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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.

Here is another example of a flower spike that looks a little pointer and like a characteristic mitten shape:

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 ebook, Moth Orchid Mastery.

Looking to purchase a special Phalaenopsis orchid? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Phalaenopsis orchid selection (link to Etsy) 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:



Friday 16th of April 2021

Hello, Is there a reason none of my orchids ever grow a tall flower spike, The spike is usually fairly short and thin and there will usually be only 2 or 3 flowers on it


Thursday 22nd of April 2021

@Raffaele, The leaves seem healthy, firm and not too dark green in color, the roots on the other hand don’t seem 100% healthy, there are some that are not too silver or light green in color but rather somewhat yellowish and not too plump. I may have been overwatering them, used to water them on a weekly schedule, then realized that it may not be the right thing to do as the root would still be bright green when I watered them. The 2 plants out of 3 that I have are growing under grow lights and I only fertilize them between spring and fall. Thank you.


Friday 16th of April 2021

Hi Anna! The cultural conditions are probably not ideal. I would need more details to help, but do the leaves and roots look healthy? How is your watering regimen? Are you fertilizing?

Laura Hutchison

Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

HELP! I accidentally broke the flower spike. But not all the way. Thank youWhat, if anything can I put on the wound to possibly save it? It is flowering and I don't want to lose them.


Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

Hi Laura, I'd have to see a photo to best help you. Either DM me in Instagram (@ohiotropics) or you can use the contact form on my website. When I reply, you can attach photos.


Thursday 26th of November 2020

I have two Phal, been told they are the same as moth orchids, I live in Fl, but the windows I need to put them in I can't so I have them in my bathroom on the sink, it's beside the window, my son cut the old spikes off all the way to the base of the plant when the flowers died. Will more grow back and how do i get them to and where is a good place to put them and when should i fertilize them? Loving your info


Friday 27th of November 2020

Hi Lois! Yes, they will grow new spikes and Moth Orchid is just the common name for Phalaenopsis. Normally, they'll grow new spikes about once a year around this time of year or so, but it can vary. I have many other blog posts on the care of these plants. Just type in "orchid" in the search feature, and you'll see many posts I've written on how I care for mine. I'm sure they will help :-)


Monday 7th of September 2020

I have new leaves starting on my orchid plant, old leaves are covering the new growth, should I remove the older leaves?


Tuesday 8th of September 2020

Hi Dorothy! You should only remove any old leaves if they have completely yellowed or turned brown. If they are green and healthy, please leave them! :-). It will benefit the plant and there is no reason to remove them if they're green.

Beryl Haygood

Sunday 26th of July 2020

I forget to mention I am seeing a lot of roots are growing and some of them are growing between my leaves and I want to know is that okay. Beryl Haygood


Monday 27th of July 2020

Yes it's ok. They will grow where they will grow :-).