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How to trim a dead orchid stem

Updated June 20, 2018

Growing orchids is much easier than most people believe. Orchids are perfectly happy to stay rootbound in the same pot for years. As long as you provide water, bright filtered light and the right temperature range, your orchid will bloom. After the orchid finishes blooming and the flower stem is completely dead, it should be carefully pruned back, encouraging the plant to produce new flowers.

Determine the species of your orchid. While it is safe to prune most orchids, Dendrobiums rebloom from the leafless stems; do not remove a Dendrobium orchid's flower stalk. Dendrobiums are one of the most commonly sold orchids. With over 1,500 species and thousands of hybrids, any prolifically blooming but unknown variety of orchid with a long, arching stem should be considered a Dendrobium.

Inspect your orchid. Look carefully at the spent flower stem. If it is brown and dried up, it is ready for pruning.

Cut the stem with the hand pruner, leaving at least 1 inch of the stem extending above the base of the plant. If your orchid has nodules on the flower stem, cut the stem 1/4 inch above one of the leaflike bumps.

Tip

When in doubt, do not cut the flower stem. It will eventually dry up and drop off if it is completely dead. If the stem is soft and rotting, trim down to the still-living green stem. If you leave the section of stem with nodes, a new orchid may grow from it. Prune Phalaenopsis orchids as soon as the flower wilts, cutting just above the second node. When you purchase an orchid, keep the sales tag; the species and care information is invaluable.

Warning

Dendrobium orchids bloom from the old stem. Do not remove the stem from this species of orchid.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners, scissor-type
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About the Author

With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.