How to Make an Orchid Grow a New Flower Spike

Several flowering orchids on a windowsill.

Maryviolet / Getty Images

While orchids can live for many years indoors when cared for properly, a common misconception about these tropical plants is that once the flowers die the plant itself is also dead. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Like many plants, orchids bloom regularly throughout their lifetime, with each blooming period lasting between two to three months. 

Phalaenopsis orchids are the species of orchid most commonly sold in nurseries and grocery stores, and usually only bloom once or twice a year. Other species however may bloom more regularly. While you can’t technically force an orchid to grow a new flower spike, you can provide it with the right conditions to induce blooming. So instead of throwing your new orchid away once it’s finished blooming, here’s what you can do instead to encourage your orchid to grow a new flower spike.

Provide Adequate Light

Orchids need bright, indirect light in order to grow and be healthy enough to produce flowers. Keep your orchid next to, or directly in front of, a bright window but avoid direct sunlight which will scorch the leaves. Window film or sheer curtains can be used to diffuse harsh sunlight if needed.

Fertilize Regularly

Providing your orchid with the proper nutrients is essential to encouraging it to rebloom. Luckily, you can easily find fertilizers designed for orchids at most supermarkets, nurseries, and garden centers. Fertilize your orchid every three to four weeks during summer, and then stop fertilizing during fall, winter, and spring. While fertilizing is important, too much fertilizer will result in excessive foliage and no blooms, or even fertilizer burn, so it’s important to resist fertilizing when it's not summer.

Keep Humidity High

Orchids are tropical, humidity-loving plants. While they do well in average household humidity levels, they thrive when grown with some added humidity. For the best results, keep humidity levels between 60% to 70%. This is why naturally humid rooms in the home such as the bathroom are popular growing locations for orchids.

Cut Off Old Flower Spikes

This method is somewhat controversial, but worth trying out for yourself. Some growers believe that old flower spikes should be left on the plant, in case they develop secondary blooms, while others believe that they should be cut off once the blooms are spent to redirect the plant’s energy. Some species of orchids (like Phalaenopsis) are more likely to rebloom on old spikes than others, so keep that in mind as well. Ultimately, all growers agree that once the flower spike begins to naturally die off (for example, it has started to turn yellow and brown) it is safe to assume it won’t grow flowers again and it can be cut from the plant.

Expose the Plant to Low Temperatures

Orchids bloom during late fall, winter, and early spring as a result of exposure to lower temperatures and shorter days. As long as you are properly caring for your plant, you should notice your plant reblooming during these months every year without much help—particularly if you experience cold winters. That being said, if you tend to keep your home nice and toasty during the winter, your orchid may struggle to rebloom. 

Don’t be afraid to position your orchid close to window during these months, or move it to a colder room in your house to help induce blooming. Just be sure that you don’t expose your plant to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), as these are still tropical plants. Depending on the species of orchid that you have, you may have success inducing blooming outside of its regular blooming period by exposing it to colder temperatures. 

Allow Your Plant to Recover

Just remember that like all plants, orchids need a recovery period between flowerings to stay healthy and strong. As beautiful as the blooms are, it’s not realistic for these plants to be flowering all the time. Be patient and focus on providing your orchid plant with the conditions that it needs. It will be sure to reward you with lots of gorgeous blooms if you do.