October or November
I think of orchids as the divas of the plant Kingdome; glamorous and exotic with a reputation as temperamental as any Hollywood star. Orchids are the horticultural equivalent of a show stopper.
Preparing The Orchid for Pruning
For many varieties (with some exceptions), the best time to prune back an orchid flower-stalk is either October or November. Orchids that bloom several times a year would be an exception but let’s go with the majority of orchids here. After the bloom, orchids should be cut off at the base of the flower. Once all orchid blossoms have died, it’s definitely time to prune. The stalk will have dried and turned yellow or brown. The stalk should be cut to where only about an inch of stalk is left protruding from the stem.
There seems to be two schools of thought on cutting the orchid stalk. One is to wait and see if a keiki, or baby orchid is produced, When it does bloom again, the new orchid will be smaller than the original because its energy will be sapped by this effort to bloom again. If you do decide to cut the green stalk, cut it right above a node, or the small bump on the stem and leave about ¼ inch of stem above the node. If the flower stalk is cut while it is still green, no keiki will be produced but the plant will have a reserve of strength to carry it over to the next blooming season – result is that even more beautiful blooms than the previous ones.
Whether the plan is to cut the flower stalk while it is still green, or wait and hope for a keiki, you should always use a sterile knife, scissors or new razor blade to do the cutting. Like salmonella, the risk is in passing diseases from one plant to the next by using unsterilized tools.
The exception to all of the above is the dendrobium orchid – they do not need pruning. They will bloom year after year on the same stalk so cutting off their flowering stalk will leave you with a blossomless orchid.
The most popular orchid genera are Phalaenopsis, Cattleya and Dendrobiums. When you buy one of these plants, chances are it is already in bloom. Depending on the type of orchid, its blossoms will last between six weeks and three months. To get your plant to flower again, will take pruning. And the pruning technique you use will depend on the type of orchid you chose to buy.
You see, we can’t give you one simple pruning instruction that will cover all orchids… know your species of orchid and study techniques that will keep it happy and blooming.
Esther Smith, author
Really, orchids are not all that difficult to grow, but regular pruning is a necessity if you want your orchids to bloom regularly – we have so many readers that didn’t think they could grow orchids; we proved them wrong=>