Staking Orchid Spikes

My orchid is growing a new bloom stem/shoot. Should I stake it?

Updated 12/11/17

Staking orchids is easy and essential for growing your standard indoor orchids. Most orchids do not naturally grow up, as we see them sold in our local florist shops. In nature they sometimes grow on trees, clinging to them and sometimes growing down (as shown below). It will not hurt your orchid to stake it, we simply do this because it looks pretty growing in our homes and saves space.

Overview

I normally wait till my spikes are at least 3 – 4 inches long and then I gentle attach (clip) them to a stake and wait for them to grow even longer before attaching a second clip. Then you can gradually add more clips and manipulate it straight up.

Note: They are very fragile at first and will break very easily. This has happened to me before and I was heart-broken.

On the other hand if you wait till they are much longer and try to stake them then they can break as well because at this time they have hardened a bit. You have to start when they are smaller but be very careful because the new stalk is tender and gradually gets much firmer as it grows.

If you have a hard time telling if your orchid is producing a new spike or if it’s a root click here.

How to stake an orchid

1. Once your orchid shoot/spike has begun growing it will grow upwards for a couple of inches before it would naturally starts falling. At this time get a stake (I get mine from here) and gently push it in the mix next to the shoot (as shown below).

img_1099

2. Then take ties/clips to secure it to the stake.

There are many ties/clips you can choose from. Here are two examples of basic clips and then some fun clips…

3. As your orchid shoot grows you will need small to large stakes. Gently replace the stakes, with larger ones, as it grows (as shown below).

img_1096

4. Eventually it will begin to produce buds and at this point you can let it fall naturally at the top to create an arch, which will give it a nice full look.

Below is what your orchid should look like when fully bloomed and staked properly. This is my rockstar orchid #5.

IMG_1097.JPG

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.

Cutting an Orchid Bloom Stem

Should I cut my orchid stem back, after it’s done blooming?

Updated 12/11/17

This post will cover what you should do with your orchid stem once your orchid is done blooming. When I say “done blooming” I mean ALL the blooms have fallen off and your orchid stem is turning brown. The stem may only turn brown half way down the shoot or it may turn brown completely. The picture below is a Phalaenopsis spike dying back after blooming, it is brown half way down the shoot.

After your orchid is finished blooming you WILL want to cut off the shoot (stem) that produced the blooms. You will want to do this because the process of an orchid blooming takes energy from the plant. By cutting the shoot back it conserves any energy that is still going towards the shoot which allows the orchid to focus its energy into growing new leaves and new roots. Orchids work in a cycle between new roots, new leaves and the production of blooms.

You have two options in this scenario;

  • Option #1 – (THIS IS THE METHOD I USE) Cut the orchid stem at its base, way down by the leaves. I cut it about half an inch from the base. By cutting the shoot back entirely it allows the plant to gather more energy for a greater bloom next year. I always use this option because I am looking for a fuller bloom in the coming year. I especially do this with a young plant or one with a smaller or weak root structure so that it can gain a bit more energy for the future. I also don’t wait for my orchid stems to turn brown. I immediately cut it back once the blooms have fallen.
  • Option #2 – Cut it back right below the brown part of the stem. If you choose to cut the shoot halfway (just below the brown part) you may have more blooms sooner because sometimes orchids do give off a second bloom, from a dying shoot, but it will often result in smaller blooms. Also this has been very rare for me which is further reason why I choose option #1.  In this case you would want to cut it right above a node (shown below). I know a lot of people who choose this option, IF the plant has a large root system. That way it allows the plant to potentially branch off an existing shoot.

A node looks like a half envelope on the orchid shoot.

img_1085

How do you cut an orchid stem back?

  • You want to use a clean sharp cutting tool
  • Clip the shoot
  • Then sprinkle cinnamon, yes the natural stuff in your cabinet, on it to help it fight off bacteria. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide.
  • At this point you may also want to repot your orchid because your orchid will focus on growing new roots and leaves as it prepares for new flower spike in the Fall. By repotting it you are giving it fresh new mix that has extra nutrients (all orchid mix breaks down overtime and needs to be replaced).

