Orchids are the largest family of plants in the world. Much of their variety and beauty are reflected in the different species cultivated as houseplants. The flowers are unparalleled in beauty, form and delicacy and blooms last for quite some time. However, when they are spent, we are left wondering what to do with the plant. Read on to learn how to care for orchids after flowering.
Caring for Orchids after They Bloom
You don’t have to be a collector to love orchids. Even grocery stores carry a selection of orchids as gift plants. Usually, these are the easy to grow Phalaenopsis orchids, which produce a vigorous stalk with numerous flowers. This variety of orchid blooms may last up to 2 months with good care but, eventually, all good things must come to an end.
When the flowers have all fallen from the stalk, it is time to consider how to keep the plant in good condition and possibly encourage a rebloom. Post bloom orchid care is the same for any species but relies on sterility to prevent disease contagions.
Strangely enough, most orchids come already blooming at purchase. So post bloom orchid care is really just good care for the plant at any time. Provide light but not direct sunlight, consistent moisture, air circulation and temperatures of 75 F. (23 C.) during the day and 65 F. (18 C.) at night.
Orchids thrive in cramped containers and are actually quite easy to grow if you keep the ambient conditions just right. Post bloom orchid care doesn’t differ from the care you give the plant year round. In fact, the only difference is in how you treat the spent flower stem. Orchid flower stems may still produce flowers if they are still green.
How to Care for Orchids after Flowering
A Phalaneopsis orchid that has finished flowering has the potential to produce another bloom or two. This is only if the stem is healthy and still green with no sign of rot. If the stem is brown or has begun to soften anywhere, cut it off with a sterile instrument to the base. This redirects the plant’s energy to the roots. Stems that are healthy on Phalaneopsis orchids after blooming can be cut back to the second or third node. These might actually produce a bloom from the growth node.
Removing only part of the stem is a part of orchid care after blooms drop recommended by collectors and growers. The American Orchid Society recommends using cinnamon powder or even melted wax to seal the cut and prevent infection on orchids after blooming.
Most other species of orchid need specialized conditions to form blooms and will not bloom from the spent flower stalk. Some even need a dormant period to form buds, such as Dendrobiums, which need 6 to 8 weeks with minimal water. Cattleya require cool nights with temperatures of 45 F. (7 C.) but warm days to form buds.
Let the soil dry slightly between waterings but never allow your orchid to become completely dried out. Caring for orchids after they bloom may mean repotting. Orchids like to be in cramped quarters and really only need their soil changed when it begins to break down. Use a good orchid mix that will have bark, coconut fiber, sphagnum moss and perlite. Be very gentle when repotting. Damage to roots can be fatal and marring the new flower shoots can prevent bloom.