Orchid Flower Spike Care

It is always so exciting when we find a new flower spike on our plants. The end result of proper orchid flower spike care is a rewarding cascade of beautiful flowers, which is the whole reason that we love to grow orchids. So let's talk about the sequence of steps to take from start to finish. 

Identifying A Flower Spike

When you first notice a flower spike, it may be difficult to determine whether it is a new root or a flower spike, but the difference will become apparent in just a few weeks. A root will have a uniform shape with a rounded top and a flower spike while looking similar to a root, will have a noticeably different tip. Also roots on Phalaenopsis will have a grayish appearance when dry, while a flower spike will remain green and start to develop nodes where the flowers will appear.   

Native Laos Orchid with purple lapellum, yellow brown petals blooming at Pad Tad Ke Botanical Gardens, Luang Prabang, Laos.

Light Requirements For Orchid Flower Spike Care 

During the first few inches of growth in the orchid flower spike, care should be taken to direct the growth of the flower spike stalk by controlling light and training the growth along a stake. The flower spike will be flexible at this stage. A flower spike will take two to three months to develop and sometimes longer on certain species of orchids. The flower spike will grow towards the main source of light. Phalaenopsis can do well in relatively low light to bright shade conditions. When a flower spike is growing, you can supplement with extra light by either dedicating a space in your home to a flower inducing area with a compact fluorescent or LED overhead light if you have many plants, or simply a small lamp with a flexible head to place over the flower spike to draw the direction of the growth. Keep light sources at least 12 inches away from your plants.  If you keep your orchid near a window with indirect light, the flower spike will want to grow towards the window but we can train the spike to grow straight with the aid of a flower stake.


Orchids in nature do not need staking and even in cultivation, many orchids will do fine without staking. However, staking the flower spike will aid in shaping the flower spike and also help develop and support the cascade of flowers that will emerge later. Some cultivars will have a heavy cascade of flowers, and staking can help with orchid flower spike care by preventing the flower spike from breaking under its own weight. It is best to begin staking early in the flower spike growth cycle while it is still flexible. Once the flower spike is five to six inches long it is flexible enough to carefully work with and a good time to set in a flower stake. To set the stake, place it close to the flower spike and somewhere from one third to one half of the of the distance between the orchid stem and the side of the pot. Avoid placing the stake on the edge of the pot, as that is where many roots tend to circle around. Carefully press the flower stake into the medium, feeling for any potential resistance from a root. If you do encounter resistance, move the direction to either side of the resistance and continue with the placement. Once the stake is set, gently begin with tying off the orchid to the stake at the first intersection of where the spike and stake meet. Be gentle with the spike and do not force it, you don't want to break the spike, just coax it to the stake. Gently wrap a plant tie, some yarn, or string around the spike and stake and loosely pull them together, it should not be tight, just firm enough to guide the flower spike. 

Cascading The Bloom 

The spike may take two to three months to develop fully and start putting out flower buds. Continue to loosely train the spike along the stake. Once the flower spike has reached maturity, the ties may be replaced and clips may be used for aesthetic purposes instead. As the flower spike matures, the use of clips is unlikely to damage the stem.  For proper orchid flower spike care, we want to place the last tie or clip just below the last node where the orchid may produce a secondary spike and we can snip the stake at that point for aesthetics. It is fairly easy to distinguish between a branch node and a flower node. The flower nodes will develop near the tip of the orchid and the distance between flower nodes is noticeably shorter than the distance between nodes that could produce a secondary spike.  When the spike has developed to this extent, the orchid may naturally curve to the side on its own and we can also use light such as a window if the orchid is near a window or use artificial light to draw the flower spike in the direction we want to produce a showy curving cascade bloom.

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