Here is a great video, from http://www.repotme.com that will guide you in cutting back your orchid stems.

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.

Aerial Roots on Orchids

Why are there roots growing out of the top of my orchid plant? And why do they look dead?

Updated 12/11/17

Roots that grow above the surface of an orchid are called aerial roots and are not super attractive (in my opinion). They can look whitish grey and never seem to look super green like the roots that are buried.

It is easy to think they are dead or something is wrong with your orchid but this is just how they look. They are normal and healthy. In nature an orchid tries to grab onto the trees and shrubs around it – this is why they grow that way. Aerial roots also help with photosynthesis and they absorb moisture from the air. This helps the orchid produce healthy leaves, roots and blooms. For this reason they should NOT be cut off.

Note: it’s easy to confuse an aerial root with a spike. Please click on my post titled “Root and Spike difference.

Burying aerial roots:

A ton of aerial roots is one sign that your orchids need to be repotted. Especially when they are super overgrown as shown in the pictures above. When orchids are this overgrown you should be able to bury some of them when you repot your orchid.

NOTE: You may not be able to bury all of them some of mine are growing in between leaves and those I leave alone. Shown below…

Back to burying the other ones: When you do this you have to be extra careful not to break them off because they can be quite brittle.
When I go to repot and I need to bury aerial roots I soak the entire orchid in a bucket of room temperature water for a bit and the roots become a little more malleable so you can bury them. If you just force them then they WILL break off. And even though aerial roots can be ugly they still provide energy and sustenance to the orchid so I like to keep them. Once the roots are little more malleable you can gently guide them down into the pot and cover them with bark or moss. If one or two break then it’s not the end of the world.
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.

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”

173ED362-7839-4BAB-99F6-52BBE9C0FC20

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.

20111114-142601.jpg

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.

20111126-213424.jpg

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!

20111114-143257.jpg

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!

Hannah

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

 

Keiki “Baby Orchid”

What is a keiki?

updated 12/10/17

The word keiki is Hawaiian for “baby.” A keiki is essentially a baby orchid produced from your original “mother” plant. A keiki will be the same genre as the mother and will have similar color and likeness. There are two types of keikis: basal keiki and apical/ariel keiki.

  • Basal means it is located at/or near the base of an orchid.
  • Apical means it grows from the apex of the bloom stem of an orchid….way up high.

As defined above, keiki’s can grow in two different locations on an orchid and for two different reasons.

Locations (Places a keiki will grow):

  • Apical keiki – From an existing stalk with its OWN aerial roots (shown above). These grow high on already existing orchid bloom stalks.

IMG_1048.JPG

  • Basal keiki – Along side the existing orchid, growing from its base and SHARING the same root system (shown above).

Reasons (a keiki will grow):

  • Many times an orchid will “save itself” by sprouting a keiki because it is dying. This happens a lot when crown or root rot has taken hold of an orchid. This is normally due to the orchid being potted in a pot with no drainage thus being overwatered which suffocates the roots.
  • A dormant node on an orchid “decides” to sprout a new keiki in an otherwise completely healthy orchid. This happens when there is a build up of growth hormones.

What should you do with a keiki?

 You can do two different things, depending on where the keiki is located.

A. Apical keiki – If it is sprouting from an existing bloom stem, way up high (as shown in the first example – under locations) with its own aerial roots you should do the following:

  1. Wait until it has at least two or three good size roots.
  2. Snip it off about 1 or 2 inches down the bloom stalk, being careful to not clip the small keiki roots.
  3. Repot it NEXT to the existing mother plant for the first year (if it is time to repot the mother then repot both at the same time in the same pot). After the first year, you may place it in its own little pot. We do this because it’s the same genre and it helps to keep it in the same mix it grew in order to regulate humidity, watering and fertilization. Or, if the mother is suffering, you would want to repot the keiki in a fresh new pot and most likely discard the mother.
  4. When potting it, you will want to push the roots downward with the small shoot that you have cut off. Roots are sometimes not malleable unless wet. If this is the case, then I would recommend soaking them in water before doing this.

