Getting Phalaenopsis and Oncidium to Rebloom

Moth orchids, or Phalaenopsis, are the most commonly sold orchids and easiest to grow.

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’

If you have lots of plant friends, you can always find someone willing to take an unwanted orchid.

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

Smaller-flowered Oncidium is the second most commonly sold orchid available.

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.

Each time Nancy waters her orchids, she includes diluted fertilizer formulated for orchids.

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.

4. Read About New Orchids and Their Care: Getting the Oncidium to bloom on a regular basis has been a challenge and they have not been nearly as reliable as the annual-blooming Phaelenopsis. This is partly due to the Oncidium genus being very diverse in nature as its habitat can be found from the tropics to areas of high elevation with growing conditions being obviously quite different. Nancy recommends checking the label for specific information. (Click here for The American Orchid Society’s helpful page on Oncidium care, and click here for their definitive page on Phalaenopsis care.)

You will know that it’s time to upgrade an orchid when the fleshy roots fill the pot. Provide it with a slightly larger, well-drained pot, gently release the roots and place them in new bark. Then water thoroughly.

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.

What Tulips Rebloom Year After Year?

“Why is it that some years tulips just grow leaves and no flowers? I’ve planted hundreds of bulbs much to my disappointment to have so many of them never grow flowers.” Question from Linda of Middlesex, New Jersey

Answer: There are several reasons why tulips stop flowering. Many varieties are bred to bloom only for a year or two before their bulbs need to be divided. Without division, they will not bloom by year three or four. For this reason, pick tulips that reliably return year to year and even naturalize, or spread, over time. Here are five good types sure to keep blooming.

  1. Clusiana Tulips – These pretty, slender tulips come in various varieties that bloom in mid-spring and spread over time. ‘Cynthia’ is one with pale yellow and red-striped flowers.
  2. Bloemenlust Tulip – The bright red, mid-spring bloomer returns yearly.
  3. Cretian Tulip (Tulip cretica) – Species tulips like this are often the best perennials. Cretian tulip is multi-flowering, clump-forming, and has pink-tipped flowers. They will even spread when they are happy.
  4. Darwin Hybrids – Late-flowering Darwins are tall and come in lots of colors. Of the standard hybrid tulips, these are the most perennial. The orange and yellow ‘Daydream‘ is extra pretty.
  5. Fosteriana Tulips – These large-flowered, early tulips return year after year.

Another common problem with tulips is that many pests eat the flowers and bulbs. You would certainly notice if you had deer in your garden chomping on your tulip flowers, but you may not notice a vole eating your underground bulbs in winter. Some repellents will detur them.

I hope this information helps guide your tulip selection this fall. At planting time, it helps to amend the soil with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum peat moss in addition to fertilizer for bulbs.

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Do I Care for My Poinsettia?

“I would like tips for Poinsettia care.” Question from Sandra Lee of Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Answer: Place your poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in a location with direct sun or bright filtered sunlight and give it even moisture. Refrain from keeping its soil wet, which can stress plants out. Poinsettias are tender Mexican natives that grow as large, winter-blooming shrubs in their native homeland and require good warmth, especially from spring to fall.

General Poinsettia Care

If you don’t want to toss your poinsettia away after the holidays, you can continue to grow it as a house plant. Leaf drop is common in indoor-grown poinsettias that are given too little light or kept too dry. Low humidity can also cause stress and encourage spider mites. The key is giving them plenty of light and average, consistent moisture. Also, be sure to provide fertile, well-drained soil such as OMRI Listed Black Gold® Natural & Organic Potting Soil.

Getting Poinsettias to Rebloom

Getting poinsettias to rebloom isn’t always easy because flowering is triggered by daylight changes; the short days and long nights of winter induce flower bud development. The best method is to provide plants with ample and consistent natural daylight during the warm growing months, which will encourage them to adopt their natural blooming cycle. You can even bring them outdoors in the summer. Just be sure to clean them well before bringing them back indoors to avoid any hitchhiking pests. (Click here to learn how to clean your house plants before bringing them back indoors.)

Professional greenhouse growers actually manipulate the plants to bloom for the holidays by shading them during part of the day to mimic short days. They start this process around the autumnal equinox to get them blooming by the holidays. Flower set depends on night length, so keep poinsettias in total dark from 5 pm to 8 am. If it’s done right, they should be in full flower six to eight weeks after treatment. You can do this at home by placing them in a totally dark place during these periods of the day by placing them in a dark closet or covering them with an opaque black cloth from 5 pm to 8 am until bud set occurs. Otherwise, homegrown poinsettias will naturally rebloom sometime in mid to late-winter.

I hope that this helps. Happy poinsettia growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

When Do I Cut Back Orchid Stems After They Bloom?

“Do I need to cut off the stems after my orchid flowers fall off or will new flowers grow on the stems next year?” Question from Bonnie of Young, Arizona

Answer: It depends on the health and blooming stage of the flowering stem. If the stem/s are still green, prune off the spent flowers to about 1-inch above the closest node on towards the bast of the stem; this may encourage further flowering. If your spike/spikes are beginning to turn brown, prune them all the way back to the base of the plant. Always use clean, sharp shears to prune off old stems, and sterilize the shears in a 10% bleach solution before pruning another orchid. This will reduce the risk of cross-contamination if one of your orchids happens to have a disease.

