spike. Since only Phalaenopsis orchids can rebloom from the same spike, trimming the spike will stimulate new growth and give the best results.
However, if you identify any yellowing, browning, or drying of the spike, cut it from the base because rotten spikes don’t produce new blooms. This will strengthen the root system, encouraging new growth of spikes for reblooming.
Orchids do best in bright indirect sunlight. So place them in an east window or west-facing window where they will receive sufficient light for the rebloom. If you have your orchid in a room without natural sunlight, then you can grow orchids under artificial light.
Ensure to mimic the sun’s cycle. Keep the light on for a longer period in summer and a shorter time in winter months.
For reblooming, replicate the temperature of the natural habitat where nights are cooler. If you live in an area where the weather remains hot, the orchid will have difficulty reblooming as colder nights induce new flower stems.
When the blooms of Phalaenopsis have withered, put it in a cool spot where the night temperature is about 55-60°F. Daytime temperatures ideally should be 75°F. Orchids flourish well with warm temperatures during the day and enjoy bright light as long as it’s not direct sunlight. You can also open the window a little at night and place the orchid near it, as they enjoy cooler temperatures at night.
Once you observe a spike in growth, place the orchid back to its normal temperature setting. Cold damage isn’t likely to occur unless water on the leaves freezes. This occurs when temperatures plummet down below 30° F/0° C.
A balanced fertilizer of 20-20-20 (nitrogen (20%), phosphorous (20%), and potassium (20%) is perfect for orchids. However, a fertilizer with high phosphorous content for reblooming will help encourage flowering for any orchid varieties.
Fertilize weekly or every couple of weeks while the orchids produce new growth and decrease to monthly or bi-monthly intervals once they mature. Discontinue altogether once the plants go dormant. It is not beneficial to fertilize orchids over a long time frame.
A water-soluble orchid fertilizer can also be put in a spray bottle for hanging indoor orchids.
After the dormancy period ends, continue watering the orchids as per the usual routine. Orchids also do well with bottom watering. Place the plant pot in a large bowl filled with water. Wait for 10-15 minutes, and the water will travel up from the drainage holes and moisten the roots. This prevents overwatering, which can be deadly for orchids as it leads to root rot. Good drainage is key.
You can also water orchids with ice cubes once a week. For mature plants, place 3 ice cubes on the soil, and 1 ice cube is sufficient for mini orchids. This is also an effective method as it mimics the slow drip of water from the leaves in the rainforests, which is the natural habitat of orchids.
Although most orchid species don’t like too much water, they prefer humid environments. Humidity levels between 40-70% are required for reblooming and optimal growth. Using a semi-hydroponic growing medium like LECA can help keep humidity levels sufficient.
Potting and Repotting Orchids After Blooming
Another after-bloom care for orchids is repotting. The best time for repotting is after the blooming cycle when flowers have fallen to avoid damaging the flowers.
There are many different varieties of orchids, but most orchids, like Phalaenopsis, should be repotted every year or 2.
Should I Repot Orchids After Blooming?
With a little time, organic materials in the orchid pot break down. As the potting particles decrease in size, they become more tightly packed and unable to supply the orchid with ample nutrition.
At this point, the air can no longer circulate sufficiently around the orchid roots. Silty soils retain more water, drowning the roots in perpetual moisture, which can quickly lead to root rot and/or the development of fungal disease.
While your orchids may be in a dormant period without pretty flowers, it is important to keep a close eye on them.
Is it Time to Repot My Orchids?
Orchids don’t need repotting frequently. Therefore, you can conduct some tests to check whether it’s the right time to repot.
- Excess water should drain out of the orchid pots quickly through the drainage holes. However, when the potting mix decomposes, it takes more time to drain water. If you feel the growing medium has become compact, the first thing you should do is to repot your orchid; this is the easiest way to find out if it’s time for repotting.
- Check the pH of the soil with pH test strips. When potting mix decomposes and water remains inside for too long, the soil becomes acidic, which can be easily indicated by the pH strips. Hence, it is the right time to repot.
