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voila! my first orchid reblooms

rebloomedphalI AM PROUD TO SAY that I have rebloomed my first orchid, no big deal to many of you out there but something I had always stashed in my mind as “difficult” or “impossible.” In fact, it was really easy.

I confess to having harbored longtime anti-orchid feelings, frankly, and hadn’t even owned an orchid, unless you count the occasional cut Cymbidium I buy from a nearby greenhouse in winter. That is, I hadn’t owned a plant until I moved to my former weekend home way outside the city last winter and got a little lonely for company.

I brought a Phalaenopsis home from the local garden center around the holidays on total impulse, and it flowered for four months in my dining room, which astonished even me. The $30 price seemed steep at first, but month after month, that orchid paid me back for my indulgence. After such a performance, I just couldn’t compost it. I’d grown attached.

I knew the basics of orchid care, having written on the subject many times. The highlights:

Overwatering is the best way to kill an orchid, which wants a really thorough soaking but on an infrequent basis, only when needed. Adding half-strength orchid fertilizer to the water every couple of weeks is all the food that’s required. I add the indicated amount of fertilizer to a big bowl of water and simply plunge the pot into it every week or 10 days, depending on how the bark medium around the roots feels to my finger when I poke around in it each week. Conditions vary, and watering can be more frequent or less; the finger test is the only way to know the right moment, just before they get dry.

I am sure to let the excess liquid drain from the orchids potting medium, especially if the pot will be slipped inside a cache pot or sit in a saucer of some kind where water could collect. These are epiphytic plants, and don’t ever want to stand in water.

The Phalaenopsis’ other minimal requirements: cutting off the flower spikes when bloom is finished, and repotting when the planting medium (whether bark or moss) gets depleted. In other words: so simple.

Phalaenopsis, perhaps the easiest orchid to grow in average home conditions, requires relatively low light, such as an east window or a shaded west or southern one. Phalaenopsis are happy in temperatures we can tolerate: around 60 at night, warmer during the day. Just now I’ve moved my plants (yes, plural, because I am now addicted) to the mudroom, where they’ll get a little cooler, to the mid-50s, for a few weeks each evening to help induce their flower spikes. Then they’ll come back into 60-plus.

Winter-into-spring is peak Phalaenopsis bloom time, but my first rebloomer (pictured up top) began its resurrection in September, a little early. It had summered outdoors with its new sisters and brothers in the high shade of a tree, getting indirect light and enjoying the humidity, and I’d kept up the regular feedings.

Now that the plants are indoors, and the heat is coming on, I’ll place them on some pebble trays of water (not standing in it, but raised above it) to create a slightly moister microclimate, and group them among my many other houseplants to add to the effect.

The Greater New York Orchid Society homepage offers PDF downloads of all the American Orchid Society’s  cultural how-to’s, including Phalaenopsis (the links are in the lower right-hand column).  Have you had an orchid success (or failure) using these or other tricks?  I’d love to hear, now that I’m an orchid grower.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Joseph. I cut down stems that have finished flowering, but some people cut them back only partway, above a “node” or sort of bump in the stem, and hope that they resprout from partway up. It looks a lot neater to just cut them finished flowering stems down, and eventually a new one emerges from the base (sometimes 6 months or more later, though).

  1. Joseph says:

    Also, I am not sure what kind of orchid it is, its yellow and has ivy (got it @ trader joes) and the bud is turning yellow. Is that a good thing? Thnx

  2. Darlene Arnold says:

    Oh my gosh, I am so excited, I love your whole sight!! But today just hit the spot.

    I live with my daughter, who’s about your age and she brought home an orchid from the office for me to save!! I had fears as you but just recently mentioned I thought I might like to try a couple, though I am not ready quite yet. Lol and behold here you are’ Margaret right on the spot’ with not only your article but the link to the NY Orchid Society, can’t wait to get started now! Thank You! Thank You! And of course I get your Newsletter………………

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Darlene. I know, it’s so simple…but it eluded me, too — I figured it was harder than it is and always chickened out of trying. I have 5 plants right now in bud, all about to pop. Amazing, amazing. And nothing difficult to it at all.

  3. Alex says:

    Hi Margaret! Your website is wonderful, many thanks for all your helpful advice. To share in the wealth of knowledge, here is my best orchid tip: Put a wooden skewer into each of your orchids. You can cut it down so it isn’t as noticeable. When you think that it is time to water your orchid, take out the skewer to test how damp the potting medium is. Bark can be very tricky, the top can feel dry but the bottom is still wet leading to potential root rot. The skewer is the best way I have found to determine when to water. I water my phals when the bottom of the skewer feels barely damp.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Alex. Great tip re: the skewer. Thank you. Always so many good tips from my great readers! See you soon again, I hope.