Always keep a lookout for keikis. On occasion, certain common orchids will develop little plantlets on their flowering stems, called keikis. These can be nurtured, removed, and replanted as entirely new plants! (Click here to learn more about keiki removal.)

Once your orchid has finished flowering, it needs a rest before it will bloom again. The length between blooming will depend on the type of orchid you are growing. But, in general, slightly decrease the growing temperature for the orchid, and give it good care and fertilization. (Click here to learn more about how to get certain orchids to rebloom.)

Please let me know if you have any additional questions about the specific orchids you are growing!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Getting Orchids to Rebloom

Phalaenopsis g. Baldan’s Kaleidoscope is one of many beautiful moth orchids.

It’s a common story. You are given an orchid as a gift. It blooms beautifully for a month or so, and then it stops, never to bloom again. You may be tempted to throw it away, but don’t. It may seem like a challenge, but getting your orchids to rebloom is not as difficult as it seems.

Most cultivated orchids purchased at the store represent three common genera popular with beginners:  Cattleya (corsage orchids), Paphiopedilum (slipper orchids), and Phalaenopsis (moth orchids). Orchid bloom habits depend on the type of orchid, but most of these easier-to-grow types bloom yearly, with good, balanced care. The key is getting all factors right—light, moisture, fertilizer, temperature and potting mix.



Cattleya bloom yearly producing some of the largest orchid flowers of all, and like most orchids, the flowers can persist for weeks when in bloom. In the wild, these tropical or subtropical plants are adapted to grow on trees where their thick roots cling to trunks. Because rain is not always plentiful, they have bulbous leaf sheaths (pseudobulbs) that hold water. When full they are plump and round, and as they lose water they deflate and wrinkle.

The trick to getting Cattleya to bloom is consistent good care. In the home, they grow best when planted in a bark medium and placed in areas with bright, indirect light and warm air with 40% to 70% humidity. Bright filtered light is recommended for best growth—happy plants should have medium green leaves. Planting in a porous, well-drained pot filled with coarse bark, such as medium-sized orchid bark, is recommended. The leaves of healthy plants should be solid medium green.

Too much or too little water can cause dire problems, so plan to irrigate plants once weekly by drenching the bark medium fully, then allowing it to drain. Many recommend watering in the morning to allow plant leaves to dry out during the day. These are very light feeders, so feeding with a balanced fertilizer formulated for orchids is recommended only once every one or two years. If one or more of these factors is not met, your Cattleya won’t flower. Potting should be done every three to four years for plants to thrive and bloom to their fullest.


Paphiopedilum henryanum

Unlike Cattleya, these tropical slipper orchids are semi-terrestrial, meaning they can grow on trees or in highly organic soils at the base of trees in the jungle environments where they originate. They thrive in warm temperatures, filtered light, and require soil that is moist yet highly organic and well drained, such as Black Gold Orchid Mix, which works beautifully for semi-terrestrial orchids. Blooming occurs once yearly, but flowers can last for one to two months. For best performance repot plants every two to three years in fresh medium. Happy plants have leaves that are rich green–many selections are mottled with dark spots. If leaves develop reddish hues, they are getting too much light.

As with Cattleya, flowering is encouraged by good care, but regular, a light feeding with a balanced fertilizer formulated for orchids is also appreciated by Paphiopedilum, in addition to even, light moisture at the root zone. If plants still refrain from blooming, try giving them a little more light. Though they are considered “low light” orchids, a boost of bright, completely filtered light may do the trick to encourage flowering. A slight drop in nighttime temperature may also kick start flowering.



The most common orchids sold in commerce by far are moth orchid, so it should come as no surprise that they are also some of the easiest to encourage to flower. Even better, their flowers can last for months, providing continuous color for your home. Like Cattleya, these tropical orchids naturally grow in trees, so they grow best in a porous bark medium.

Low to medium filtered light is required for good blooming and growth. Olive green leaves are what you should see in a healthy Phalaenopsis. If the leaves develop a red tint, move them to a place with lower light. Weekly fertilization with a very light concentration of a balanced fertilizer formulated for orchids will also encourage good growth and heavy flowering at bloom time. A combination of good airflow and high humidity is also recommended. Repot plants every three years or when roots become too crowded for the pot.

Cutting Back Old Flowers

Old, spent orchid flower stems often persist on plants. To make way for even bigger flowers in years to come, cut back old stems to the base of the leaves. If the stem/s are still green, prune off the spent flowers to about 1-inch above the closest node on the flowering stem; this may encourage further flowering. If your spike/spikes are beginning to turn brown, prune them all the way back to the base of the plant. Always use clean, sharp shears to prune off old stems, and sterilize the shears in a 10% bleach solution before pruning another orchid. This will reduce the risk of cross-contamination if one of your orchids happens to have a disease.

Maintaining orchids that flower yearly is not as daunting as it seems. With average, consistent care, a happy indoor orchid should bloom again and again. And if you run into trouble along the way, be sure to ask an expert. The American Orchid Society offers lots of free educational materials and expert advice.