Bulbs on orchids - information on function and cut

Bulbs on orchids - information on function and cut

What are bulbs actually?

As epiphytes, orchids use their roots to cling to branches or rocks. With their aerial roots, they extract vital moisture and nutrients from the rain. So that epiphytic orchids do not have to live “from hand to mouth”, they produce bulbs for storage. These are thickened shoot parts that serve as storage organs for water and nutrients. The leaves and flower stalks sprout out of these.

also read

  • Orchids with aerial roots - tips on function and care
  • How do I care for orchids when they are growing?
  • Growing orchids yourself - tips for vegetative and generative propagation

Cut bulbs properly - this is how it works

As long as a bulb is plump and green, it performs its vital role as a storage organ. Only when the tuber has gradually shriveled up and dried up can a cut be considered. Experienced orchid gardeners advocate pruning in combination with repotting. The best time for most types of orchids is around the end of winter. How to do it right:

  • In early spring, pot the orchid with the dried bulbs
  • Remove the used substrate to get a clear view of the root ball
  • Cut off dried bulbs and aerial roots with a disinfected scalpel
  • Dust the cuts with cinnamon or charcoal powder

In the new culture pot, first fill in expanded clay balls as drainage and a first layer of fresh orchid soil. Put the orchid and its remaining bulbs back in there. Then give the remaining substrate over the roots and water.

Use back bulbs for reproduction - this is how it works

As long as the bulbs from the previous year have not completely died and dried up, they have the potential to multiply. Although these back bulbs have no leaves, they are only slightly shriveled and still have vital aerial roots. If you notice one or more reverse bulbs while repotting, it is worth trying to get them to sprout again with the following measures:

  • Fill a mason jar with sphagnum and slightly moisten it
  • Set up with the lid on in a partially shaded, warm location
  • Occasionally ventilate and spray with soft water

If new leaflets sprout from the bulb, the experiment is successful. Before you repot the future orchid in normal substrate, at least 2 new roots should have developed.


Don't let the different terms bulb and pseudo bulb confuse you. Orchid gardeners usually speak of bulbs, although technically correct they are pseudobulbs. Real bulbs are multi-skinned onions. On orchids, however, the tubers thrive homogeneously (without peel). There is therefore no difference between the two names.