  4. Pam G. says:

    Great tips Margaret! I was always the same way but now that I have 3 in spike and 3 that have rebloomed I am a convert-only problem is I am running out of orchid space!!!!
    I put mine outdoors two summers ago, I only add 3 then and they got bugs which I could not eradicate so I had to discard them. Now I’m afraid to put any of my indoor plants outside.

  5. Judith McKnight says:

    When it comes time to repot my orchad, what size pot do I use? WhenI bought it the pot size is 2” square. It is blooming at the moment and growing ok but it looks funny in such a small pot. Judith

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Judith. If it’s an epiphytic orchid (not terrestrial — so the kind that’s typically potted in lava rock or bark chips, that in nature hangs in a crotch of a tree or something like that, and doesn’t root in the soil) I don’t suppose the purpose of the pot and medium is much more than for physical support and to conduct water over the roots, etc. So I think you have some leeway. However, don’t go too crazy — I think the roots like to be a little tight. You may like reading through the American Orchid Society’s Orchid 101 info, and maybe also on the specific page for your kind of orchid.

  6. Judith McKnight says:

    Margaret,
    Thank you for the information. The orchad is still blooming and it looks like there are two more flowering stems developing. First time to grow one. Found it on sale at a discount store. It was a healthy blooming plant that just had to come home with me. I love plants and have a hard time leaving them in the store.
    Judith

  7. Helen Malandrakis says:

    Hi,
    I have a Dendrobium that is blooming now. I have had it for several years, without bloom, but last year at this time, it bloomed. I was thrilled, because I was about to let it just die.

  8. Lyn says:

    Margaret,
    Thanks for the great info. I just began to ‘rescue’ orchids from my work. We keep Phals in our lobby and the minute they’re down to 2 or 3 blooms, they’re discarded. I’ve now collected 4.

    I’ve cut off the shoots and water them sparingly. They are all still in original pots. They all have these grayish-looking roots(?) going all around them. The leaves are all thick and green and upright.

    I’ve noticed on two of them baby leaves sprouting from the middle of the mature leaves. Do you know what that means? Are they beginning to rebloom (I HOPE)?

    They have never been fertilized (not sure what kind to use), a recommendation would be awesome.

    Didn’t mean to write a book, but when is repotting necessary? The pots they’re in are so small. Just seems they need more room!!

    Thanks!!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Lyn. Phals grow vertically, I guess is how I’d describe it — meaning they will shed the lowermost set of leaves when they are no longer vigorous and sprout some new ones up top. The flower spikes for me typically come in winter, not now, and look quite different from new roots or new leaves. As for fertilizer, any brand at the garden center according to label directions. I mix it in a bowl or plastic basin and dunk the orchids to really soak the root mass, then take them out and let them drain well. Weekly is good in active growing season — by mid-fall maybe once a month is plenty, through the winter.

  9. Helen Malandrakis says:

    I have a dendrobium that is blooming now. I just love it.It blooms for such a long time. I have had better luck with it than with phals.

  10. Dina says:

    I inherited 2 phals that looked very healthy when I got them, I placed them in a south window and now the leaves look a little yellow. How much light do they need? And how long do you soak them when you are watering?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Dina. On a regular basis, old leaves (bottom pair) go yellow and shed and new ones form up top. However, you can get yellow leaves from too much sun, or if the plant is shedding leaves because the roots are soggy and it’s suffering from that. If they look scorched (spots of tan on them) it’s probably too much light (south windows can be pretty bright so typically you’d move the, back from the window or have a sheer curtain there). As for watering, i plunge them in the sink with the fertilizer diluted in the water till they stop bubbling, then take them out and let them drain thoroughly (again, sodden roots=trouble). I do this about once a week, but each pot is different in size, the potting medium being used, the number of roots, etc. Start with this American Orchid Society info on growing phals.

  11. Joan DeRosa says:

    I have one phaelanopsis orchid that won’t even rest long enough to let me repot it before it sends out new blooming shoots. It’s has rebloomed twice and the blooms last for months. Now it is sending out new blooming shoots. I too do the finger test, week to 10 days soaking in diluted liquid fertilizer. It never went outside because it kept blooming.
    Meanwhile I have others that just sit there on their leaf haunches and do nothing, while being treated in the same manner.
    Maybe orchids are like kids; some turn out better than others?
    Never have I been able to rebloom a dendrobium. My kudos to Helen.

