Season by Season Guide

Updated 2/27/17

This post is going to be a “one stop guide” of everything I do throughout the year with my orchids and what’s going on with them during this time. You can search the various topics in the search feature on the blog for extra advice on what to do.

Quick background on orchids to help explain the seasons –

Orchids grow in nature at a different rate than orchids sold in stores (please click on my post titled “Orchids Grown In Nature” for more information). This is because stores buy orchids from nurseries which have a controlled environment which “forces” orchids into bloom by speeding up natural cues synthetically. They do this by giving them light, (please click on my post on Light Requirements for more information) temperature and humidity that is controlled by indoor nursery environments.

  • In nature orchids normally bloom once a year, for an extended period of months, usually in the Fall through early Spring. Their “nature” cue to bloom is the cool weather in the Fall.
  • Normally in the Summer months leading up to Fall orchids will be in their “active growth phase” which is when they grow new leaves and new roots. Orchids prepare for Fall blooms by storing up energy in new growth (almost like if you were to eat super healthy for a few months before a big race) which is why I give my orchids extra fertilizer at this time. Their “nature” cue at this time is the warm Summer months.

Nothing is wrong with nurseries “forcing” orchids into a cycle. But later on this post, when I explain that my orchids are on a certain cycle it may be confusing to you because your orchid may be on a different cycle. This may because you bought an orchid that was forced into bloom by a nursery or it may be because you live in a different climate. Once you have had your orchids for over a year they will catch up to a natural cycle.

My main goal is to make this easy for you! So if you have just received an orchid and it does not match up with the cycle below… then wait. I do this all the time with newly acquired orchids. I wait for their blooms to fall off. I then repot them and watch as they match up the next year.

Note: Occasionally I have repotted orchids and sadly they have not rebloomed. There are various reasons for this. Click on my post ‘Why won’t my Orchid Bloom” to see why.

Season Guide

Summer

Most of my orchids, that I have not recently bought or received, have been out of bloom for months. At this time they are preparing for their fall spikes (which become blooms) by shedding old leaves and growing both new leaves and roots. This is their natural energy cycle and is called their “active growth phase.” Many people panic when they see their bottom orchid leaves turning yellow and falling off but there is no need to worry because this is normally natural. When their leaves turn yellow you can either cut them off or they will shed naturally and seal themselves off. If you do decide to cut them off then sprinkle some cinnamon on the cut part and use sterilized cutting tool (cinnamon is a natural fungicide).
At this time it is super hot, where I live, and I want to make sure that my orchids are not getting too dry or too hot! I regulate their heat exposure by placing them on humidity trays, sometimes misting them and making sure they are in a well ventilated area. Be especially careful of the heat if you have your orchids outside. Orchids can actually get sunburn.
  • I make sure they are properly watered.
  • I place them on humidity trays, some of which I have made on my own.
  • I sometimes mist them.
  • I make sure they get extra fertilizer.
  • I keep them in a well ventilated area.
  • I repot any newly acquired orchids as soon as they go out of bloom.
  • I am also looking for and treating pest, fungus and rot.

Fall

At this time my orchids are preparing to shoot out new spikes. Spikes are the little shoots that are often confused with roots which become the blooms we all love. Spikes look like little “mittens” at first. If you have any confusion on whether your orchid is producing a root or a spike you can click on my post “Difference between a root and spike.”

Most orchid spikes do not naturally grow up, like we see in stores, which is why we need to stake and clip them. It does not hurt an orchid to stake it. This process is done because most people think orchids look “prettier” this way and this makes it easier to place multiple orchids together, on humidity tray, because they are not crowding each other. You do not need to stake an orchid if you do not prefer.

If you store your orchids indoors, like I do, then you may have to give your orchids the “Fall Cue” by cracking a window near them for a week or two. This is because when we heat our homes orchids do not notice that it’s cold outside and don’t know that it’s time to start growing spikes/shoots.

I have prepared for this time by buying stakes and clips.

As the new spikes grow I stake and clip them with different size stakes. Click on my post on “How to stake orchid spikes” for more information on this.

  • I have cut back on my fertilizer at this time.
  • I continue to water properly, but less than the Summer because they are drying out slower.
  • I continue to have my orchids on humidity trays.
  • I sometimes mist them.
  • I repot any newly acquired orchids as soon as they go out of bloom.
  • I am also looking for and treating pest, fungus and rot.
  • I also take notes, comparing them to last year, keeping track of when I see the first spike appear.

Winter

At this time I am watching my orchids bloom with much anticipation! Most of my orchids have shot out spikes by November and have been staked. Now I am watching them grow, some of them are blooming while others are producing more and more buds. This is a really fun time!

Some orchids experience “bud blast,” which is super annoying. This is when an orchid has a bloom bud that is about to open and instead it shrivels up, turns yellow and dies! I have a post on bloom blast.

