sweet spikes of success: reblooming orchids

orchid spikes
I REMEMBER THE PHALAENOPSIS ORCHID I GAVE my sister at Thanksgiving a few years ago, one of two of the same variety, keeping one for myself. Mine never rebloomed, and as for my sister’s–well, hers never stopped. And she never stopped gratefully telling me, month after month, “The orchid you gave me is blooming again. It sent up another spike.” That embarrassed me into conscientiously following some simple rules for how to rebloom an orchid–the steps I’d told her to follow, and she had–and lately I’ve been having multiple successes. Three or four on deck right now (above)!

  1. Diantha says:

    I have given up on orchids, although I can’t bear to toss them, not even onto a compost pile. I’ve religiously followed all the steps you list except one, and had only one plant rebloom in several years. (Wasn’t that exciting!) I even farmed them out to an orchid sitter. They finally called and said, “Sorry, we don’t think they will bloom. Do you want them back?” I have not done much to add humidity beyond keeping them in a room with a very large turtle tank and other plants. Maybe that’s the key. I’ll try adding pebbles and water beneath them. Maybe I’ll get to do another happy dance.

  2. hannah says:

    Wow, that is amazing. I wish that I could grow orchids. Or more like keep them alive. I have tried numerous times, read all about them and I still never manage to keep them alive. I am starting to think I have a brown thumb rather than a green one. I hope you will post pictures when your orchids bloom!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hello, Hannah; it’s surprisingly easy as it turns out if you do the weekly water/feed regimen, and they get decent light (but not scorching). Will snap photos of them before too long. See you soon!

      Hello also to Makarimi, and thanks for the view of your garden orchids. :) Nice!

  3. balsamfir says:

    So timely. I have a white phal. that a friend was given in June as a birthday present. She gave it to me, still blooming in September. It’s STILL blooming now, but I’ve been feeling that I need to do more for it, since it has bud branches that are hanging fire. So I’ll take the plunge and move beyond 4 ice cubes a week (my care instructions), and put it into something better in the way of pots and bark.

    My last orchid died a moldy damp death(wrong room and temp), and I’ve been terrified to mess this one up.

  4. Johanna says:

    In 2002 I was in a difficult work situation, gradually being pushed out by new management. The owner (who had hired the new people) I think felt guilty that I suffered, and so bought me a lovely white phalaenopsis. It bloomed for a couple of months until they finally eliminated my job. I took the plant home with me and gave it benign neglect. In 2009 it finally bloomed again. I always figured it was waiting to see if I would settle down and be happy again! How excited was I to see that spike come up?!

    I bet your orchids blooming makes you happy, too!

  5. Bobster says:

    Meemsync, they’re one of the longest blooming plants available! Even if it never blooms again, you’ve got months of bloom. Indirect light, apparently ice cubes are good. Whites are easier to rebloom apparently. Take the plunge!

  6. makarimi says:

    Nice to see your orchid re-blooming. Congrats. I’m really crazy about orchids, may be you can drop to my blog to see them. BTW your post really great. Happy New Year and wish you Good Luck.

  7. Abbie says:

    I usually pickup my Phalaenopsis off the street. Seems like lots of entertaining people treat them as centerpieces, and throw them out after the party. I usually repot my street-find-orchids into nice clay pots from my own collection and change the growing medium to bark chips, not the mushy mossy stuff that commercial growers are using. I also don’t cut off the spikes, after they bloom. I like it when the mature spikes fatten up and produce more substantial blooms. I also love it when the air roots start snaking all over the surface of the clay pots. There’s more than one way to appreciate an orchid, not in bloom.

  8. June says:

    My girlfriend just asked me about this yesterday. How funny, because I had sent her your blog to enjoy. I have one and did finally cut my stem off after months without. I will remember not to do this. I was thinking it would give strength to the plant to produce more>

  9. Ginger G says:

    … mine hadn’t bloomed for a year and all of a sudden a spike appeared with 4 buds – one opened up on my birthday New Year’s Eve – “it’s a sign”!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Ginger. I know, it makes you feel so invigorated and like a true believer, no? :) Congratulations on your success, and see you soon again.

      @Flowergirl1951: Since I can’t see it, I don’t know. Some of the things that look like spikes are actually healthy roots, and it is normal for them to be white. Also, it is common to see salts from either your water or fertilizer if you use it build up and make white marks on foliage…but again, I can’t see what’s up with yours. More details?

  10. peg says:

    Maybe it’s the Year of the Orchid. So many of your bloggers seem to be having success. I now have 3 Phalinopsis, 1 Jewel Orchid, and 1 Phaph blooming at the same time. Don’t know why, but I’ll keep on doing it. If I could only find the secret to the Oncidiums. So lovely, but so recalcitrant.

