What do I do with the stem of a Phalenopsis Orchid after the flowers have faded and dropped off? Do I cut it or leave it?
After the flowers drop from the orchid you have three choices: leave the flower spike, or stem, intact, cut it back to a node, or remove it entirely.
If you leave the stem intact, there is a chance that new blooms will emerge from the tip. You can also cut the stem back to the 2nd or 3rd node, recognizable by the triangular marking. This might prompt the plant to produce a new flower spike where you made the cut.
You can also remove the flower spike entirely by clipping it off at the base of the plant. This is definitely the route to take if the existing stem starts to turn brown or yellow. Withered stems won't produce flowers. Removing the stem will direct the plant's energy toward root development, which makes for a healthier plant and increased chances for new bloom spikes.
When orchids are flowering they should be fed every other week with an all-purpose fertilizer diluted to half the strength recommended on the label. After the flower drop you can cut back on fertilizing to once a month.
Orchids prefer a daytime temperature of around 75 degrees F and night temperature of 65 degrees F. A trick you can use to try and force them into bloom is to move them to an area where the night temperature is slightly lower, about 55 degrees F. Be sure the spot receives bright, indirect light. Watering using ice cubes sometimes has the same effect as lowering the night time temperature. Once a week place three ice cubes on the growing medium instead flushing with water.
It may take up to a month for a new flower spike to emerge. To identify a new bloom spike, look for roots that are growing upwards with glossy green points, rather than round tips.
Once a bloom spike appears, return your orchid to its normal setting, increase feeding to every other week with an all-purpose fertilizer that has been diluted to half the strength that is recommended on the label and support the stem with a stake as it grows.