How to cut orchid stems

Only a proper pruning completes the successful care of orchids. Inexperienced hobby gardeners are often reluctant to use scissors to tackle their tropical flower beauties. Nevertheless, a cut is indispensable for maintaining the abundance of flowers and vitality. Regardless of the breathtaking diversity of species and varieties, fortunately clearly defined maxims apply to flowers, aerial roots and the like. The following lines explain how these are to be handled in practice. The precise cutting for the four most popular orchid species Cattleya, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium rounds off this guide.

Before cutting

In order to cut delicate orchids without blame and blame, the following preparatory work is just as important as the process itself. It is important to take adequate precautions to avoid infection by fungal spores, viruses, bacteria and parasites.
  • Sharpen knives and scissors carefully
  • Disinfect all cutting tools meticulously
  • Suitable disinfectants are high-percentage alcohol or spirit
Alternatively, all germs on the tools are killed by holding them over an open flame before cutting. This technique has the advantage that after the cut with a knife that is still hot, the wound closes automatically and the risk of infection is minimized. Tip: The tool is disinfected several times during the pruning process by soaking disposable cloths with alcohol and then disposing of them.


Regardless of the cultivated type and variety, the following rule of thumb applies to the cutting of orchids: Only withered or withered flowers, aerial roots or other parts of the plant are cut. This principle also applies when an orchid becomes too big. Even then, knowledgeable hobby gardeners only use scissors when the plant parts in question have at least faded.


Orchids invest all their energy in bringing out the magnificent flowers. In order for them to achieve this masterpiece over several years, they need a break of several weeks to half a year between the flowering periods. Perform a pruning only during this Growth break through. Depending on the type of orchid, this period takes place at different times of the year. The flower signals the entry into this phase unmistakably by shedding its blossoms. At the same time it stops the budding of new buds.

Cut bulbs

As storage organs, all orchids have thickenings that arise from the rhizome. These are called bulbs or pseudobulbs. They usually reach a size of 15-20 cm and produce a few leaves and a flower stem. After a bulb has flowered, it gradually dies. More than five of these pseudobulbs should not romp about on an orchid. Excess specimens are cut off with a sharp knife as soon as they no longer have any leaves. Tip: Cutting off old bulbs stimulates the growth and abundance of flowers in orchids.

Aerial roots

Numerous orchids thrive in the wild as epiphytes of trees. In the process, they develop aerial roots, with the help of which they absorb water and nutrients. They strive in all directions, form loops or interlock with one another. This behavior is one of the unique characteristics of these exotic beauties and should not be impaired by a hasty cut. In this respect, however, it is not possible to do without cutting. Under these conditions, the aerial roots on orchids should be cut:
  1. Cut a piece of an obviously rotten or diseased root.
  2. If the strand is brown inside, the root can be cut off at the base.
  3. A white to cream-colored aerial root is healthy and does not need to be pruned.
Alternatively, spray a suspicious root with water. If this does not turn green, it has died and will be cut off. Tip: Any cuts on orchids are sealed with charcoal powder as a prevention against diseases and pests.


Regardless of whether an orchid is in the dormant or growing season, one or the other leaf can wither. Since the tropical plants carry out translocation, all withering parts of the plant should linger on orchids for as long as possible. Botanists use this technical term to describe a special form of nutrient utilization. The bulbs draw in all the remaining nutrients from dying leaves in order to use them. Cutting orchid leaves is therefore only possible under the following conditions:
  • brown and black discolorations appear on one leaf
  • only cut out these damaged areas with scissors
  • healthy parts of the leaf remain untouched
A completely withered leaf has given up all the nutrients. It is so loosely connected to the pseudobulb that it can be easily pulled out.


Individual orchid flowers are never cut. They fall off after wilting and until then give off their remaining nutrients to other parts of the plant. How to cut a complete flower stem correctly depends on the individual nature of the cultivated species and is explained in more detail below.