It may take months before an Ariel keiki is ready to be cut off. Below is an example.

img_1023img_1022

Note: you can keep the keiki on the existing mother plant and it will bloom, but it may look a bit sloppy because it’s dangling in the air. I would only suggest doing this if the mother plant is healthy and you don’t mind the look.

B. Basal keiki – If it is sprouting from the root base, along side an existing orchid (as shown in the second example – under location), you will want to do the following:

This case is very different from the above one because the keiki is SHARING the root system of the mother (it does not have one of its own) and therefore CANNOT be separated! In this case you should leave it alone. These keikis tend to grow quickly because they are sharing the existing established root system of the mother.

In the case of a basal keiki growing because the mother plant is dying, you would still do nothing. The mother plant will die back/fade away and the basal keiki will replace it. How cool is that?!

In the case of a basal keiki growing because there was a build up of growth hormones on a healthy orchid, again do nothing. The mother and baby will grow side by side and create an even bigger orchid.

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.

Mounting an Orchid

How do I mount an orchid?

Updated 12/11/17

Orchids grown in nature are amazing (please click on my post “Orchids Growing in Nature“). Seeing them naturally cling to a tree is beautiful. If you have the opportunity to mount orchids and see them grow as they would in nature, then please do! It is an amazing way to experience an orchid’s growth.
If you live in a tropical environment it is quite easy to grow orchids, in this way, because of the humidity and ample water. 
I have seen this on Useppa Island for years (grown by my grandparents and now their children) as they grow in the nooks and crannies of trees. Orchids can grow indefinitely and looking back I wonder what year they were planted? Where did they come from? And how long will they survive after the patient planting and loving hands of fellow orchid enthusiasts? I look forward to seeing these orchids, on Useppa, for years to come!
Tree fern, wood, and cork orchid mounting plaques are a wonderful way to display your orchids. Orchids love to “hug” their roots around and through the various mounts. I love orchids because of their sense of community, how they “hug” things and love being near other orchids. The best way to mount your orchid is attaching it with a fishing line, string or wire. Also using a wine bottle filled with sand, sealed with a cork with a Phalaenopsis hook sticking out makes a good sturdy hanger. Click here for a full tutorial on how to mount an orchid.
Below is a pic of my mother’s mounted orchid….
It is not as easy, however, to grow mounted orchids in homes because it’s hard to give them enough water and humidity. This is especially true with dry air during the winter season. Also it’s hard logistically to bring them to your sink to water them. This is not to say that you can’t do this… you may just need to watch them more carefully than if they were potted. But it will be worth it.

Hope that helps and thanks for letting me share,

Hannah

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

Growing Orchids Outdoors

Can I grow my orchids outside?

Updated 12/11/17

Orchids can thrive outdoors given the right environmental conditions that support their unique needs. Orchids are not as finicky as people make them out to be. They can survive in most climates as long as they don’t get too cool or too hot.

– In general, a frosty night can kill an orchid. So many orchids, depending on where you live, will need to be taken indoors in the fall and winter.

– Also scorching heat will both sunburn an orchid leaf and dry it out too quickly. So your orchid will need be placed in an area that has dappled shade (indirect sunlight). You can tell if your orchid is getting too hot by feeling the leaves…. if they are hot to the touch then they need to be moved to an area that has less direct sunlight.

Orchids that especially benefit from growing outside are; Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Oncidium orchids. They love the warmth and extra light due to the fact that they are “high light” orchids. Because of this they may grow better and bloom more reliably when “treated” to the summer outdoors. We must remember that even if an orchid is said to be “high light” it does not mean the kind of full sun that you expect in say a tomato plant. “High light” is a term that is relative and specific to the light requirements of the Orchid Family. All orchids need “dapple shade” which is essential for “high light” orchids.
If you wish to move these orchids outside in the warm months simply bring them outside in their pots. You will want to really make sure that your orchids don’t dry out too much, so remember to mist them and put them humidity trays.

