Cutting orchids expertly - important basic rules in the tutorial

Cutting orchids expertly - important basic rules in the tutorial

Cutting single-shoot orchids

Some of the most beautiful orchids for living spaces thrive as single shoots. These species include the furious Dendrobium, also known as grape orchids. The tropical beauties display their flowers only once on each shoot. That makes it easy to maintain the cut. How to cut single-shoot orchids in an exemplary manner:

  • The best time is after all of the withered flowers have been shed
  • Take a sharp knife or bypass scissors
  • Cut off the dead shoots 1 to 2 cm above the base

also read

  • How to cut orchids panicles correctly after flowering - this is how it works
  • Make a small front garden inviting - an overview of the important basic rules
  • Caring for orchids properly for a long flowering period - this is how it works

Are you concerned about cutting off a leafless or flowerless stem? Then just wait for the orchid to pull in the shoot from the tip to the base. Removing completely dried-up parts of the plant also reduces the risk of infections and pests to a minimum.

Cut orchids with multiple shoots

If orchids thrive with multiple shoots, special pruning is required. This category includes Phalaenopsis species and varieties, the undisputed front runners in the ranking of popular indoor plants. Furthermore, magnificent Venus shoes (Paphiopedilum) and various Oncidium species are presented as multi-shoot orchids. How to do the perfect pruning:

  • Wait for dead flowers to be released
  • Cut back withered stems by a third
  • Ideal intersection: just above the 2nd or 3rd eye from below

A green stem can surprise you with new flowers up to three times. However, some orchids will challenge the gardener's patience. Depending on the location and time of year, it may take several months for new buds to develop. After three reassembly, however, the flower festival is finally over. The entire shoot dries up and can be removed at the base.

Revolver bloomers - uninterrupted bloom

A brief excursion into their botanical attributes shows why the orchid species mentioned benefit from the recommended pruning. Phalaenopsis or Oncidium are referred to as revolver bloomers. The orchids tirelessly produce their blossoms as if shot from a pistol. If a bud has unfolded on the stem, the shoot grows a little further to present the next flower bud. Under ideal conditions, the flowering period extends for months or years. Where a shoot is lush green, there is a good chance that buds and flowers will soon form.


Cut activates dormant buds

It is not reserved for trees and bushes to put on a number of sleeping eyes as a floral reserve. Popular orchids such as Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium also have the ingenious ability. Dormant buds are mostly located below the lavish panicles of flowers. Recognized as a slight thickening along the stem, sleeping buds are usually activated by a cut. By cutting off bloomed panicles, a sap jam occurs, which acts as a wake-up call for the tiny bud systems.

Always cut off dried up flower stalks

One basic rule applies regardless of whether the orchids are single or multi-branched: always cut off dried stems.

Once a former flower stalk is brown and dry, floral life will never pulsate again here. Without hesitation, cut the stem off at the base. Have you discovered a brown, dried-up side shoot on the green main shoot? Then please cut off only the dead part and leave the green main shaft. With good care, there is a good chance that the orchid will decide to flower at this point.

Cut blooming rotten orchids

With a few blooms here and there, neglected orchids are a shadow of themselves. In contrast to magnificently blooming conspecifics, cutting in green shoots can now be beneficial. By boldly cutting off the stems that have been criticized, you can breathe new zest for life into a rotten orchid. Apply scissors or a knife to the base of the shoot.

The cut clears the way for a new, strong flower stem. In addition, we recommend a well-measured dose of orchid fertilizer with valuable nutrients in your luggage.


Orchids do not tolerate conventional flower fertilizers. The high salt content makes the epiphytic flowers difficult to cope with. By administering a special orchid fertilizer, you get the exotic flower festival going after a vitalization cut. Liquid fertilizers are well suited because they are simply added to the irrigation or immersion water every 14 days. You should not fertilize your orchids during the resting phase.

Better to pluck out dead leaves

In principle, orchid leaves are not cut. In the course of natural aging, individual leaves turn yellow, shrivel and dry up. You should not intervene in the process because residual nutrients are shifted to the roots. Only when a leaf is completely dead can it be removed. How to proceed professionally:

  • Do not tear off or cut off the juicy green leaves
  • Remove retracted, unmistakably dead orchid leaves
  • Grasp the sheet between your thumb and forefinger and loosen it with a gentle pull

Leaf damage to orchids can occur for a variety of reasons. Sunburn, cracks as a result of dryness and heat build-up on the south window are among the most common causes. As long as the damage is limited to local areas and does not spread any further, a leaf should not be removed. Any cut in healthy leaf tissue calls for pathogens that use cut wounds as a welcome gateway.


