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Orchid Flower Spike or Root?

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Distinguishing Between an Orchid Flower Spike and a Root

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 orchid 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!

orchid root or spike

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 Flower 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.

Moth orchid flower spike

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.

Here is an another example of an orchid flower spike just to show you another one that looks more green in color.  The characteristic shape is still there though!

orchid root or spike

In both cases, 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 Orchid 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 orchid clips made specifically for this purpose.  And these clips are not limited to using just for orchids.  You can use them for other plants as well.

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.

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!

I’ve also experimented with not staking the flower stalks and letting them just arch gracefully. It adds quite a bit of charm! If you have the appropriate space to do that, why not try both methods and see which you like best.

Fertilizing Your Orchid

Are you struggling with not being able to get your orchid to bloom at all? You’ll have to make sure that you read my blog post on why your moth orchid won’t rebloom.

I did want to mention one last thing that is very important for moth orchid care, and that is fertilization.

The most important things in getting your orchid to bloom is proper light. Cooler nighttime temperatures in the Fall will also help to encourage a flower spike.

But if you use a good fertilizing routine, you will enhance the size and number of your moth orchid flower, and who wouldn’t want that?

Growing moth orchids

I’m absolutely loving Dyna-Gro Grow and Dyna-Gro Bloom which I purchase on Amazon.

The link above will give you both the Grow and Bloom versions. I use Grow during the active growing season when my plants are putting out new leaves.

I will switch to Bloom right before I anticipate flowering to occur, or you can even start as soon as you see a flower spike forming, which you should know what it looks like by now! 🙂

Dyna-Gro Grow and Dyna-Gro Bloom are amazing fertilizers for orchids and really any other houseplants. They are premium fertilizers, are urea-free and contain all the micro and macro nutrients that are essential for plant growth.

I’ve achieved amazing results using these fertilizers, so be sure to get Dyna-Gro Grow and Dyna-Gro Bloom today and see for yourself! Don’t settle for the inexpensive, poor quality fertilizers. Your plants are worth more!

Moth Orchid Care Resources

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!

Lastly, if you would like to learn all of my knowledge on growing these amazing plants, check out my short book, Moth Orchid Mastery, which was a #1 New Release on Amazon. 

The book is available in eBook, paperback and even audio book! 

It contains practically all my knowledge on moth orchids, and I know that it will make you a successful grower! Don’t just take my word for it, see what others are saying about Moth Orchid Mastery today!

Happy growing!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:


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55 Top Houseplant Care Hacks and Tips to Make Your Life Easy!
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Thursday 21st of May 2020

Thanks for all of these helpful, practical tips for moth orchids. I have two new flower spikes on my 3 year old orchid after following your tips!


Tuesday 26th of May 2020

So happy to hear that Lisa! :-)

Kristy Carlton

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Thanks for your reply! I unclipped it, but it can’t get into the undergrowth because it’s too long. Should I leave it be? Or trim it off?

Kristy Carlton

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Some of the roots on my plant are growing up high and in my ignorance I clipped one to a stake. It grew even longer and taller. What should I do?

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Sunday 8th of September 2019

Hi Kristy! It's an easy mistake to make until you're used to what a flower spike looks like! If you can, I would just unclip the root from your stake.


Saturday 17th of March 2018

I'm not familiar with varieties I've really just became interested seeing them in local home stores. How do you recommend purchasing orchids? Meaning store plants in bloom or starting a plant yourself from a grower. Hope that makes sense.

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Saturday 17th of March 2018

I would just buy one (or a couple...) wherever you can find them cheaply and give them a try! So many grocery stores and hardware stores have tons of Moth Orchids. Start out with a couple, and follow my blog posts on their care until you get more confidence. Then you can branch out into other varieties :-)