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An Orchid Lover’s Guide: How to Get Your Orchid to Rebloom

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You’ve recently acquired a stunning orchid in full bloom, mesmerized by its vibrant, exotic petals. However, like all flowering plants, orchids eventually shed their blossoms, marking the start of a patient wait for the next bloom cycle.

Orchids are notoriously challenging to care for, understandably so. To encourage flowering, specific conditions must be met, varying among orchid species—identifying your plant’s variety is crucial for this endeavor.

While some orchid enthusiasts may stumble upon the ideal care routine on their first attempt, this is quite rare. More often, subtle variations in care are required to promote bud development for different orchid species.

Orchid cultivation leaves little room for error, but understanding a few key factors can keep your plant thriving as you fine-tune the lighting and positioning to stimulate new blooms. By adhering to these essential care tips, you’re well on your way to enjoying the stunning spectacle of a reblooming orchid.

Wait Until All Flowers Have Fallen

Moth orchids display their blooms on delicate flower spikes, which can occasionally rebloom. To see new blossoms sooner, encourage reblooming on an existing spike. However, if the spike appears withered or brown, it’s best to cut it off to prevent draining the orchid’s energy.

Deciding whether to keep or remove a spike involves observing a few critical indicators. If the spike has small, closed buds, it’s promising for a rebloom, so leave it intact. Even budless green spikes might rebloom, but browning or drying spikes should be trimmed at the base to help the orchid conserve energy for future growth.

It’s easy to mistake an orchid’s aerial roots for flower spikes, especially since these roots are lighter and rounded. While there’s generally no need to remove these roots, an abundance might indicate it’s time to repot your orchid.

For Phalaenopsis orchids, the key to triggering rebloom is to act as soon as the last flowers drop. Understanding the bloom cycle can help you anticipate and manage the reblooming process effectively. Although these orchids typically bloom once a year outdoors, they can bloom multiple times indoors.

As plant expert Keira Kay from Bloom & Wild advises, allow spent flower heads to fall naturally. There’s no need to trim these unless you prefer not to see them once faded. After the flowers drop, new blooms are likely to appear on the remaining spike following a period of rest.

Wait Until All Flowers Have Fallen
Credit: The Morning Call

Trim Green Spikes and Cut Brown Spikes

Once your orchid’s flowers have dropped, you might wonder what to do with the now bare stem. Generally, pruning is best, but how much you cut back depends on a few factors.

When your orchid loses its blooms, trim the stem, but don’t cut too close to the base. Aim to snip just above a visible node, which should encourage further growth and blooming.

Use sharp, clean tools for pruning, as orchids are prone to disease and fungal infections. A clean cut helps prevent issues by healing quicker, reducing the risk of infection.

If your orchid has a single, green, healthy spike, trim it minimally. Find the first node above the base—a slight bump on the stem. Cut about an inch above this node. To safeguard against infection, you can lightly dust the cut with cinnamon or powdered sulfur, which act as preventative measures.

However, if the spike has turned brown and papery, cut it down to the base. This might delay blooming slightly, but it helps the orchid develop a stronger, new flower spike.

This pruning stimulates your orchid and prepares it for producing a new stem, which will eventually sprout new buds and flowers.

While home remedies like cinnamon aren’t cure-alls, they are effective preventative measures against diseases.

Trim Green Spikes and Cut Brown Spikes
Credit: eshop – Atelier Fiala

If your orchid has dual spikes, trim one just above the node and cut the other back completely. If there’s only one spike and it’s brown and dry, cut it all the way back to the plant’s base.

Removing old spikes helps redirect the orchid’s energy towards developing robust roots, key to a healthier plant that can bloom more vigorously.

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Place in a Bright, Cool Spot

One key to nurturing healthy, reblooming orchids is ensuring they receive the right amount of sunlight. Most houseplant orchids originate from tropical forests where they thrive as epiphytes on tree trunks, enjoying filtered light beneath the canopy. This natural setting offers clues about their light preferences, which vary among orchid species.

The Phalaenopsis orchid, comprising about 75% of orchids sold, is particularly well-suited for indoor environments, as noted by the American Orchid Society. These orchids prefer bright, indirect sunlight to avoid leaf scorch, which can lead to more severe damage or rot.

Other varieties like Dendrobiums, Cattleyas, and Oncidiums thrive with more direct light and can be placed near a sunny window softened by sheer curtains or even outdoors in a sheltered, bright spot.

Cymbidium orchids, for example, can bloom for up to eight weeks in a cool, well-lit indoor area. After flowering, moving them outside to a shaded spot can encourage future blooming with proper watering and feeding.

While many houseplants seek the warmest spot, orchids often need a cooler environment to promote flower development, especially during the night. Keeping orchids where nighttime temperatures drop to 55-65°F and where they receive bright, indirect sunlight during the day is ideal for encouraging new flower spikes.

