The Art of Pruning Orchids

Pruning orchids serves a number of purposes. Pruning promotes new growth, it keeps your orchids from wasting energy on spent flower stalks and it helps improve the look of your orchids. It's easy to prune your orchids, helping to keep them healthy and productive.

Pruning Orchids Correctly

Pruning orchids is a simple matter. In a few minutes, you can have your orchids looking neat and vigorous. Here's all you need to know:

  • The bloom is off the orchid. The best time for pruning orchids is when the blooms are spent and the stalk starts to turn yellow. This should occur in the fall or early winter. Avoid pruning in late winter as you run the risk of cutting off newly formed buds.
  • The right tool. A small pair of garden shears is all you'll need for pruning orchids. Make sure you select a pair of by-pass shears (with scissor-type blades) instead of anvil style shears. The flat blade of anvil shears can crush orchid stems instead of cutting them.
  • Keep it clean. Always use sterilized cutting tools when pruning orchids. Dip the blades of your shears in a solution of one part bleach and four parts water before you cut. Clean the blades before each cut and before you put your shears away.
  • But what do I cut? In general, pruning orchids means cutting back the flower stem after blooms have faded. You don't want to cut the stem all the way back to the base, as this will inhibit future re-growth-leave about an inch of the stalk. You should also cut off individual blooms as they fade. Cutting spent blooms off at the stem will improve the appearance of your orchids and may encourage them to produce more blooms.
  • What about cymbidiums and dendrobiums? If you're growing cymbidium or dendrobium orchids, you'll need to inspect that roots at the end of the blooming cycle. Gently lift the plant from its pot and cut away any brown or damaged roots. Healthy roots will be plump and gray in color. While you have your orchid out of it's pot, replace the growing medium.
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