You can also mount them as seen in the previous post. My grandfather and grandmother loved planting their orchids on Florida trees which is now carried on by their children. This is a beautiful way to grow orchids!

NOTE: Allowing your orchids to benefit from the outdoors opens you up to fungus and pests that can wreak havoc on your dear plant!

Pest and fungus can be difficult to control both in and outdoors. If you have pets or children it can also be disconcerting to use certain pesticides to control these issues.

Please click on the above links for pest and fungus.

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.

Orchids Grown in Nature

How do orchids grow in nature?

Updated 12/11/17

In nature most orchids grow on trees. Their roots grab and “hug” the tree bark and support themselves through this union. The orchid uses the tree as an anchor and gets nutrients from all the organic matter that is on the tree and whatever may wash down the tree through the orchid. This typically happens in a jungle environment. Jungles are humid and orchids thrive in this environment because they absorb water from the natural humidity (check out my post on Humidity and Orchids). Because of natural rain in these areas, the orchid is used to experiencing abundant water (which washes over them) and times of dryness. Orchid roots, leaves and pseudobulbs allow the storage of water for an upcoming dry period. Some orchids grow upright and some naturally slope downward (most orchids we see are staked which makes them grow straight up).

20111119-210043.jpg

Naturally orchids bloom on a schedule that is rarely seen in todays world. In our world orchids are “forced” into bloom by a nursery. Nurseries have a “perfect” growing environment in which humidity, light and temperature are controlled. This environment allows nurseries to produce blooming orchids year round. For example if you buy an orchid in the Summer, and it is in full bloom, it has most likely been forced into bloom by a nursery. Nothing is wrong with a nursery doing this but once you have your own orchids, on a natural cycle, then they will bloom on the schedule of nature which is early Winter and Spring. In the Summer is normally when an orchid will grow roots and leaves. Orchids need to grow new leaves and new roots to store up energy for the upcoming bloom period. See my Season by Season guide post for more information on this.

All of these facts explain why is is very strange for an orchid to grow in your house, in a pot and being staked. This is not to say that they can not be grown in your home (orchids are very hardy and easy to grow) but you must create a “jungle” environment. Meaning you must repot them snug but not smothering (they need to breath), you must give them humidity, and they enjoy a good misting.

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.

Sphagnum Moss & Bark for Orchids

What mix should I pot my orchids in?

Updated 12/11/17

I love, love, love Sphagnum moss for my Phalaenopsis orchids! I use a sphagnum mix that also includes other things like bark etc.  It is so easy to tell when they need to be watered because when the moss gets dry it gets “crunchy.” What I mean by “crunchy” is that, to the touch, they actually make a crunch noise…. like a dry sponge. I know when to water my orchids by touching the moss. If it feels wet like a wet or damp sponge I know NOT to water it. I wait till it feels almost bone dry. Orchids are used to times of abundant water and then dry spells. They don’t like to be wet all the time.

When you buy most orchids they have bark on top which makes it hard to tell when they need to be watered. It is very helpful to have sphagnum moss plus the right clear pots in order to solve this problem.

Note: If you choose to use bark that is perfectly fine – I just prefer a moss mix. And in most places it’s hard to find premium moss so if this is the case go ahead and get orchid bark. Also when switching between any type of mix (bark to moss or vice versa) it may shock your orchid a bit so don’t be alarmed if the leaves look a bit droopy at first. Give it time to adjust.

What I use:

I started with this Classic Orchid Mix. This mix was especially useful to me, as a beginner because it is so easy to use! This moss is also good for weak and recovering plants. I now use Imperial Orchid Mix (which is just a simple upgrade) once I got the hang of caring for my first orchids. I love them both but it’s good to start with the most simple mix because you get a real “feel” for your orchids.

