Issue: August 10, 2002

Removing Old Orchid Bloom Stalk


I want to prune the stalk of my orchid now that the blooms have fallen off. The stalk is very long and difficult to deal with, but I am not sure how to properly cut it back. Will I kill the plant if I cut it back too much? -G. Nulty


Pruning an orchid blossom stalk should cause no harm to the plant. However, some orchids will produce new bloom shoots from the nodes on the old blossom stalk, or some plants will produce small baby plants from these nodes. The new plants may be removed and potted after they develop roots. Of course, some orchids do neither of these things. In either case, it doesn't hurt the plant if you remove the old bloom stalk; you may just miss some new blossoms or a baby plant.

Once the stalk turns yellow or brown, it is obvious that no blossoms or plants will be produced. You can then cut it to within an inch from where the blossom stalk originated on the plant. You can also cut it there when it is green if you don't mind losing potential blossoms. Another option is to just remove the end of the blossom stalk to shorten the stalk, but retain enough so that it may bloom again. If you do this, cut it back to about 1/4 inch above a node (indicated by a small leaf-like bract clasping the stalk).

Enjoy your orchid.

Can I find information like this in my state?


Do you know of a web site like this in the South East or a similar service? -R. Carrier, South Carolina


It amazes me that I receive questions from every state and from around the world because of our web site and visitors who read the Yard and Garden column in New Mexico newspapers while visiting our beautiful state. Yes, there are similar sources of information throughout the U.S. Each state has a Cooperative Extension Service associated with its Land Grant University. You can find information regarding your state and local Cooperative Extension Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service site web site Local Cooperative Extension Service agents and specialists can provide a great wealth of information. Many have web sites similar to the NMSU web site as well as publications, public programs, and mass media information services.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!