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What to Do When An Orchid Stem Turns Brown?

What to Do When An Orchid Stem Turns Brown?

With their breathtaking blooms, orchids possess an exotic quality that makes them an attractive choice for plant lovers.

I’m sure many people can attest to how easy it is to be lured in by an orchid‘s gorgeous flowers when they’re on display at a garden center or grocery store.

Before you know it, you’ve bought one.

With that being said, many new owners may be unsure of what to do once an orchid’s blooms die away and its stem turns brown. 


What to do when an orchid stem turns brown?

There are two ways to deal with orchid stems turning brown. The first is to cut back the stem below the browning section one inch above a node. This may encourage it to branch off with and rebloom. The second option is to cut the stem off at its base, preserving the plant’s valuable energy for new leaf and root growth.


Why Orchid Stems Turn Brown

An orchid stem, or flower spike, is the tall green part of the orchid that bears its beautiful blooms. When an orchid is finished flowering, it is normal for these spikes to turn brown.

Flowering expends a tremendous amount of the plant’s energy. By sacrificing its flower spike, an orchid allows itself to rest.

This way, it can also redirect its energy toward growing new strong roots and leaves.

Once an orchid has finished blooming, it is normal for it to enter a state of dormancy.

During this time, the plant can recuperate and prepare itself to produce new flower spikes for the following flowering season.


How And Why Trimming My Flower Spikes Is Important

Trimming a flower spike and cutting it back altogether are two completely different methods of dealing with dying stems.

There are no hard or fast rules about which way is superior, and many other factors contribute to a successful reblooming, such as overall plant health and growing conditions.

Often, but not always, trimming back a dying flower spike above a node can result in a second bloom.

This occurs when a new shoot emerges from an existing stem that has been cut.

The chances of this type of regrowth are increased if the plant is big and healthy with an extensive root system.

First, inspect the flower spike. With this method, chances of regrowth are improved if the browning has not yet reached the halfway point of the stem.

Furthermore, there must still be healthy stem nodes present.

Next, ensure that your scissors or shears are clean and sterilized. This minimizes the risk of spreading germs or diseases to plants and is an essential part of caring for them.

Once the stem is cut, it can be treated with cinnamon, which is a natural fungicide.


How To Cut Back A Stem At Its Base

If a plant is young and has a weak to moderate root system, I recommend cutting back dying flower spikes at the base.

Doing so takes the pressure off the orchid and redirects its energy for growing new roots and leaves. It also encourages a fuller bloom in the coming season.

Plant parents can either choose to cut back the spike once the plant has finished blooming or wait until it starts to wither and turn brown.

Either way, the same steps as above should be followed, in that cutting tools should be clean and sterilized, and exposed stems treated with cinnamon.

Post-trim is also an excellent time to repot an orchid. It is about to enter a state of dormancy, so giving it a little boost in the form of new nutrient-rich soil can only assist it on its way.

Orchid soil mixes tend to break down over time, so annual repotting is advisable.


How To Recognize New Stem Growth

When trying to identify new growth on a trimmed flower spike, look for offshoots and healthy growth near the node when the plant was snipped.

In the case of brand new flower spikes, one can recognize them by their glossy dark green points, which differ from the plant’s lighter and more rounded green-grey roots.


Frequently Asked Questions About What to Do When Orchid Stem Turns Brown


Should I fertilize my orchid after trimming it?

When orchids are not in bloom, they should be fertilized every one to two weeks using a balanced product, such as a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Pro orchid growers recommend dosing orchids with more frequent but diluted applications rather than with less frequent full-strength applications.


I’ve trimmed back my flower spike, but my orchid won’t rebloom?

Cutting back an orchid’s flower spike gives it its best chance of reblooming, but other factors may also come into play. A plant that is not receiving adequate light or warmth will not rebloom. Unhealthy root systems and incorrect watering protocols will also negatively impact its growth.


Why is my new orchid spike changing into a yellow color?

The growth of a new flower spike is incredibly pleasing for orchid owners but can also fill them with crippling disappointment if the shiny green stem suddenly turns to pale yellow. Coloring of this nature is a clear indication that the orchid is in trouble. Reasons for yellowing flower spikes include nutrient deficiencies, dry growing medium, sudden changes in temperatures, or the presence of ethylene gas in the environment.



Contrary to what many people think, orchids are easy-to-care-for plants.

They are also good at communicating what stage of their growth cycle they are at, so paying attention to these signs makes it easy to identify the plant’s needs.

With a bit of knowledge and upkeep, orchids will spoil their owners with beautiful blooms season after season.