  12. Victoria says:

    I have had pretty good luck getting my phalens to rebloom, but it seems as if the number of blooms on a stem is decreasing. I have cut back the stem both part way above a node and all the way to the bottom. Is the plant just not as vigorous as it had been?

    Now, I thought I was getting new bloom stems, but it seems that at least 3 of the plants are growing babies. Leaves first, then little roots. Very exciting but when should they be cut from the stem and potted up on their own?

    Thanks for a great blog, Victoria.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Victoria. Have you repotted and examined the roots this last year? Eventually I find that the roots start to deteriorate if things get too overcrowded and the potting medium has broken down. That can lead to decline of the mother plant — and I have read that sometimes a stressed-out plant will send up what are called basal keikis (keiki being the Hawaiian word for baby; basal meaning down at the base) as if to try to keep things alive after it declines the rest of the way, and others make keikis along the stems (not necessarily in hard times). The American Orchid Society has a number of videos, including some regarding keikis…go to this page and use the left-hand navigation list of videos to see if anything looks familiar (though the demos are with other kinds of orchids, perhaps it will give you the idea of what’s going on).

  13. Kailee says:

    Well ive never really had a plant or taken care of it and my bf bought me a orchid for christmas then for some reason i was at walmart the other day and i went to go buy another one.. But i ended up getting three more.. =[ now i feel guilty because im not experienced in taking care of plants so im afraid im gonna kill them.. I got all of the phals but my apartment is ground level and on the side of the byilding which does get much light so ive put three lamps on and the main light on all day and then at night i just leave the lamps on but turn off the main light i was just wondering if that is enough light? They all look very healthy leaves and blooms but im not sure about theere rooots.. They are in small clear plastic pots with holes then i put thise pots in nicer pots but i want to keep them in the plastic ones because the decorated pots have no holes.. And also when all the flowers fall and you cut it down where abouts do you cut and do you have to cover the cuts to stop infection? I would really like to rebloom all of them eventually. Im just nit sure how to take care of them properly. Please help!!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Kailee. Important to leave them in pots with lots of drainage holes, yes. Never let them stand in water (it kills the roots). As for cutting down the faded flower stems, some people cut it all the way by the bottom (no need to “cover” it, just let it heal itself) and some cut maybe halfway, hoping for another side shoot to emerge off the old one. Not sure whether it’s enough light — they like indirect light from the window, not blazing sun. Is it bright enough to see a shadow at all if you place your hand near the window in daytime?

  14. Jocelyn says:

    I revieved a Phalaenopsis for Christmas from my boyfriend. it is potted in a square glass jar with bark in it. The leaves look great – however the flowers are starting to die. Is this normal for this time of year? We have kept it on the north side of the house right by a window with indirect light. It is very rainy here right now though – so it doesn’t get sunlight right now. The temp in the house at night is around 60 and then 58 during the day while we are at work and then about 65-70 in the evenings. do I need to cut the stems off that the flowers are dying on? We have followed the directions and are only watering about every 10 days – and if it still looks moist in the bot then we don’t water it. I want to make sure it lives…but I dont’ know if the flowers falling off are normal – please help! Thanks!

    1. Margaret says:

      Him Jocelyn, and yes — they last a month or two or sometimes more, depending whether it was in full bloom or just starting (buds and blooms) or all buds when you got it. So yes, flowers falling off is normal. After they finish up, you can trim off the flower stalk near the base, and let the plant grow, hoping for blooms next year again. Get some orchid fertilizer to feed it according to package directions — the liquids are easy; you just add ot the water you water it with.

  15. chyanne says:

    Hello. I have bought many phals but they continue to die. My apartment only has a west facing window that is far too bright and is what killed my first phal. The only other windows in my apartment is a north facing bedroom window and a north facing gladd sliding door. The sliding door is very shaded as my balcony has a roof. I have placed my new phal beside the bright west facing window but the flowers are begining to droop and fall off. It is also quite chilly by this window here in what can be minus 40 celcius weather in this canadian province. What do you suggest i do for placement? And how do you ‘save’ a dying orchid? It is in bark, and still in the plastic pot with holes from the store, placed in a ceramic vase with a drain hole. I am going t try the wooden skewer idea as i think i may be over watering. Any input would be great!!!

