Basic Orchid Care: How to Fix a Broken Orchid Stem
You’ve attended to your orchid faithfully, spent the time giving your orchid the right amount of water and light, but the stem broke! It doesn’t matter if the cat knocked the pot off the windowsill, or you simply forgot to stake the stem to help support the heavy blooms. Don’t worry — there is hope for your orchid, so don’t toss it in the trash. The steps you take to salvage the plant will all depend upon the type of damage your orchid has suffered.
Orchids are an unusual flower because their bloom is disproportionaly large for the spindly stem. Due to the nature of the bloom, orchids are prone to snapping or breaking if not carefully taken care of. If the orchid has stem is completely severed or dangling by a thread, the best thing to do is to start fresh and cut off the damaged portion.
- Cut off the damaged area with a pair of sterilized scissors. Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the blades of your clippers, and then make the cut as close to the damaged area or node as possible.
- Discard the damage portion, place it in a vessel with water, or place the bloom in your hair (if you are feeling exotic). Orchids require the rhizone, or root-like part of the plant to grow, so the portion of the stem containing the bloom is useless, other than for decoration. Then get focus on tending to the plant to ensure infection doesn't set in.
- Dip the fresh cut on your plant in cinnamon powder (yes, the same kind you’d add to your French toast) to seal up the wound and ward of disease or infection. You can also dip the cut into some melted candle wax to seal the wound and keep out germs, instead of using the cinnamon powder.
- Care for your plant as you normally do in order limit stress. Depending upon the life cycle of your orchid, and the specific variety you have, it may produce another bloom in just a few weeks or it make take an entire year. Research more on your specific type of orchid (there are more than 25,000 types you know) in order to determine how you should specifically care for the plant, and when you can expect more flowers.
Snapped or Bent Stem
If the stem of your orchid is bent or snapped, but not completely broken off, there may be hope for your orchid in this season yet! The best course of action is to offer the stem additional support, which you could do either horizontally or vertically.
- Insert a stake, such as a bamboo skewer or chopstick into the potting mix. Be sure to avoid sticking the skewer into the roots or rhizome of the orchid.
- Secure the stem to the stake with a small clip, or with a strip of fabric or twine. Don't tie the stem to the stake too tightly, you'll need the stem to have room to move and grow. Place the supports as close to the bloom as possible for maximum benefit, using as many supports as you feel comfortable with.
- Create a brace for the stem (just like you would brace a broken arm). Cut two pieces of bamboo about the same length.
- Place the two pieces of bamboo on either side of the stem, with the broken piece about in the center of the bamboo skewers.
- Secure the bamboo to the stem with a piece of fabric. Choose a light green or brown color fabric to hide the damage, or choose an contrasting color for an unexpected pop.
You may find that the orchid reblooms below the damaged node. (The nodes are the natual segments on the stem of the orchid, much like what you might notice on bamboo.) Growth from an uninjured node is normal, but it will likely result in a smaller bloom than before.
Normal Orchid Care Instructions
Set the plant in a south-facing windowsill where it will receive plenty of indirect sunlight. If the plant gets too hot, or receives too much direct light, the leaves will likely change colors. If discoloration occurs, move the plant to a location where it will receive bright light without being exposed to too much heat.
Water the plant only when the top 1-inch of potting mix is dry. Limiting watering discourages root rot and is more like what the plant would likely experience growing in the wild. Increase the humidity around the orchid by setting it near other potted plants, or misting the stem and leaves with room temperature water.
Avoid placing the plant near drafty windows or near air conditioner vents. The change in blasts of hot or cold air, may stress the plant too much and result in an unhealthy plant. Just like humans, plants crave predictiable temperatures.