- Observe the orchid’s roots. When the roots start to grow up the side of the plant or over the edge of the pot, it indicates that your orchid plants need a bigger pot. You should never trim back the roots as they collect moisture from the air.
How to Repot Orchids
Take out the plant from the pot and observe the old and new roots. If you see any brown roots, cut them off. Then fill the new pot 1/3 with the orchid mix and place the plant in the center. Cover the roots gently with the additional orchid mix.
While repotting, try to avoid damage to the roots by pushing them inside the new pot. Because orchids also have aerial roots which need to grow upward and outward.
Orchids like to grow in cramped containers and require a 4-6 inch pot. So when repotting, don’t go for a much bigger pot, as too much potting medium raises the possibility of water standing at the bottom leading to root rot. Repot in a container 1-2 inches bigger than the previous pot.
Orchids need good air circulation for roots to grow. Therefore, use a clear plastic pot with free drainage at the bottom. You can place the plastic pot inside a decorative pot.
In their native habitat, i.e., tropical rainforests, orchids grow on trees as air plants. Therefore, regular soil is not suitable for growing orchids. Use a potting mix that replicates the tree, such as tree bark and sphagnum moss. Perlite, coconut fiber, and charcoal can also be added to the mix for quick drainage and good air circulation.
While repotting, if you have not made any trims to the roots, you can continue watering orchids normally. However, if you have cut any defective roots while repotting, it is advised to halt watering for about a week so the trimmed cuts can recover properly.
Common Problems with Orchids After Blooming
Like any other houseplant, orchids also face certain problems that can be treated and prevented with preventive measures.
The most common problem with orchid plants is overwatering. Overwatering does more harm to the plant than underwatering.
Solution: To avoid overwatering, water using the ice cube method or bottom watering. Also, use a bark-based potting mix with peat moss to provide sufficient drainage.
Fungal and Bacterial Diseases
Being tropical plants, orchids like high humidity. However, this makes the plant vulnerable to fungal and bacterial diseases, which can affect the flowers, leaves, and roots. Look out for leaf discolorations or watering swelling on the leaves with a bad smell.
Solution: Use neem oil to prevent fungal diseases and copper-based spray for bacterial rot. Trim all affected leaves and relocate to a more suitable environment.
Since most orchids are grown indoors, the pest problem is limited. However, pest infestation spreads from one plant to another, and orchids can also be affected by common pests like mealy bugs, spider mites, and scale insects.
Solution: Take rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl) and soak a cotton swab in it. With this alcohol-dipped swab, dab pests off orchids.
Sometimes there are no pests or diseases on the orchid, but new flower buds dry up. This problem occurs due to low humidity or direct exposure to sunlight.
Solution: Provide enough humidity for leaf and bud growth. Also, put the orchid in bright but indirect sunlight.
Creative Ways to Present Blooming Orchids in your Home
Orchids make any space stylish and beautiful with their amazing colored blooms. They can enhance the interior setting of any space. They can be placed on coffee tables, kitchen counters, bedside tables, or shelves to make a beautiful statement in your home.
There are many ways in which you can decorate your blooming orchids.
You can plant an orchid in a plastic pot and place it in any decorative ceramic, glass, or metal container to compliment your indoor setting.
Flowers and plants are usually grown straight up, so when you enter a room and see an orchid hanging upside down, it immediately catches the eye. Upside-down orchids are a good idea as they make an interesting visual appeal in any space.
Orchids are epiphytic plants and grow as air plants in rainforests. Therefore, it can be grown in hanging baskets to save space and create vertical interest.
You can display your orchids as a mini garden for your center table. Take orchids, 2-3 assorted ferns, and some moss, place it in a bowl, and your display is ready.
Are Orchids Toxic to Cats or Dogs?
Orchids are not toxic to cats and dogs, and it is perfectly safe to have these blooming plants around your pets.