    1. Margaret says:

      Here are some basics from the American Orchid Society, Chyanne. You need to move it a bit back fromt he direct sun or put a sheer curtain between in and the window of you fear that the light is too strong — but what you are describing sounds more like the end of the bloom cycle (unavoidable) and also possibly draftiness from the cold outside. Can you move it back a bit to be less affected by cold? Again, the flowers do finish and then drop off after each cycle, but stress (too hot or too cold etc.) will make that happen faster.

  16. Maryanne says:

    Hi Margaret
    I am in Florida and we had a cold snap……so I repotted and brougt in my orchids. They all sent out flower stems and I am awaiting their beautiful flowers to open.
    I wish I could grow the lovely beets you pictured but it is too hot and buggy here.
    Feel better and thanks for pictures of your kitty.
    Maryanne

  17. Lisa says:

    I have a question about reblooming. This will be my first attempt with the phal I have had for 2 months. It will be losing it’s last bloom soon and I understand how to cut it down. My question is, how long can I expect it to take to rebloom? Is there an average time? I live in the Phoenix area if climate is a factor.
    Thank you!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Lisa. Often I have seen them not rebloom until the next year…On the other hand, I gave my sister one that basically kept sending up spikes for new flowers much of the time, every few months it seemed, not waiting too long between cycles. If you cut the spike so that it leaves two nodes on the remaining spike, the American Orchid Society says, it may rebloom in 8 to 12 weeks (read their fact sheet on Phals.)

  18. Donna says:

    Hi Margrett,

    My boss gave all his Admin staff Phalaenopsis and one of the plants flower spikes are starting to turn yellow. It was kept in an area that had little indirect sunlight and we have sinced moved it to where another one was being kept and it will get more light. Would over watering cause this?

    Thanks,

    Donna

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Donna. The flower spikes will discolor and go brown after they are done flowering eventually — is that what is up? Overwatering and too little light can both stress a plant, yes. Are the leaves yellow? The oldest ones will gradually fade and come off as new ones are produced.

  19. Tracey says:

    Hi, I have a similar question about the flower spikes. My Phal had the blooms fall off last week. I cut the stems just below where the lowest flower was. The tops of the stems started turning yellow. I repotted the plant and found the roots very tightly packed and some were dried out. I cut both stems some more to the next lowest node. One has stayed green all the way up to the node, but the other continues to turn yellow going down the stem. I cut it a little more tonight, but am wondering if I should just chop it at the base of the stem. Also, I live in Florida. It is August and the blooms just fell off. I received it in July, so I don’t know how long it had been blooming. Will it really take a year to grow new blooms in warm Florida?

    1. margaret says:

      My sister has one Phal that blooms almost nonstop. I swear. I have had them take most of a year to rebloom. So I don’t know what yours will do. I always cut the spikes off as you did when the flowers finish, but you can sometimes get the to “break” from a low mode and resprout. Again, it seems a bit of an experiment to me, but I am not an orchid expert. This man is.

  20. Theresa says:

    my mom brought me two orchid plants from Florida back in May. The flowers have since fell off. I have a new leaf on one and appears to have very small buds on the stalks of one plant, the other one is still very green, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Does this sound like there is hope for these plants? I can kill artificial plants, but would love to keep these going. I don’t even know what type of orchids they are. One was a beautiful purple, the other white with a little yellow in the centers.

    1. margaret says:

      If the leaves look healthy, Theresa, the plant is just going through the normal rest between bloom cycles, which can be quite a while before it’s ready to flower again. Maybe look on the American Orchid Society website and see if you can tell what orchid you have and then choose the right “culture sheet” of how-to for that one?

  21. Francine says:

    My orchid has just begun the process of blooming, however this morning when I checked it, two of the buds fell off. Help what am I doing wrong?

    1. margaret says:

      Is it near a window, Francine, and are you in a cold-winter area, or has the heat recently come on (and is it near a source of heat)? “Bud blast” as it is called when healthy plants drop their flower buds ifs often triggered by changes in the environment. Sometimes it happens when we bring the plants home from the greenhouse (moist, warm) at the garden center we bought them in, or any other shift in environment.

  22. Maureen says:

    I have 3 seemingly healthy Phalaenopsis which have rebloomed once each from the same stems. However the stems on 2 of the orchids have dried out (died?). I think I have the water, fertilizer, and temperatures right. The plants are now sending what appear to be roots out over the top of the pot. If I repot them and bury these roots will they produce new stems for flowers?

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