Chances are, if you are wondering what to do when orchid flowers fall off, this must be your first season growing the wildly popular flowers.
Many newbies and to be fair, many folks who habitually display the orchids for the cute pink and candy blooms, think that is the end of the road for the orchid after the flowers fall off.
They discard them and wait for the next growing season to get new ones. After all, orchids are readily available and inexpensive too.
But as you’d learn in this article, there is every reason to hang on to your orchids after blooming. There is still a lot of life left in those cuties.
So if you’ve been searching for answers about how to care for your orchids after the blooming season, you are in the right place.
Read on to find out how to set the stage for your orchids to survive the post-blooming period to make a powerful comeback with more flowers in the next blooming season and beyond.
What To Do When Orchid Flowers Fall Off
Orchids are tropical flowers native to parts of Australia and Asia.
Though there are thousands of species, Phalaenopsis orchids are the most common with over 60 species that are hardy in zones 10 – 12.
These species of orchids are perfect for beginners because they are so easy to grow indoors.
Also known as moth or butterfly orchids, Phalaenopsis orchids produce flowers at any time during the year for up to 10 weeks give or take a week.
Generally, though, the cooler months are used to produce buds that bloom into flowers in spring.
As part of the cycle, the flowers fall off after the blooming period leaving the long flower stems, known as spikes, completely bare. The plant then goes into the dormancy phase.
But as long as the spikes remain green post-bloom, and given the right conditions and care, they can be made to produce new sets of blooms for many years.
There is no set rule when it comes to off-season treatment of orchid flower spikes.
Some gardeners cut back the spikes down to the last couple of nodes while others allow the spikes to remain the way they are after the flowers fall off.
In both cases, new flowers would be produced with the right care. A third option involves completely removing these spikes after the flowers fall off.
Keep in mind though that only Phalaenopsis orchid grows new flowers from old spikes.
If you have a different specie, it is unlikely to produce new flowers from the same spikes the following blooming season.
This makes it crucial to know the orchid specie you have so you’d know the best way to proceed.
How to Care for Orchids After the Flowers Fall Off
The whole point of orchid care after flowers fall off is to make them rebloom.
As stated earlier, there are three routes to take: do nothing and simply care for the bare spikes, prune the spikes and wait for them to form buds again, or cut out the spikes completely.
Often, you’d choose an option that works best for you.
This could depend on your orchid specie, the hardiness zone, and what you are comfortable with. Don’t over-think these pre-conditions though.
The orchids would be fine no matter your choice with the right post-bloom care.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the three options.
What to do when orchid flowers fall: Doing nothing to the spikes
In this strategy, the only thing required is to gather and dispose of the fallen flowers and caring for the plant.
Not all orchid growers agree on the effectiveness of this method in terms of whether it can be made to produce flowers again.
That said, even when made to re-bloom, the flowers won’t be as lush because re-blooming from the same spikes takes a lot of energy from the plant.
Caring for your orchid after the flowers have fallen off involves:
- Fertilize the plant at least once a month using any standard houseplant (20-20-20) or orchid fertilizer.
To avoid applying too much, dilute the fertilizer to about half its strength while sticking to the specific product instructions.
- Water the soil when it is almost completely dry. Never allow the potting mix to become bone dry though.
- Adjust the fertilization to full strength with the appearance of new leaves.
- Ensure the indoor daytime and nighttime temperatures are around 75°F and 65°F. This is about the normal indoor temperatures.
In most cases, nothing extra is required from you in terms of getting the temperature right.
What to do when orchid flowers fall off: Pruning orchid spikes
For this, you’d need a sharp razor or a pair of garden cutters (snips or scissors).
No matter your cutter of choice, sterilize the blades by cleaning them with rubbing alcohol or soap solution to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria to the spikes.
Then, simply cut the spike down to the last node or two. The node is the little bump on each spike.
To avoid infections and fungal diseases, spray the tip of each pruned spike with fungicide.
Instead of using a fungicide, you could covering the tip with ground cinnamon. This is an awesome organic option for the prevention of fungal infections.
Finally, follow the same post-bloom fertilization and watering protocols described in the previous section.
What to do when orchid flowers fall off: Remove or cut flower spikes completely
This is the recommended route for orchid flower spikes that turn brown or yellowish after the flowers fall off.
These spikes would never produce new flowers.
Here, simply use your preferred, pre-sterilized cutter to cut the flower spikes down to the base of the orchid plant.
To be clear, you are completely removing the spikes from the plant!
This allows each plant to concentrate all resources on root development in the dormancy period and the subsequent production of new spikes and leaves.
Finally, water and fertilize the soil as described previously.
Getting Your Orchids to Rebloom
The next step for all 3 methods is to nurture your orchids to bloom again.
This is all part of the dormancy care to set the stage for the production of new flowers.
First, to speed up growth, place the orchid where it can get lots of indirect sunlight. Any bright area indoors would work too.
In spring, when nighttime temperatures are within 55 – 65°F, move the plant to the cooler part of the house.
This promotes the growth of new buds and flower spikes.
You can return the plant to its regular position about two months after new spikes appear or when the new spikes are at least 4-5” long.
When the spikes are ready to bloom, the tips would take on a waxy, pointed appearance instead of the previously rounded shape.
You can now adjust the fertilization schedule to about once every week.
Finally, since the growing spikes are very tender, you might want to support them by tying the stems to a small stake.
Orchid care tips
- Orchids grow best and bloom in indirect sunlight making an east-west facing window the perfect location for them.
- In the absence of east-west windows, place them under fluorescent lights
- Black leaf tips on orchids are often the result of the plant getting too much sunlight.
Adjust the position or use less intense lights.
- Keep your orchids away from ripening fruits. Gas from the fruits will hurt your orchids
- You can water your orchids using ice cubes
- When watering, it’s best to unpot and water all sides of the root ball evenly using a small watering can.
Avoid splashing the leaves with water.
- Orchids love being potbound. But you must repot the plant in a slighter larger pot when the roots are growing out of their container and over the sides.
- When repotting, use similar potting soil (orchid mix) and handle the roots with care because they are fragile.
- To replant the orchid during repotting, place the plant on the soil and cover the roots with enough potting mix to keep the plant upright.
Digging a small hole and placing the roots inside before covering them with soil might harm the roots.
Understanding the growth stages of common orchid varieties such as Phalaenopsis is key to knowing what to do when the flowers fall off.
The cycle starts with the growth of leaves and ends in plant dormancy. In between, you have the flowering and root development stages in that order.
To get the orchids to rebloom again, cutting the flower spikes after the blooming period is crucial.
This allows the plant to concentrate on root development while storing enough energy for subsequent growth and flowering after the dormancy phase.