With their large, vibrant flowers, it’s no surprise that orchids are popular houseplants. Like many houseplants, orchids benefit from pruning and may even rebloom when pruned correctly. However, different types of orchids should be pruned in different ways. In this article, we’ll discuss when, why, and how to prune orchids.
Why Pruning Orchids is Important
Most houseplants benefit from being pruned at least once a year, including orchids. Pruning these symbolic plants also helps them focus their valuable energy on new growth. If pruned correctly, some types of orchids can even rebloom later in the year.
Pruning is also good for the health of your orchid. If your orchid has developed yellow leaves, pruning can help the plant recover. You can also prune off any brown, damaged, or dying leaves to keep your orchid looking strong and healthy.
Are All Types of Orchids Suitable for Pruning?
Most types of orchids can benefit from being pruned at least once a year. However, different types of orchids have slightly different pruning requirements. Orchids are divided into two main types depending on how they grow; monopodial orchids and sympodial orchids.
Monopodial orchids grow upright and produce their flowers and leaves on a single stem. As monopodial orchids grow, some of the older leaves towards the bottom of the stem fall off. Phalaenopsis orchids and Vanda orchids are two popular types of monopodial orchids.
While monopodial orchids grow upright, sympodial orchids spread horizontally. As sympodial orchids spread, they produce upright growths called pseudobulbs. Each pseudobulb is a duplicate of its predecessor, and it’s these growths that produce the flowers. Cattleya orchids and Dendrobium orchids are two popular kinds of sympodial orchids.
How to Prune Orchids
Here are my favorite techniques for pruning both monopodial and sympodial orchids. Remember to use clean, sharp tools and only prune your orchids after flowering.
How to Prune Monopodial Orchids
- Water your orchid a couple of days before pruning it. This makes it easier to identify any roots that need to be removed.
- Before pruning your orchid, check whether the stem is healthy. If the stem is dry, brown, or yellow, cut it right back to the soil.
- If the stem is green, then it’s nice and healthy, which means it could produce more flowers. Prune the stem just above the highest healthy node below the lowest faded flower. Cut about half an inch above the node.
- If winter is approaching, your orchid will need to enter dormancy. Prune the flower stem hard and leave an inch of growth.
- Prune off any old, wilting, or damaged leaves that haven’t already fallen off. Cut the leaves right back to the stem.
- Cut off any black or brown roots and repot the orchid if necessary.
How to Prune Sympodial Orchids
- Prune any roots that are excessively long to a more manageable length.
- Prune the flowering stem of each pseudobulb to just above the first pair of leaves. However, if you have a Dendrobium orchid, don’t cut off any part of the stems. Instead, just remove the spent flowers.
- Completely remove any pseudobulbs that aren’t green and don’t have eyes on the stem. The eyes should resemble leaf nodes or the eyes on potatoes.
- Prune off any damaged or dead leaves as well as brown or mushy roots.
- If necessary, repot your orchid.
Growth Expectations for Orchids
Different types of orchids grow to slightly different sizes. Most orchids grow between 1 and 3 feet tall and approximately 0.5 to 1 foot wide. Orchids are reasonably slow-growing plants, meaning they don’t need repotting often. However, orchids are long-lived plants that can live for approximately 10 to 15 years indoors.
What is the Best Time of Year to Prune Orchids?
The best time to prune orchids depends on when each type of orchid flowers. Orchids should be pruned once they finish flowering. The length of the flowering season is different depending on the exact orchid that you have.
Phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids, can bloom for up to six months. Phalaenopsis orchids may also rebloom later in the year with some light pruning. Cattleya orchids bloom for up to four weeks, while Dendrobium orchids can flower for up to six weeks.
What Are the Essential Tools for Pruning Orchids?
When pruning any type of orchid, using the right equipment is important. Always use a pair of clean, sharp secateurs to prevent unnecessary damage. Pruning your orchids with sterile secateurs also helps reduce the risk of disease.
Always sharpen your secateurs before pruning your orchids. Clean your secateurs using a 5% bleach solution to ensure they’re sterile.
Caring for Orchids After Pruning
Once you’ve pruned your orchid, return it to a spot that meets its care requirements. Position your orchid somewhere that receives several hours of bright, indirect light. Most orchids like warm, humid conditions with temperatures between 75 and 85ºF and humidity levels between 40 and 70%.
After pruning monopodial orchids, avoid watering them for a few days. Then, give them a thorough drink and fertilize them as normal. Water sympodial orchids lightly immediately after pruning.
Pruning Orchids FAQs:
When Should Orchids Be Pruned?
All orchids should be pruned after they finish flowering. Some orchids may rebloom later in the season if pruned correctly.
Where Do You Prune Orchids?
For monopodial orchids, prune the stem to about half an inch above a healthy node. For Dendrobium orchids, just remove the spent flowers and leave the stems intact.
What is the Best Way to Prune Orchids?
The best way to prune orchids is to wait until they finish flowering. Then, prune them using clean, sterile secateurs and remove any dead or damaged leaves and roots.
Orchids should be pruned right after they finish flowering. Monopodial orchids should be trimmed back to a healthy node. Sympodial orchids should be pruned back to the first pair of leaves on the pseudobulb. Leave the stems of Dendrobium orchids intact and just remove the spent flowers. Always use clean, sharp tools when pruning orchids.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.