Cut flower stalks on Cattleya orchids

Enchanting Cattleya orchids thrive mainly epiphytically as epiphytic plants. They are among the most popular species because they produce exceptionally large flowers. These thrive in clusters or individually at the end of the flower stalk, several of which Cattleya species produce from the bulbs. Their flowering period extends through autumn and winter. Thus, the summer rest period is recommended for the cut. This is how you do it:
  1. All flowers are completely withered.
  2. The stem begins to turn yellow.
  3. Look for the green or paper-like brown bud sheath from which the stem sprouts.
  4. Grasp the flower stalk and the bud sheath with two fingers of one hand.
  5. With the other hand, cut off both parts just above the base.
It is important to note that neither the leaves nor the bulb are damaged.

Cut the flower stem on Oncidium orchids

Noble oncidium orchids captivate with a true frenzy of flowers on straight or curved stems. The long flowering period extends from mid-October to February. As a result, the time window for pruning opens in early spring, when all the flowers have withered.
  1. The starting point of the flower shaft is on the side of a bulb.
  2. Grasp the stem with one hand.
  3. Make the cut just above the bulb.
Ideally, a maximum of 2 to 2.5 cm of the flower stem remains on the bulb. The bulb itself is not cut.

Blend the flower stem on Phalaenopsis orchids

The genus of the Phalaenopsis orchids is considered to be extremely easy to care for and has established itself worldwide as a classic for beginners. The tropical picture-book beauty presents its wonderful inflorescence on short side branches. An outstanding feature is that it blooms twice a year. In accordance with this, the following handling of the pruning is recommended:
  1. After the first flower, cut off the stem up to the third dormant bud.
  2. An inactive eye can be seen as a small bump on the stem.
  3. After shedding the second flower, shorten the trunk until just before the bulb.
When pruning these orchids, pay attention to the aerial roots. These must not come into contact with the cutting tool.

Cut back the stem on Dendrobium orchids

The epiphytic orchid genus delights the hobby gardener in spring and summer with a wonderful display of flowers. These sit either along the very short or up to 1 meter long flower stems. In autumn, wait until all parts of the plant have withered to prune the orchid as follows:
  1. Cut off the flower stalk just above the small stem (bulb).
  2. Do not prune the leaves that grow from the stem.
The editors' conclusion

Pruning orchids is far less complicated than it might seem, given its exotic habitus. If you take heed of the highest directive and only cut completely withered parts of the plant, you can hardly go wrong. The flowers should fall off on their own anyway when they have faded. Orchid leaves linger on the plant until they can be cleaned with a gentle pull. Aerial roots only get to know the scissors when they are completely rotten. The treatment of flower stems and bulbs is no longer a mystery after these instructions.

Interesting facts about cutting orchids

Basics about cutting
  • Use only very sharp and clean knives and scissors!
  • Disinfect them before use so that no germs or fungi can penetrate!
  • It is best to use a knife so that the sensitive trunk is not crushed.
  • Do not cut off withered flowers, they will fall off alone!
  • Also leave leaves on the plant until they fall off by themselves!
  • Do not cut any green parts of the plant!
  • Only cut back dead stems, roots and shoots!
There are two types of pruning, pruning after flowering and pruning after parts of the orchid have died.

Cut after flowering
  • This cut is intended to stimulate another bloom.
  • When all the flowers have fallen off and only the empty flower stem is left, it can be cut off above the third eye.
  • If you let the stem stand, the orchid will sprout from the top bud of the withered panicle. This results in a long, bare stem with a few buds on the top.
  • If you cut below, the plant will sprout again there. It just looks better.
Cut back
  • Usually some leaves wilt after the second bloom. Then the right time has come to cut back.
  • Pluck off yellowed leaves from the plants, cut back dried stems!
  • Cut away rotten roots!
  • But do not damage healthy roots under any circumstances!
  • Most orchids take a break after pruning before restarting.