  • I continue to cut back on my fertilizer at this time.
  • I water properly, but less than I would in the Spring/Summer months because they are drying out less.
  • I have my orchids on humidity trays.
  • I sometimes mist them.
  • I repot any newly acquired orchids as soon as they go out of bloom.
  • I am also looking for and treating pest, fungus and rot.
  • I take notes on the first bloom time and how many blooms.

SPRING

At this time my orchids have begun to shed their blooms. Orchids do this naturally – the blooms will shrivel and fall off one by one. Orchids have worked hard to produce these blooms as all of their energy is going to the shoot and its blooms. Eventually, when all the blooms have fallen, you will want to cut back their shoots in order to conserve their energy.

Not only do you want to cut back their shoots but you will want to repot them in premium mix. Even the best mix breaks down over time and giving them fresh new mix will help them prepare for their new leaf and root growth. This is also a great time to look at their roots, cut off dead ones and look for any rot.

Your orchid may need to be moved to a bigger pot at this time. Orchids like to be potted snugly but they do not like to be smothered.

Once the blooms have fallen the orchids begins their “active growth phase.” This phase is when they grow new roots and leaves. Without new and healthy root and leaf growth your orchid will not bloom next year. It’s an energy cycle. It would be the same as a kid growing strong bones in preparation for a growth spurt, which is why we increase fertilization in the Spring and Summer months.

They will also shed their bottom leaves as new leaf growth appears. You have the option to let the orchid shed its leaf naturally (it will seal itself off) or cut it off.

At this time, if you want, you have the option to move your orchid outside. You just need to make sure they do not get too hot. Do not put them in full sun – orchids like dapple shade. Also if you put them outside you will need to take extra care to make sure they don’t dry out or get scorched. I do not move my orchids outside FYI.

  • I make sure they are properly watered.
  • I place them on humidity trays, some of which I have made on my own.
  • I sometimes mist them.
  • I make sure they get extra of fertilizer.
  • I repot my orchids as soon as they go out of bloom.
  • I also take notes on them to see when they drop their blooms, what their roots look like, and if I moved their pot size.
  • I am also looking for and treating pest, fungus and rot.

Hope that helps,

Hannah

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

20 Comments on “Season by Season Guide

  1. Was wondering if you can help me, I work for a venue in South Africa and we use orchids as part of our decor. We would like to keep them for atleast 3 months but that seems to be impossible through seasons. For instant, we struggle to keep them looking healthy in summer as South Africa is rather hot. The first mistake that i noticed is we keep them in a pot that does not have drainage although we take them out when watering it looks like some excess water remains in the roots and it is causing the roots to rot which then result in the petals looking falling off.

    Winter is one of the best seasons because we can keep then for more than 3 months.

    How can we care for them in Summer?
    What other way of watering them is there, can it be thet we are damaging the roots when we keep taking them out from the pots to water them and putting them back
    Which fertilizer can we use to keek them looking radiant
    How much stones do we need to put at the bottom of the pots to help drain the water.

    Hope you will assist me

    Kind Regards

    • Hi,

      Orchid blooms typically only last for about three months regardless. If you want to keep the orchids so they re bloom you will have to place them in pots with drainage holes. You want to water them only when they are very dry and they need to be placed near a window for natural shady light.

      I use Feedme fertilizer from this site…

      http://www.repotme.com/orchid-fertilizer/index.html?no_redirect=true

      I use the liquid form bc you can mix it with water and then water at the same time you fertilize. Orchids need more fertilizer in the summer because it’s there active growing season.

      When placing stones at the bottom of your orchid pots you want them to be high enough that they clear any water.

      Hope that helps and best of luck,

      Hannah

      • Will 24 inches aprox. work? (Not too great at imperial measurements.)
        Thanks, John

      • Okay, thanks! My orchid is beside a window which WON’T open, but about 24″ away from a door that WILL, so thanks!
        John

      • No because August here is pretty muggy and hot. I normally wait till its chilly here which it is definitely not 🙂

    • I would love to help.

      I need to ask of few questions first…

      1. How long have you had it?
      2. How do you water it?
      3. Have you repotted it?
      4. Is it placed near a light source?
      5. Has it bloomed before?

      You can respond here or send it to the email on the blog. Myfirstorchid@gmail.com

      Hannah

  2. Remember my first and only orchid, red-yellow blooms? Well, it has a tiny new leaf, two tiny new roots, and a new bloom bud. Is this unusual for a new orchid? And the sad part is that……,.it doesn’t have a new spike. 🙂

    • If it also had a new spike, it would be new everything! Comment count 44.
      John

      • So now, that tiny new leaf is now huge(bigger than the one below it, and still has a bit of that “new leaf” tinge or at least I guess so.) But the top leaf on the other side is SMALLER than the one below it(oh no!). It’s started another new leaf(yay!) and the original bloom spike still has a bloom left.
        After all this information, do you think it’s healthy? That smaller top leaf?

      • John,

        Sounds pretty healthy to me! A lot of time my orchid leaves grow at different rates – that is fine. It looks a bit funny but will eventually even itself out (though this could take years).

        Hannah

      • Thanks Hannah! Wanted to make sure.
        John

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