If you notice new growth on your orchid that is darker and lacks a flower spike by the next season, it might indicate insufficient light. However, avoid suddenly exposing the plant to direct sunlight, as this can be harmful. Instead, gradually introduce it to a brighter environment.

A perfect spot for most orchids is near a window that gets bright, indirect light with limited direct sun, particularly true for Phalaenopsis orchids. I learned this the hard way when leaving a newly acquired Phalaenopsis on my back porch for repotting—just one afternoon of direct sun damaged it irreparably.

Place in a Bright, Cool Spot
Credit: LaCucaracha669 on reddit

It’s crucial to find a balance—move your orchid to a brighter location gradually, avoiding drastic changes that could stress the plant. Remember, consistent, indirect light is key to keeping your orchid healthy and preparing it for the next bloom cycle.

Continue Watering and Fertilizing – Even During Dormancy

During their dormant phase, orchids may seem lifeless, but this resting period is crucial for ensuring vibrant future blooms. This dormancy can last six to nine months, requiring patience.

It’s essential to keep the orchid hydrated without overwatering—a common pitfall. Only water when the soil’s top feels dry, and regularly empty the drainage tray to prevent water accumulation, which can be detrimental.

To check if your orchid needs watering, examine the roots. Hydrated roots appear green, while gray roots indicate it’s time to water, ensuring any excess is thoroughly drained to prevent root decay. Clear pots help monitor root health more easily than decorative ones.

Overwatering is often the quickest way to kill an orchid, as they are prone to fatal root rot. Consistency in watering is key. A once-a-week schedule generally suffices for healthy indoor orchids.

You can try different watering techniques:

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  • The Ice Cube Method: Place three ice cubes in the pot weekly for gradual water distribution.
  • Immersion: Thoroughly water by immersing the pot and roots in water (avoiding leaves) for a few minutes before draining.
  • Top-Down Watering: Water from above, preventing water from lingering on leaves.
Continue Watering
Credit: The Spruce

In addition to regular watering, feeding your orchid with fertilizer once a month post-bloom can significantly boost growth. Orchids should be fertilized every other week, especially with the Immersion method, which allows easy fertilizer mixing.

While specialty orchid fertilizers are great, a diluted balanced fertilizer (20-20-20) also works well. Regular feeding encourages more robust blooms.

Maintain High Humidity

Humidity is crucial for orchids, which thrive in tropical-like moisture levels of 60-80%. Most orchids develop aerial roots that absorb water and nutrients from the air, necessitating a humid environment.

To monitor and manage humidity, a hygrometer can be helpful. The kitchen and bathroom often have higher natural humidity, making them ideal spots. To boost moisture around orchids, consider:

  • Using a humidifier (cautiously, as it may affect other home items).
  • Water trays with pebbles, elevating the pot to prevent root-sitting.
  • Pebble trays filled with water beneath plants in drier conditions.

While misting is an option, it should be done with care. Frequent misting is necessary to maintain moisture, but water accumulation on leaves can lead to rot. For indoor orchids, misting is less recommended as it may also leave harmful residues, impeding growth and health.

Optimal Temperature Ranges for Tropical Orchids

Phalaenopsis orchids, originating from tropical climates, thrive in consistently warm conditions above 60°F. Temperatures below this may halt growth and flowering, while exceeding 85°F can cause root drying and heat stress.

Orchids generally bloom in spring and summer, setting buds during cooler months. They require a slight temperature drop to stimulate bud formation but not freezing conditions. For indoor orchids, consider moving them to a cooler spot near a window away from heat sources as weather cools.

To encourage bud development, expose orchids to cooler night temperatures for a few weeks and ensure they are well-fertilized during this period.

Cymbidium orchids, in particular, need a distinct day-night temperature difference to bloom successfully, making them more challenging to reflower indoors. They typically fare better on a patio or balcony and should be brought inside only when blooming.

When a new flower spike appears, relocate the orchid to its original, warmer spot. Support the growing spike with a stake and gently tie it. Increase feeding to a weekly diluted fertilizer application until new flowers develop. After blooms fade, trim back the spike to help the plant prepare for its next flowering cycle in three to six months.

Optimal Temperature Ranges for Tropical Orchids
Credit: Gardenista

Avoid drafty areas, as sudden temperature drops can prevent flowering. However, a light breeze can be beneficial in warmer settings to promote good air circulation. Let ambient temperature and seasonal changes guide your orchid care routine.

Ensure Adequate Oxygen for Roots

Oxygen isn’t the sole factor in getting orchids to reflower, but it plays a critical role in keeping them healthy by warding off pests and diseases. Give your orchids plenty of space to ensure adequate air circulation around each plant, which becomes crucial in humid environments where moisture accumulates, attracting pests and fostering diseases.

Make sure each orchid has enough room to breathe, helping maintain their overall health and vitality.

Repot at the Right Time

Repotting your moth orchid can significantly boost its health and increase the chances of blooming, especially if it’s the first time you’re changing its pot.

