How to Prune Orchids the Right Way

Pruning orchids properly is key to keeping them healthy and encouraging new growth. With the right technique and timing, you can help your orchids thrive for years to come. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to prune orchids the right way.

When to Prune Orchids

Timing is everything when it comes to pruning orchids. Here are the best times to trim your orchid’s leaves and roots:

After Blooming

Once the flowers fade, it’s time to prune the old flower spike back to the base of the plant. This redirects the plant’s energy into new growth and blooms rather than trying to re-bloom the old spike.

Spring and Summer

The active growing seasons are prime times to prune dead or damaged leaves, roots, and pseudobulbs. This tidies up the plant and makes room for new growth.

Avoid Winter Pruning

Cold weather makes orchids dormant. Pruning at this time can shock them, so it’s best to avoid cutting back in winter.

How to Prune Orchid Leaves

Trimming old or unhealthy leaves is vital for maintaining your orchid’s health. Here’s how to prune orchid leaves correctly:

Remove Yellow or Brown Leaves

Any leaves that are yellowed, browned, or shriveled should be pruned. Use sterilized scissors to cut the leaf off at its base, where it emerges from the stem.

Trim Damaged Sections of Leaves

If a leaf has brown spots or damaged sections, you can just trim away the afflicted area rather than removing the entire leaf. Cut into healthy green tissue.

Cut Away Old Growths

Once a pseudobulb has flowered, the oldest leaves will turn yellow and drop off on their own. You can trim off these old yellow leaves to maintain a tidy appearance.

Check the Plant Regularly

Inspect your orchid’s leaves every few weeks and prune any that are unhealthy. This encourages new leaf growth.

How to Prune Orchid Roots

Your orchid’s roots require pruning to remove dead tissue and encourage new root growth. Here’s when and how to trim orchid roots:

Annually In Spring

The best time to prune roots is in spring, as new growth emerges. Doing it annually prevents buildup of dead roots.

Remove Shriveled or Brittle Roots

Use sterilized scissors to cut away any roots that are brown, shriveled or brittle. Healthy roots are green inside.

Trim Roots Exiting the Pot

Roots that grow out of the pot should be cut back to re-direct the plant’s energy inward. Leave 1-2 inches of root inside the pot.

Cut Just Above Root Tip

Make cuts just above the healthy white root tip. This prevents damaging the rooting system.

How to Prune Orchid Flower Spikes

Pruning the flower spike after blooming is crucial for re-blooming. Here’s how to do it properly:

Use Sterilized Shears

Use clean, sharp shears to avoid crushing or bruising the flower spike. Rubbing alcohol helps sterilize pruning tools.

Cut Above Node or Branch

Identify where a node or branch is emerging on the spike, and make a clean cut just above it.

Remove Entire Spike if No Nodes

If the spike is long but has no emerging buds or nodes, cut off the entire spike back down to the base.

Allow 6-8 Weeks Before Re-bloom

It takes at least 6-8 weeks for a pruned spike to rebloom. Be patient and continue proper orchid care.

How to Prune Orchid Pseudobulbs

Removing old pseudobulbs keeps your orchid neat and focused on new growth. Here’s when and how to do it:

Wait 1-2 Years After Blooming

Pseudobulbs remain green and plump for 1-2 years after blooming. Once shriveled, they can be removed.

Use Sterilized Tool to Cut at Base

Use clean shears or a knife to cut off spent pseudobulbs where they attach at the plant’s base.

Prune Annually In Spring

As new pseudobulbs emerge in spring, you can prune old ones to keep the plant orderly.

Remove Dead or Rotting Bulbs

Any pseudobulbs that are mushy, rotten or collapsing should be pruned away, even if not fully spent.

Tips for Pruning Orchids Successfully

Follow these tips to ensure proper pruning that enhances your orchid’s growth:

  • Sterilize pruning tools with alcohol to prevent disease spread.
  • Water the orchid 2-3 days before pruning to plump up the plant.
  • Prune in morning on a warm, sunny day to avoid shock.
  • Use a sharp pruning tool for clean cuts that heal rapidly.
  • Prune just above nodes, joints or healthy tissue to protect the plant.
  • Avoid over-pruning or removing too much foliage at once.


Pruning orchids at the right time and in the proper way keeps these exotic beauties looking spectacular. By removing spent flowers, unhealthy leaves and roots, and old pseudobulbs, you encourage fresh growth and maximize re-blooming. With a few simple techniques and the proper well-timed pruning, your orchids will continue to thrive and add beautiful color.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pruning Orchids

Q: How often should I prune my orchids?

A: In general, pruning orchids 1-2 times per year is sufficient. Prune flower spikes after blooming, and prune leaves, roots, and pseudobulbs as needed in spring and summer when plants are actively growing.

Q: What’s the best tool for pruning orchids?

A: Sharp, sterilized pruning shears or scissors are ideal. Single-edged razor blades also work well. The tool should be sharp to ensure clean cuts. Rubbing alcohol helps sterilize blades.

Q: Can I prune orchids in bloom?

A: It’s best to avoid pruning while orchids are flowering since this can shock the plant. Wait until flowers fade to prune the spike for reblooming, and prune leaves/roots at other times.

Q: Do I need to prune healthy green leaves?

A: Healthy green leaves do not require pruning. Only remove leaves that are yellowed, shriveled or have brown spots/damage. Pruning too many healthy leaves can harm the plant.

Q: How can I encourage new orchid growth after pruning?

A: Provide optimal care after pruning – bright indirect light, humidity, air circulation, regular watering and fertilizing. This fuels new root and leaf growth for a lush, healthy plant.