It is normal to take a breather

It is not uncommon for orchids to take time out after being pruned. For a few weeks, the beauties of the flowers simply give no sign of life. There is nothing to worry about. Rather, the pause signals that the exotic flower is in a phase of regeneration. In the course of a few weeks or months, popular orchid species and varieties regain their strength for a new blooming period. Do not throw away apparently dead Phalaenopsis and conspecifics. Water less and do not fertilize until a new flower stalk sprouts.

Clean the root ball

Orchids should be repotted every two to three years. The change to fresh substrate and a larger pot revitalizes the flowering ability sustainably. If the root network is lying on the table without any substrate, careful gardeners will not miss the opportunity for a thorough cleaning campaign. How to skilfully clean orchid roots:

  • Pot the orchid, shake off the substrate or rinse off
  • Cut out putrid brown, soaked roots
  • Stabilize the root concerned with one hand
  • Take the knife or scissors in the other hand and cut smoothly

Do you feel compelled to cut out several earth roots with a white coating or black spots from the mesh? Then please take special care because fungal pathogens are rampant. Disinfect the blade with alcohol after each cut so that no spores are transferred to healthy tissue.

Finally, put the cleaned root ball in a new cultivation pot with fresh orchid soil. If the previous vessel offers enough space for the reduced root network, it should first be cleaned with hot water and Sagrotan.


Do you struggle with stubborn aerial roots when repotting? Then prescribe the stubborn root strands a warm water bath. Soak the roots in soft, room-warm water for a few minutes. The aerial roots are pleasantly flexible for a short time and can be integrated into the pot and substrate.

Cutting aerial roots - when and how?

When orchids with long aerial roots gesticulate in all directions, worried carpenters jump to scissors. The long tentacles are often perceived as unaesthetic and annoying. However, a cut needs to be carefully considered because aerial roots fulfill important tasks. The following overview summarizes the conditions under which a cut makes sense:

  • Healthy, juicy aerial roots not Intersect
  • Cut off damaged, diseased, dried up or dead root strands
  • Cut away the soaked roots covered with black dots at the base

It sometimes takes a trained eye to distinguish healthy from diseased or dead aerial roots. A silvery-white, dried root is not always actually lifeless. A moisture test removes any final doubts. Spray the orchid root in question with decalcified water and wait a few minutes. If the aerial root turns green, it is not the case for the scissors. On the other hand, there are no doubts about the need for pruning in the case of putrid brown root strands.

Cut off the rooted child

Phalaenopsis astonish us when new leaves and tiny roots sprout on top of the dead shoot. In this way, elderly orchids like to produce their offspring. Epidendrum, Dendrobium and Calanthe also inspire with the floral phenomenon. Orchid gardeners also refer to the Kindel as Keiki. Anyone who rushes to grab a knife or scissors will be deprived of the joy of a new butterfly orchid. When and how to cut an orchid keiki, this overview summarizes:

  • Wait until at least 2 leaves grow and roots are 2-4 cm long
  • Until then, shoot with Keiki support with a stick
  • Carry out the normal maintenance program
  • The best season for separation is in spring
  • Cut and pot the kindel

It is not absolutely necessary to separate the mother plant and offshoot. As long as both flourish healthy and vital, the orchid duo offer a picturesque spectacle at the time of bloom. However, if the stem on which there is a keiki turns yellow, you cannot avoid a separating cut.

Cut garden orchids like perennials

In the near-natural garden, hardy orchid species with their lush flowers shine well into autumn. In contrast to sensitive indoor orchids, orchids, orchis, stendelwort and yellow lady's slipper have adapted well to the Central European climate. When it comes to pruning, the same rules apply as for domestic perennials. How to properly cut garden orchids:

  • The best time is before the first frost
  • Do not cut off leaves and shoots until they are dead
  • Cut back garden orchids in pots flush with the floor and put them away

Please do not leave any clippings in the bed. Pathogenic agents like to use the fleshy leaves as winter quarters. A protective layer of leaves and brushwood is recommended to divert wintry moisture from the roots.

Treat cuts

Cut wounds on orchids offer germs, bacteria and fungal spores an ideal target. The risk also arises if you cut a dead stem. You slow down cunning pathogens and pests by treating open wounds promptly. The following home remedies have proven themselves well in practice:

  • Dab cuts with pure charcoal ash
  • Alternatively, dust with cinnamon

Unless you are using a charcoal grill, purchase activated charcoal powder. Also known under the name of medicinal charcoal, numerous drugstores and health food stores offer the black powder at a low price. Activated charcoal powder is made from organic substances and is useful as a cleaning agent, in men's cosmetics and for the prevention of infections of all kinds. Applied to cuts on herbaceous plants, the agent acts like a bulwark against pathogens.

