Difference between an Orchid Root & Spike

What’s the difference between a root and spike?

Updated 12/11/17

*Above two picture is one of my Phalaenopsis orchid spiking. You can see the small buds growing.

If you have successfully repotted your orchid (it’s on a natural schedule) and Fall has arrived you should be anxiously awaiting for it to spike. By “spike” I mean the beginning of the shoot that becomes the bloom.

The big question is it a SPIKE or is it a ROOT?

It is very easy to confuse a root for a spike. But once you see a real spike you will not confuse them again! They look like little “mittens” or little hands, as shown in the picture below and will grow upwards towards light. And easy way to remember this… it’s cold out (fall) look for “mittens”


You typically expect to see these little “mittens” on your orchid by late November. Spikes emerge from the same area of the plant as some ariel roots which is why it easy to confuse them (see my post on aerial roots). In the picture below you can see both a root and a spike. Can you tell the difference? The spike is bright green, aiming upwards and has that classic ” mitten” shape…it’s in the middle. The root is growing lower and is smaller and has a dusty green/white color.


Here is another example…In this picture the spike is again bright green, growing up and has the mitten shape. While the roots, below it, are again a dusty green/white color.


In this last pic we see a better picture of the roots. You can see a big, more established, spike/shoot on the left – which is growing behind the stick and is probably in bloom. This orchid has a bunch of ariel roots, they are growing all around this pot. In this case the orchid needs to be repotted soon to push some of these roots down in the soil.

Each spike on an orchid will have at least a few nodes going up the spike prior to the blooms. A node, shown below, looks like a little half envelope going up the branch and each node has the potential to branch off and have its own bloom!


Make sure you have stakes on hand to hold up your new spike. For spiking tips see my post on How to Stake and Orchid.

Hope that helps!


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.


42 Comments on “Difference between an Orchid Root & Spike

  1. …my phals have already bloomed and cut the spike on the 2nd upper node where there is growth i do not know if that is bud, but my question is” Which one is better, to cut the spike all the way down after they bloom? or is it better to leave it cutting the spike to the upper 2nd node?it is because if i leave it like this, it might not have lots of energies for the next blooming season. pls help since i have 26 phals and 8 oncidiums but i’m new in researching their needs.THANKS! love to hear from you…

  2. I think some of my phal orchids may be spiking in the wrong season? I live in New York and it’s spring right now. The temperature is around 54-58 this week and nighttime is about 50-52. I leave one window open a little bit for air. I’ve heard lower nighttime temperatures can trigger the orchid into spiking? I didn’t record when they started spiking, but they’ve been coming in since about a month ago.

    • That can be totally normal with the warm winter we had. And it can also be triggered by nighttime temperatures if your windows are open. I have a few spiking now.


  3. I would like to send you a couple of pictures so you can tell me if what I’m seeing is a flower spike or a root. I think I know but would like a second opinion.

  4. I bought an orchid at my local grocery store about a week and a half ago, well it was a birthday present from my husband 😆, brought it home and watered it with the shit glass it came with, accidentally used the hug that contained fertilizer. One tsp per gallon of MiracleGro liquid plant food.. but onlyoh the one shot in it. Now, 10 days later, ALL of the flowers have fallen off!! The last orchid I got I brought home and immediately transplanted bc walamrt does not take good care of their plants. It was dry as a bone, the small plastic pot it was in was cracked in 3 plqces so I thought transplanting would be for the best. It was my first orchid ever, knew nothing about them AT ALL. Found out upon googling that transplanting should not be done until the flowers have fallen off anyway. So i left the new one I got 10 days ago in the pot it came in. By the flowers still fell off! I live in Arkansas so its very humid here but I keep certain plants indoors, including my orchids. It stays between 67° and 72° in the room I have them in. Im not overwatering, they dont get direct sunlight, just medium to low. The sun rises towards the window in my bedroom where i keep my plants but i keep the 2 orchids further away so they do not receive any direct sunlight. I was wondering, need some help PLEASE, (I emailed the company I bought the orchid from 5 days ago and they obviously have no intention on getting back to me, thanks to them) is it because I accidentally watered with the fertilizer? Is there not enough humidity in here? The 1st one I have had about 5 months and the same thing happened to it but the leaves on it are a dark green and are very strong, it seems to be thriving well. There are 2 little green things starting to grow off either side of it, but too small to know if they are roots or stems, I’m hoping stems!!! but time will tell. I don’t feel like I am doing anything wrong, except maybe watering the newer one with fertilizer. Why do my flowers fall off within a week?! Its between 95° and 102° here outside so i dont think it would be a good idea to put them out there? ANY input or help would be GREATLY APPRECIATED, especially since the company I bought the 2nd one from doesn’t care enough to email me back. I know you guys will, I habe emailed you before with questions and yoh helped alot. Please help me understand what is wrong, if I’m doing something wrong, if it’s too cool in here or not enough humidity or did I just buy 2 bad plants? Please please help!!! I LOVE orchids, they are so beautiful and I would love to have a few more but i need to get to the root of the problem first. Thank you in advance for any help at all.

  5. I have two orchids and they both have a green shoot coming up the middle do i water or feed them.thanks billy.

  6. HI, I absolutely love your blog! I apologize in advance if I use the incorrect wording in my description and questions.