Background on Sphagnum Moss by my favorite site, rePotme: “It comes from bogs and is harvested, compressed and imported for use in the floral industry. There are many graded levels of sphagnum moss. The quality of sphagnum moss is relative to the length of the strands, how fluffy each strand is, and how much debris is packaged in with the moss. Lower quality moss obviously costs less. The sphagnum moss that is used by the floral industry to line hanging baskets and package seedling plants for transport is typically of a much lower grade than we would choose for use as a media to grow orchids in.

In the growing of orchids we are looking for top quality sphagnum moss with long, fluffy, open strands and good capillary action for moisture. In Taiwan, the largest exporting country of Phalaenopsis orchids, virtually all Phalaenopsis are grown in Sphagnum moss. In cooler climates and in cultivation in the home, sphagnum moss can present some challenges with overwatering. The good news is, sphagnum moss as an orchid medium is highly adaptable. Packed tightly in a pot it will retain a lot of moisture. Packed lightly in a pot it will dry out rapidly. But here is where the quality of the moss really comes in to play. Standard floral-quality sphagnum moss, available from nurseries and box stores and even sometimes advertised as ‘orchid moss’ is not suitable for growing orchids. Orchids grown in this lesser grade of sphagnum moss will not thrive as they could in a higher grade of moss as this moss compacts and quickly becomes sodden in all but the most arid environments.

For orchids we recommend AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss or 5 Star Chilean Sphagnum Moss only. The quality of the two is fairly comparable though many hobbyists feel that AAA New Zealand Sphagnum Moss is fluffier. These two products will be labeled as such, the lesser grades of sphagnum will be labeled as ‘orchid moss’ or simply ‘sphagnum moss’.

It is important to clarify the difference between sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss, also called just ‘peat moss’. Sphagnum peat moss is not the same thing as sphagnum moss. In a sphagnum bog the sphagnum moss is the living moss that floats on the top of the bog. Sphagnum peat moss is the dead moss that falls to the bottom of the bog. Upon harvesting, the top layer of live sphagnum moss is taken first and then the bottom layer of peat moss is harvested. Peat moss is then processed into a soil amendment that is also a valuable media for orchids but it is markedly different in appearance and texture. Most of the sphagnum moss and sphagnum peat moss we see here in nurseries and big box stores comes from Canada.”

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.

What Orchid Pots to Use

What orchid pots should I use?

Updated 12/11/17

Orchids naturally grow in the nooks and crannies of trees, in tropical environments (as shown below), or in some cases rooted in the ground. When potting orchids we need to mimic this environment. Check out my post on Orchids Grown in Nature.

There are a lot of options when it comes to potting orchids (clay, plastic, ceramic etc). It is important to the health of your orchid to have the “right pot.”

The right pot should include;

  • An environment that allows their roots to both be “hugged” and “feel” free. You will want to pot your orchids in the smallest pot that the roots will fit in with a little wiggle room for new growth.
  • Orchids also need a lot of humidity, which is typically not found in our homes. The “right” pot helps by holding some moisture around the roots. If your orchids does not have healthy roots then you are in trouble! Orchids show their health through new root and leaf growth. The orchid blooming system is in direct result of their root/leaf system. Check out my post on Humidity.
  • Drainage, drainage, drainage. Without proper drainage – your orchid WILL die. Orchids do not like their root system to be constantly wet, for example setting them in standing water or potting in a pot without a drainage hole. I have an entire post on this…click my link titled READ THIS FIRST.

The pots I use;

I use clear plastic pots. I do this because I can easily see when their roots are thriving and when they are suffering without disturbing their environmentPlus I can place these clear pot in a decorative outer pot when I want to display them.Clear plastic pots also make it easy to see when to water.

20111113-221311.jpgIn the this picture both orchids are healthy but the one on the right needs to be watered and the one on the left was freshly watered. Clear pots not only give you a clear view of their root system but it also helps the plant engage in photosynthesis. Since orchids grow naturally on a tree and are exposed dappled light, clear pots help make photosynthesis through the orchid roots possible.

Clear pots are also easy to clean, disinfect, and reuse. Be careful in reusing pots – they must be totally disinfected. I recommend dipping them in Physan 20 and click on my post titled How To Repot your orchid.

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.