My blog site is primarily dedicated to growing tropical and subtropical plants, whether as a houseplant or in the garden

Orchid Root or Flower Spike?

Orchid Root or Flower Spike?

How Can You Tell the Difference Between an Orchid Root and a Flower Spike?

When I first starting growing moth orchids, or Phalaenopsis, I got excited over every little new growth that would show up at the base of the plant.  I kept thinking that a new flower spike was growing, when in fact most of the time they were just roots!  So I kept looking…and looking…and waiting…until I finally saw something that looked a little different.  Different enough to know that it wasn’t yet another root.  It was finally a new flower spike growing!  After my moth orchid collection expanded and I was successful in getting them to rebloom regularly, it became very easy to tell when a new flower spike was growing.   Keep reading, and you will be able to tell shortly too.  And if you only have one plant and you have been successful in keeping it alive, go buy a few more to give yourself more practice!

Orchid Spike or Root?

When a new root or flower spike starts to grow at the base of the Phalaenopsis, look carefully.  There is a distinct difference between the two.  Take a look at the picture below.

The short reddish growth on the left of the base of the plant is a root, and the growth on the right is a flower spike.  You can see that the root on the left is rounder and it has a uniform tip.  Normally on most moth orchids, it will probably be light green in color, but in this particular plant it’s reddish.  Now take a look at the flower spike on the right.  Again, this is reddish in color, but most will be a light green in color.  If you look at the tip, you can see that it’s not just a round tip like the root on the left.  You’ll see that most of the length of the flower spike is pretty uniform until it gets close to the tip.  Then you’ll see the tip almost looks like the shape of a mitten.  This “mitten” in the picture above is a bit rounder in shape.  Most of the time, they’ll look a little pointier.  But the tips will generally be in the shape of a mitten.

As Your Flower Spike Grows

One very important thing to remember is that once your flower spike starts growing, you don’t want to rotate the pot at your window.  Normally, you’ll want to rotate houseplants every so often to encourage even growth and so that one side of the plant doesn’t lean excessively towards the window.  You DON’T want to do this when you notice a flower spike starting to grow.  The flower spike will want to grow towards the window.  If you keep turning your plant, the flower spike will keep bending towards the window and it won’t have a very attractive shape.

Another thing you’ll want to do as the flower spike starts growing is to insert a bamboo stake into the pot so that you can start clipping the flower spike to the stake as it grows.  You can buy special plastic clips made specifically for this purpose.

Take a look at the picture above.  You can see the flower spike on two orchids clipped to the bamboo stakes with plastic orchid clips.  Don’t be tempted to clip the flower spike to a bamboo stake too early.  Wait until the flower spike it at least a few inches long.  Otherwise you may risk snapping the flower spike off.  I did that once and I was furious with myself!  Be very gentle and don’t force things too much. As the flower spike grows longer, it’ll be easier.  See the photo below as an example of what this looks like.

Moth Orchid Flower Spike
Moth Orchid Flower Spike

 

Normally, as the flower spike grows, I’ll either take a second clip, or just move the original one higher up to support the flower spike.  And don’t forget, don’t rotate the pot at the window as the flower spike is growing!

For more information on a variety of other topics related to growing moth orchids, check out the links to my other blog posts below for more details!

  • If you can’t figure out why your moth orchid won’t rebloom, click HERE to find out why.
  • For general information on how to properly care for your moth orchid, click HERE.
  • To find out what to do with your moth orchid after it is done blooming, click HERE.
  • For information on knowing when to repot your moth orchid, click HERE.

Thank you for reading and hopefully after reading this blog post, you will be able to tell the difference between a root and a new flower spike.  Happy growing!