Pruning an orchid after it has flowered is essential if you are to encourage new growth and have a healthy plant that blossoms repeatedly. Many orchid novices are very nervous about pruning lest they should damage the plant. However, you will find that this is not a daunting mission at all provided you follow a few fundamental rules. Here we show you how to make a scary job into a simple one in five easy steps.
Step 1 - Get the timing right
Any pruning should be carried out during the dormant phase when any blooms have died and you're absolutely certain that no more will appear. The ideal time to do this is between the months of early October and late November. Postponing this important job until later on is not a good idea as the orchid will then re-enter its active growth phase meaning that pruning it may actually inhibit new growth.
With some varieties, it may be ok to prune at other times, especially with the types that flower numerous times in one year. Unless you are sure however, it is best to err on the side of caution and limit this to the period suggested above.
Step 2 - Know your orchid variety
Always remember that various groups of orchids exhibit individual characteristics where growth and flowering are concerned. For example, the phalaenopsis variety needs to be pruned once the flower starts to show signs of wilting, but with other types, you will need to wait until the stem starts to brown. Read the instructions specific to your plant beforehand or consult knowledgeable staff at your local garden centre.
Step 3 - Get the right equipment
Pruning is best done using metal scissor-style secateurs as these pare the stem efficiently without inflicting any shearing stress upon it and causing it damage. Since orchids are extremely susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections, it is strongly recommended that you thoroughly sterilise the secateurs by wiping with a dilute bleach solution. Wearing sterile gloves is another good protective measure.
Step 4 - Know where to prune
In general, you should cut back the actual branch of the orchid from where the flower stems rather than the supporting stem itself. Cutting to within a quarter of an inch from the stem node is sufficient. Again, take care to be familiar with your particular orchid variety as this may affect where you prune (e.g. dendrobiums sprout buds from their stems so will need to be trimmed differently).
Step 5 - Check the roots
When you carry out a pruning session, with some orchid varieties, it can also be beneficial to check the state of the roots too. Those that look supple and green or with a greyish film are healthy and should be left well alone. Those that are mushy or brown, brittle and desiccated should be carefully removed to allow for new growth.
That really is all there is to it. So don‘t fear, get out those secateurs, chop away all the dead bits and give your orchid a new lease of life for the season ahead.