    I took a chance on a Phalaenopsis that was given to me in full bloom in October. I cut above a couple nodes (orchid had two “stems”) and was lucky enough get spikes on each. One spike doesn’t seem to have changed in the passed two weeks, while the other, has formed two small bulbs. I feel like neither are moving much in growth. I was so new to orchids that I didn’t repot it. It’s still in the same “mulch” it came in.
    My questions are:

    1. At this point can I still repot?

    2. In this stage of growth, how much water should I be giving it?

    3. How long does it take for the buds to bloom? Maybe I’m being too impatient?

    Thank you sooooo much for sharing your knowledge and love of orchids!
    I don’t plan on giving up.



  7. Thanks, Hannah.
    Another question: I have spent blossoms that have not fallen off. One blossom is over a year old. They have all dried. Is this normal?

    • Hi,

      You never want to repot when the orchid is in its bloom cycle because it can shock the orchid and cause bud blast. Wait till the spike has bloomed and the buds have died to repot it.


      • Thank you. I’m so glad I’ve discovered your web site. Can’t wait for my new spike to bloom, then I’ll try repotting for the first time.

  8. thanks for this post.
    this is really silly – i have two aerial roots growing out and up of the pot, and didn’t realise the difference ! time for a pot upgrade.

  9. Oh my oh my….I just found some new growth on my phal that I’ve been caring for as I’ve learned on your blog. I checked this article and hey! It’s a spike! I’m so excited, this orchid was my first and I wasn’t sure it would bloom this year.

  10. Thank you the imformation has helped to understand , we have never repotted the orchid.they are Ariel roots . We have got on ours. Thanks again .you were most helpful. GWEN

  11. Hello,

    My orchid has been growing an apical keiki for a few months now, and is just starting to sprout roots. When I looked at it on Friday, it had a couple root nubs poking out. When I came back on Monday (the orchid is at work) it had undergone quite a growth-spurt! Not only does the keiki have four small (1-2 cm long) roots, it also has a good size (5-6 cm) spike! I had been planning to re-pot once the roots were big enough, but now I don’t know what to do.

    Since it’s growing a spike, I shouldn’t re-plant, correct? But I can’t support the spike because it’s growing sideways off an apical keiki! What do I do?

    Any advice you would provide would be helpful! Thank you!

    • Hi,

      I would be nervous to repot it now because it could cause the spike to experience bud blast later. This is because repotting shocks and orchid. I would wait till after it blooms and then repot it. I know the spike won’t be supported but that is ok. In nature they are not supported but we support them because we like how it looks.

      Here is my link on bud blast….


      Is it potted in a pot without drainage holes per chance?


      • It is potted in a clear pot with drainage holes, although the mother is probably about ready for a re-potting as well – starting to grow up and out of the pot. Thank you for the advice, I guess I will wait until the buds have dropped and then will replant mother and keiki together!

        Thanks for this great blog, Hannah!

    • Tricia,

      I would love to help? Are they yellow and mushy like they maybe rotting or just a yellow hue? Is there a way you can send me a picture at myfirstorchid@gmail.com? If not we can try to figure it out here.

      Either way –
      How do you water it?
      Does it have a drainage hole?


  12. So I bought this beautiful orchid at a flea market last spring for $12 and it bloomed out perfect the flowers lasted a long while and it had little beads of sap all over it and they eventually fell off and I cut the stems it’s now january it has put off three new leaves many roots and has a 4 inch spike with the sap my question is I have a damaged leaf can I cut it? Also it’s in a small clear pot with moss type stuff and I bought a slightly larger glass vase to keep it in for a humid environment can I just transfer it to the vase? Last but not least is the sap a good or bad sign!!!!!

    • Hi Lance,

      I would love to help!

      First – damaged leaves can be cut but you don’t really want to cut a leaf unless it’s already cut and dangling (like if you dropped it). The leaves support the plant even though they may be damaged. Just be careful to not cut a leaf that has a scrape on it or something like that because even though they may be not nice to look at they are still supporting the plant. Also if you do decide to cut them – you can sprinkle some cinnamon on the (common household spice – also a natural fungicide) cut part.

      2. Potting – when watering them make sure both pots have drainage. Orchids like to be quite snug in their pots so if you decide to move up a size make sure the roots are very snug in the new one. Orchids are not like other plants in that they need a lot of “room to grow.”

      3. Sap is not normal. Was your orchid originally dyed blue? You can send me a picture at myfirstorchid@gmail.com – if you like or just further explain it here.

      Hope that helps,


  13. Why do I have roots coming out with five leaves below it and three leaves above it? Could it be a spike?!

  14. I am an orchid newbie. My husband gave me a Taida Salu orchid over a year ago. After the flowers died, some leaves developed on top the stem and now I have two roots coming out on the stem. Can I cut them stem and plant the roots? I did not know I was supposed to cut the stem after the flower went away.

  15. Help!
    I am completely lost. I have gotten a new orchid (phalaenopsis) and all has been well until these odd sprouts have popped up right out of the soil. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t seem to find an answer. They are small skinny sprouts with white stems and two small green leaves that grow from the stem just like orchid leaves. They are not attached to the root or the stem of my orchid. they look harmless but I want to know wat are they. Are they weeds? Or are they a new orchid all buy itself? please help. 🙂

    thank you!

    • Shelly,

      I would love to help! If leaves are attached to them then it’s probably a basal Keiki, which is a baby orchid, I have a post on this. But I can’t tell you for sure without a picture. Can you send one to myfirstorchid@gmail.com ? If not then google basal Keiki on an orchid or look at my post and compare pictures to see.

      If they did not have leaves on them I would say it was Ariel Roots….


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