“I have an orchid plant that I have had for 8 years; it grows and duplicates (I had to get another container to separate it) but won’t grow the stalk to bloom. It hasn’t bloomed since the first year I got it. It isn’t the typical large rubbery leaf kind. I believe Cymbidium Orchid. When I got it, it had green flowers. It grows long leaves beautifully, but I would like to get some blooms. I have tried reducing water, changed organic potting, tried using orchid fertilizer… I even put them outside one year to try to cold shock it into bloom…After so many years you would think I would have done something right, but I have helped it grow and thrive so there is some hope. Do you have any suggestions?” Question from Amy of Chandler, Texas
Answer: As with any orchid, Cymbidiums require certain criteria to be met to flower. Timing and temperature must be managed to achieve blooming. Here are the recommended steps to take.
Flower spike initiation takes place in spring or summer when plants will get good light and a drop between warm daytime and cool nighttime temperatures. Placing the plants outside in spring after the threat of frost has passed will help, so that they can experience the warm days and cool nights for flower spike initiation. Once they have begun to set spikes, keep the plants cool (59-65 degrees F) until they begin to flower. Warmer temperatures and dry air and soil can cause the spikes to wither. Once flowering has begun, you can take your Cymbidium to a warmer spot where they can be enjoyed, if you desire. The spikes can become quite large and heavy, so support them with small wooden or bamboo stakes and soft plant ties. The long-lasting flowers can bloom for up to eight weeks. Cut them back to the base once they have stopped. (Click here for an excellent reference for Cymbidium care.) Semi-terrestrial orchids like these grow beautifully in Black Gold Orchid Mix!
I think that most of us have walked into a grocery store or the houseplant section of a garden center and seen colorful displays of colorful blooming orchid plants. With their unique and beautiful flowers, it can be difficult not to buy one. Once purchased, it is easy to get hooked on these them because they are easy-care and their flowers can last for weeks, sometimes even months. But, getting them to bloom year after year can take a little more know-how. And, if you are not willing to try on your own, offer your plants to orchid-growing friends.
The Story of Nancy, the ‘Orchid Lady’
Some indoor gardeners are ‘buy and toss’ types when it comes to orchids. My wife was one of these gardeners. She would buy an orchid plant for our entryway, nurture its blooms, and then throw it out when the flower stems stopped. Each year, I was amazed at the length of time the plant stayed in bloom. When one flower faded, another would soon appear and bloom for many weeks. After a plant had performed so well, it seems a shame to just throw it away because the flowers were gone.
Luckily for us, one day our friend Nancy Klein was visiting, and she noticed one of our flowerless orchid plants headed for the compost pile. I mentioned to Nancy how sad I felt throwing them out, and she offered to take it to see if she could get it to re-bloom. “Yes!” I replied, “of course, you can take it, and let me know if you have success.”
Well, Nancy had success with that plant and many more over the years. She has become our orchid recycle person, and her home is rarely without at least one orchid blooming. We are not the only household that she rescues orchids from, and she has gained a reputation as the ‘orchid lady.’
Nancy’s Five Growing Tips for Phalaenopsis and Oncidium
The two most commonly sold orchids are moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids) and dancing lady orchids (Oncidium hybrids). Of the two, Phalaenopsis is the easiest to grow and rebloom. I recently talked with Nancy about her orchid success, and here are some of her tips for getting orchids to thrive and rebloom. She has had much better success with getting Phaelenopsis to rebloom as compared to Oncidium, but she still has some success with Oncidium. It can just take a little more work.
1. Provide Bright, Indirect Light: Nancy does have a sunroom in her house, which has proven to be ideal for growing orchids. She said that she notices that people often put a blooming orchid in a dark corner and orchids need plenty of light to survive and bloom.
2. Trim Off Old Blooms: When someone brings her a Phalaenopsis that is through blooming, Nancy trims off the flower stem to the lowest node or bud below where the last flower was. A new flower stem will appear from this node and a new blooming stem will often appear in about three months.
3. Plant Orchids in the Right Mix: Nancy uses medium-sized orchid bark as a growing medium, which is best suited for growing moth and dancing lady orchids. (If you grow ground, or terrestrial, orchids, plant them in finer Black Gold Orchid Mix). She repots her orchids every 3-4 years with new orchid bark. She keeps her potted plants in a tray with pea gravel and a small amount of water over the pea gravel to give the plants added humidity.
4. Water Properly. Nancy is lucky. She has low-mineral tap water for irrigating orchids, but most homeowners have hard, mineral-rich tap water which can damage and even kill sensitive orchids. If you have hard water, then watering orchids with distilled water is a better option. Water plants about once a week. She cautions that many people water too often, so once-weekly water is sufficient if you can maintain the humidity around your orchids. Each time she waters, she adds diluted orchid fertilizer.
5. Give Orchid Care a Try: After your orchid plant has finished blooming, instead of throwing it away, try holding it over and see if you can get a rebloom. For starters, I would suggest the Phalaenopsis. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the reward is great when you have new blooms coming from your plant and knowing that you were successful.
“Can you propagate orchids? My orchid has another stem growing at the bottom and I am wondering if I cut it off if it will grow and how to do that?” Question from Krystal of Lincoln City, Oregon.
Answer: Orchids with pseudobulbs, like yours, can easily be divided when the plants reach a substantial size. These orchid types include lots of common household favorites, like Cattleya, Dendrobium, Epidendrum, Laelia, and Oncidium. But, based on your image, your orchid is not large enough to divide. A strong, flowering-sized division should have at least three to four pseudobulbs. (Click here to learn more about dividing orchids with pseudobulbs.)
Your happy orchid is producing strong roots that are growing beyond the pot, which is what it should do. When its roots greatly outgrow the pot (see image below), it will be time to replant your orchid into a large pot with fresh orchid bark and sphagnum moss. The best time to replant an orchid is when it is setting new growth, often in late winter. Never divide or repot an orchid when it is in full bloom! (Click here to learn more about repotting orchids like yours.) Once your orchid has at least six to eight bulbs, you can consider dividing it. I hope this helps.