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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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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 :-).

Beryl Haygood

Sunday 26th of July 2020

I need some advice on my orchids to bloom. My orchids are at the west side window , I was asking if you think I should change my orchids to my bathroom it's on the west window their . I have been wondering if they need huiminty and it will be do good and better, I will try and see. I live in Arizona do you think they will survive out side in the heat ? I have had my two orchids and I got another the two I have had have not bloom, I got my other orchid about a couple of months ago. I want them to bloom and I can't wait for them to bloom. Thank you Beryl Haygood


Monday 27th of July 2020

How long have you had them? Most of them will only grow a new flower spike once a year or so, though you can get the old spikes to rebloom. I assume you have them right in front of your window? If so, light is not an issue. If you haven't had them that long, know that mot of them will set spike in fall/winter. If you can give them a 10-15F drop in temperature at night, it will encourage them to grow a new flower spike during that time. As far as outdoors in Arizona, you'll have to keep them in full shade for sure there, and make sure to keep them very well watered. I'd avoid unusually hot months though outdoors where you are...but you will get the benefit of the 10-15F drop in temperature at night which will encourage blooming! They do need to stay 55F and above though for minimum temperature. Hope this helps!

Olga Bester

Tuesday 23rd of June 2020

After about 3 years my orchid has decided to bloom again! It only has one spike and three soon to be blooms. However, the very top one started to weep and has dried up! The other two look fine. Please tell me why this happened? I feed and water once a week. Many thanks.


Wednesday 24th of June 2020

Hi Olga! You're experiencing what is called bud blasting. It is caused by inconsistencies in its growing environment, or some kind of shock. Some possible causes including your potting medium going too dry for too long (this is probably the most common in my experience), or also from sudden temperature changes. I hope this helps!


Tuesday 16th of June 2020

Thanks for the information on orchids enjoy your article.


Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Glad you enjoyed it Rosa!

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