Tool for orchid gardeners

With the right tools and accessories, you can concentrate on the right pruning of orchids without being disturbed. The top priority for expert pruning on orchids is the use of sharp and clean blades. The basic equipment consists of the following components:

  • Sharp knife or scalpel
  • Handy scissors as bypass scissors with two sharp cutting edges
  • Denatured alcohol and rag or candle and lighter

Only use knives or scissors when the blades are freshly sharpened and free of germs. Denatured alcohol or sagrotan are suitable for disinfecting. You are on the safe side if you hold the cutting edge briefly in a candle flame and let it cool down.


frequently asked Questions

My orchid has sticky leaves. Should i cut them off?

Sticky leaves signal that your orchid is under stress. The most common causes are too dry air in the living space and aphids. Strong temperature fluctuations, such as in the vicinity of tilted windows, also cause the damage. A sticky coating is not a reason to cut the leaves off. Wipe each sheet with a soft cloth. Spray orchid leaves regularly with lime-free water at room temperature and avoid massive temperature fluctuations in the immediate vicinity of the location. You can fight aphids with the classic soft soap solution consisting of 1000 ml lime-free water and 1 tablespoon soft soap. (€ 17.27 at Amazon *)

What do I do with faded flower stems?

As a rule, you can cut off faded panicles of orchids quite deeply. An exception applies to orchids with multiple shoots, such as Phalaenopsis. Species and varieties of this genus should be cut differently because they can bloom again on faded stems. Shorten the relevant stems by a third. Ideally, the cut is made over the second or third eye with a sharp, disinfected knife.

Can I cut off aerial roots when repotting my orchid?

You can cut off disturbing aerial roots. Please reduce the circumference of the cut to a minimum, because aerial roots turn into earth roots when they come into contact with the substrate. In this form, they make a valuable contribution to the water and nutrient supply of leaves and flowers. Therefore, when cutting and repotting, make sure that the pot is one size larger than before. Soak aerial roots in lukewarm water. So they are pliable enough to be placed in the culture pot.

After 3 years of splendid flowering and healthy growth, my Phalaenopsis has withered, slack leaves. Should I cut off the leaves?

When Phalaenopsis leaves become soft and flabby it is usually a normal aging process. This is especially true if the foliage has also turned yellow and the lower leaves are affected. If, on the other hand, all of the leaves wilt at once, it is a maintenance problem. After 3 years, the substrate is heavily compacted and depleted, so that the roots are no longer fully functional. Repot the orchid. Take this opportunity to remove only those sheets that can be peeled off without using force.

The roots on an orchid turn brown, but they are still firm. What can be the cause? Should I cut off the roots?

Orchid roots turn brown and still remain firm if you use water with too high a salt concentration for watering. A clear symptom for this cause is when the roots are slightly or not at all discolored further down in the substrate. Under no circumstances cut off the brown, firm roots. The damaged parts can regenerate if you immediately pour water with little lime and apply an extra low-salt fertilizer.

My butterfly orchid has such a magnificent inflorescence that the stem lies on the ground. What to do?

There are two options to choose from to solve the problem. To stabilize the flower stem, insert a wooden stick into the pot. You attach the overloaded drive to this in several places. Use a soft, flexible binding material that will not cut into the plant tissue. As a second option, you can cut off the beautiful flower stem and put it in a vase. In the partially shaded location, the flowers will last a long time if you change the water regularly.

The 3 most common mistakes

Serious errors in the cut leave a damaged orchid without flowers. In the worst case, the royal flower beauty dies completely. In order to save you from the floral nuisance, the following table summarizes the three most common mishaps and has tips for skillful prevention:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
cut off green stems and leavesno flowers, total failureonly cut dead plant parts
all aerial roots cut offDepression of growth, failure of the flowering periodRemove as few aerial roots as possible
Orchid leaf partially cutbrown, putrid leaf margin, spread of diseasesNever cut orchid leaves piece by piece


If orchids rigorously keep their flowers under lock and key, a slight decrease in temperature can help. Popular species, such as the wonderful Phalaenopsis and opulent Dendrobium, respond positively to an environment 3 to 5 degrees Celsius cooler. The flower induction starts within six weeks, provided all other framework conditions are right.