Pruning Orchids

Trimming orchids to remove old leaves and flower stems is a good idea! Pruning orchids properly removes lots of old plant tissue that would otherwise decay and potentially spread rot to other parts of the plant. Sometimes old dead tissue can also harbor insect pests. Besides, it's unsightly!

Trim off any dead tissue you find on a plant: old flower stems (but not ones that are still green! They may rebloom, particularly in Phalaenopsis), old leaves, rotting old pseudobulbs, dead roots found when repotting, etc. If just a leaf's tip has died back, cut off just the dead part, or perhaps a few millimeters into the green part if the dieback seems to be progressing (in case it's caused by some sort of disease).

If something's still green, it isn't dead!

In many cases of orchid disease, particularly bacterial and fungal infections, it's a good idea to trim off the affected tissue, and slightly past it into healthy tissue. This can stop the progression of the disease.

Many people prune shrubs, trees, etc. to encourage compact, branchy growth. This doesn't work with orchids. Pruning isn't a good way to keep an orchid small. If you cut part of a leaf, the rest of the leaf will often die. And cutting into a live pseudobulb will do a lot of damage! Cutting the rhizome while dividing orchids or propagating with keikis is fine.

Only use sterile cutting tools when trimming orchids. Otherwise, you'll spread diseases, possibly including incurable viruses, from plant to plant. So soak your tools in bleach, bake them in the oven, use a blowtorch on them, or use disposable razors!

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