  11. Nora says:

    I feel your delight!! I am soooo excited! I have SIX Phals reblooming, all with flower spikes AND branching, and an Oncidium with 2 spikes emerging. The key is the bright indirect light and that fertilizing. I fertilize weakly every 7-10 days, and on the advice of an orchid friend who’s won lots of ribbons at the Phila. Flower Show, I water it FIRST, then fertilize. She said that parched roots don’t take up fertilizer as well. I don’t know if that’s really true, but I have to tell you, I cannot believe how many orchids are now emerging after years of failures. They make the winter a brighter season. And even my cyclamen has thrived with that regimen.

  12. Rosella says:

    I don’t have many orchids, but the ones I have bloom well for me. I currently have two phales, each with two spikes. I broke one of the spikes with some careless rummaging around a couple of weeks ago, but I left the stem in place and now a new bud is forming so I am forgiven my clumsiness.

    I also have a large cymbidium which flowers freely–year before last there were ten spikes, last year seven, and this year six. I repotted it this summer, which may account for the lower number of spikes. All my orchids live in a sunroom which is kept at about 70 during the day, and about 55 at night, they get watered once a week and fed with kelp/fish emulsion then. But, having bragged about my success, I should say that I have an oncidium which will not bloom, and a miltonia which so far shows no signs of giving me flowers.

  13. Tricia says:

    I, too, have had some success with the simpler orchids –three phalaenopsis and one dendrobium (I think). I’ve had them (or had supervision of them) for almost eight years now, and found that environment is the key. I’ve been very fortunate to have had good windows/rooms for them, and give all the credit to that when they are admired. I don’t have any other indoor plants — up until recently there was no patience for the care of them (other caregiving chores took all I had), but the orchids seem quite undemanding. It’s very satisfying when someone asks if they are real!

    You inspired me to blog about them in on my own garden blog — pictures included. There’s a bit of a story as well…


    Thanks for your blog — it’s a daily go-to!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Tricia, and I love that: People ask if they are real! Hilarious. Off to see the beauties and have a read…thank you.

  14. Rae says:

    My four orchids bloomed into fall on an enclosed porch. Suddenly last month three of the Phalaenopsis are beginning to re-bloom. They are in a southeast window for the winter. Good light and only sun when it decides to show in Cleveland, OH.

  15. flowergirl1951 says:

    The white stuff looks like artificial snow and is sticky. It mainly is on the edges and the center of the leaves. I am wondering if it is a fungus or mold of some sort. Should I try a fungicide? I washed most of it off, but it is on all 13 of my orchids and I am afraid of losing them all. I could not get it all washed off. Some of it is deep in the base of the orchids. Thanks for your response. PS Is this common of orchids or am I just the lucky one?

  16. Peter Bushyeager says:

    Great to hear of your success with the phal. I’ve been growing orchids on the windowsill of our NYC apt. for many years and have reblooming success with cattleyea, dendrobium and oncidium orchids. However, no success with phals — supposedly the easiest of the lot. You’ve motivated me to try again. After it stops snowing I’m going to go out and get a new phal. and start all over. In the meantime, I’ll think I’ll revisit the anthologies of Vita Sackville-West garden columns. Most amusing stuff!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Peter. I swear they have gotten easier to grow; I used to kill, kill, kill them. One thing I think can be doom is that for the growers it’s easier to keep them watered when they’re planted in plastic pots with moss as the growing medium, which can stay too wet too long and rot off the roots.

      Funny that you mention Sackville-West, as she’s on my bedside table at the moment; haven’t started re-reading yet but I took her off the shelf a few days ago.

      See you soon again, I hope.

  17. Sharon says:

    Flowergirl, think you have mealybug, a form of scale. Try Q-tips soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove the white stuff and keep at it. You may be okay.

    For years I’ve unsuccessfully kept plants after they bloomed, even fed them some, but erratically, and even more erratically watered them. No success, and periodically threw them all out. But this winter, mirabile! One Phal is reblooming now – not gorgeously, just a few blooms on a single spike, but hey. And an orchid I’d never seen or heard of is unfurling the most gorgeous brown-purple spike: a friend gave me a masdevallia from Smith & Hawken, I think last spring for my birthday. The blooms were so exotically beautiful, I couldn’t throw it out, despite peculiarly twisty, unhealthy-looking leaves. I gave it the same haphazard care as the rest, no idea what kind of fertilizer it would prefer, so it got the pink stuff with all the others, and here it is. Hoping it will be beautiful in a few weeks.

    Margaret, I’m curious how you feed yours – I’m otherwise organic, but use the powdered orchid food for fear the trace elements really matter.

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