Moth orchids purchased from stores typically come in plastic pots filled with moss, which can trap excessive moisture, leading to root rot. To prevent this, repot the orchid into a pot with drainage holes and use a bark-based orchid potting mix to ensure proper water flow.

It’s crucial to use a specific orchid potting mix when repotting to promote reflowering. Orchids should ideally be repotted every two to three years to maintain their health and encourage blooms.

Signs that your orchid needs repotting include stunted growth and droopy leaves. Spring is the best time for repotting, as this is when new growth is most likely to occur.

To repot, gently squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen the plant, carefully lift it out, and remove any old bark or soil. Trim away dead roots using clean, sharp pruners or sterilized scissors.

When selecting a new pot, keep in mind that orchids thrive when their roots are snug, but the pot must have excellent drainage. Sometimes, you can reuse the existing pot and refresh the potting mix.

Place your orchid in the new pot and stabilize it as you add fresh orchid potting mix around it to ensure it sits securely. Water the orchid thoroughly after repotting to help the roots settle. This refresh can make a significant difference in the vitality and blooming potential of your moth orchid.

Repotting your moth orchid
Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

Take it Outside

If you have the space, moving your orchids outdoors during periods of cooler nighttime temperatures can be highly beneficial. This shift can stimulate bud development even more effectively than positioning them near a cool indoor window.

As the days get shorter and the sunlight less intense, your orchids might require additional light exposure, which can be challenging to provide indoors. By placing your orchids outside for a few weeks to a month in the fall—before the onset of freezing temperatures—you can replicate the natural seasonal changes they would experience in the tropics.

Although tropical climates seldom face freezes, they do experience cooler temperatures in the winter, especially at night.

The combination of a bit more daylight and those cooler evening temperatures signals to your orchids that it’s time to start bud formation. Remember to maintain your watering schedule; it’s easy to forget about your plants when they’re not in plain view.

Outdoor conditions may cause the orchid potting mix to dry out more quickly, particularly in less humid climates, so you might need to water them twice a week while they are outside.

Perform Post-Flowering Maintenance

Staying diligent with your orchid care—through regular watering and fertilizing while it’s blooming—is crucial. This not only extends the life of the blossoms but also keeps the plant robust, readying it for its next dormant and reblooming phases. Generally, orchids seldom require repotting; they thrive with consistent watering and feeding.

Orchids channel their energy into producing and maintaining vibrant blooms for extended periods. Once the blooming season ends, they need a recovery phase to replenish their energy reserves. Despite a common tendency to discard orchids during their dormancy, with proper care, these plants can flourish for years and offer numerous flowering cycles.

Each orchid species follows its own unique blooming schedule. Labeling your plants is a practical way to keep track of their individual flowering times—some may bloom just once a year, while others could delight you up to three times annually.

Remember that the flowering period of an orchid bought from a store does not necessarily reflect its natural cycle, as commercial growers often manipulate conditions to ensure year-round blooms.

After the flowers wilt and drop, you’ll be left with the flower stem. At this point, you can prune the stem. Start by cutting just above the nearest node to potentially encourage a new stem.

If no new growth occurs and the stem turns brown and brittle, it’s time to cut it back to the base. New flowering stems will typically emerge from the base of the leaves in the following months, ready to start the cycle anew.

Post-Flowering Maintenance
Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

Frequently asked questions

  • What’s the simplest method to encourage orchids to flower once more?

Experiencing cool temperatures, particularly around the 50s F at night, can effectively stimulate orchids to flower again.

  • Is it necessary to throw away an orchid after the flowers drop?

No need to discard your orchid just because it has lost its blooms. This is just a period of dormancy, not death. With proper care, it can flower again.

  • Can orchids bloom again on the same stems?

Phalaenopsis orchids often bloom on the same stem. For most other varieties, it’s unlikely, but trimming the spike to about three inches helps concentrate the plant’s energy on root development during its rest phase.

  • Do moth orchids benefit from misting?

While orchids thrive in moist conditions, misting only temporarily raises humidity levels around the plant. For more effective moisture control, consider placing your orchid near a humidifier or on a tray of pebbles with water.

  • What is the optimal fertilizer for orchids in pots?

Fertilizers designed specifically for orchids are best for maintaining their health and promoting growth. Alternatively, organic liquid fertilizers, like those made from kelp or fish emulsion, are also suitable but should be diluted to a quarter or half strength.

  • What should I do if my orchid won’t bloom?

If your orchid isn’t flowering, it might be due to inadequate light, insufficient nutrients, or improper temperature. Adjusting these conditions may help trigger blooming.

  • How long does it typically take for an orchid to bloom again?

It usually takes about six to nine months for an orchid to reflower indoors. Patience is key during this period—your plant is likely not dead but just dormant.

  • How frequently can an orchid rebloom?

Moth orchids can live up to 15-20 years, blooming once or twice annually with minimal care. Most orchids have the potential to bloom up to twice a year, with dormancy periods that can last up to nine months, depending on the species and care provided.

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