Q: I am a teacher and was given a beautiful orchid plant at the end of the school year. It’s a month later, the small purple and white blooms have dropped and I’m left with a green stick.
What do I do now?
Fort Mill, SC
A: Well, you could use it to punish students when they misbehave.
Actually, the best course of action would be to leave the “green stick” alone. I’m assuming you were given a moth orchid (Phalaeonopsis sp), which is the most common and easy-to-grow kind. After it finishes a blooming cycle, don’t cut off the bloom stem. New branches and flower buds may form. If new buds don’t appear and the stem dies, then cut it back. Your orchid likes bright light, but not direct sun. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Make sure the soil drains well. To increase humidity around it indoors, place the pot atop a water-filled saucer lined with pebbles. Feed monthly with liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer. Exposing the plant to several weeks of cool temperatures at night (around 60 to 65 degrees) will promote the formation of flower buds.
Q: I just read your comment about the Orchid and not cutting the stem when the flowers die. I just cut it off a couple of days ago.
What can I expect to happen?
A: A mass extinction of the human race will now ensue.
No, seriously, all you have done is remove the possibility of the old bloom stalk producing additional blooms. The plant can still send up another bloom stalk, only this will take a little longer. Follow the cultural advice given to the other reader and your plant should eventually bloom again.