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Should I cut off the dead parts of my orchid?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is generally recommended to cut off any dead or dying parts of an orchid plant. Removing damaged leaves, stems, and flower spikes allows the plant to focus its energy on new, healthy growth rather than wasting resources trying to sustain dying tissue. However, it is important not to cut off too much at once, as over-pruning can shock the plant. Cut away dead material with clean, sterilized scissors or shears, making each cut just above a node or joint. Then provide the orchid with proper care to encourage new blooms and growth.

Why Should I Remove Dead Parts of My Orchid?

There are a few key reasons to cut away dead or dying portions of an orchid plant:

Improve Plant Appearance

Dead and dying leaves, pseudobulbs, and flower spikes can give an orchid an unsightly, unhealthy appearance. Trimming them away neatens up the look of the plant.

Prevent Disease Spread

Rotting or infected material left on the plant can potentially spread bacteria, fungi, or other pathogens to healthy tissues nearby. Removing dead sections as soon as they appear prevents contamination of living parts of the orchid.

Promote New Growth

The plant wastes energy trying to sustain dying leaves, roots, or blooms. Eliminating this dead weight allows the orchid to redirect its resources into forming new stems, leaves, and flowers.

Improve Air Circulation

Dense dying foliage traps moisture against the orchid, encouraging fungal or bacterial issues. Thinning this material allows for better airflow, which keeps the plant’s tissues dry.

What Parts of an Orchid Should I Cut Off?

Here are the key structures to remove if they begin dying:


Yellow, brown, or black spotted leaves are prime candidates for removal. Make cuts just above the joint where the leaf attaches to a stem or pseudobulb.

Flower Spikes

Clip off flower spikes once all the blooms have fallen. New spikes may emerge from the same locations. Also cut away any shriveled or dried spikes.


Carefully trim off any mushy, black, or hollow roots, as these indicate rot. Cut right above the affected area.


Remove any shriveled, wrinkled, or discolored bulbs, as they are dying back. Cut below the damaged section.

When Should I Trim Dead Parts of an Orchid?

Act quickly when you notice dead or dying material on an orchid:


Remove yellowing or spotted foliage as soon as it appears.


Cut back flower spikes after the blooms fall, or anytime they appear shriveled.


Inspect and prune any suspect roots whenever repotting.


Cut away bulbs that are shriveled or deteriorated at any time.

Don’t leave damaged areas in place for too long, as they can drain resources and spread problems. Check the orchid frequently for dead tissue.

How Much Should I Cut Off My Orchid?

When pruning an orchid, moderation is key:

– Remove only damaged, dying, or dead material. Don’t cut into healthy sections.

– Take off only what is necessary. Don’t over-prune the plant.

– Limit sessions to no more than 20% of the plant. More shocks the orchid.

– Focus on one type of tissue per session. For example, prune back all old flower spikes one day, then tackle dead roots another time.

Spread out pruning over time. Drastic haircuts can stress the plant and cause declining health. Go slow, and allow the orchid time to recover between sessions.

What Are the Best Pruning Tools for Orchids?

To protect the living tissues, use clean, sharp tools to prune an orchid:


Scissors make clean cuts on leaves, stems, and spikes. Opt for small scissors with pointed tips. Sterilize the blades first with isopropyl alcohol.


Small floral shears neatly cut away dead leaves and thin flower spikes. Again, wipe the blades with alcohol before each use.

Sterile Blade

For removing dead roots, a sterile single-edged razor or knife is ideal. Carefully slice away any mushy roots.

Sanitizing tools prevents spreading diseases between cuts. Sharp blades reduce injury to healthy sections.

How to Prune an Orchid Step-By-Step

Follow these steps each time you trim away dead parts of an orchid:

Step 1: Sterilize Your Pruning Tool

First, wipe the cutting edges with 70% isopropyl alcohol to kill any lingering bacteria or fungi. Allow the tools to air dry.

Step 2: Remove Any Dead Roots

If repotting, inspect the root system and cut away any shriveled, mushy, hollow, or blackened roots with a sterile razor or knife.

Step 3: Eliminate Yellow or Brown Leaves

Use sterilized scissors or shears to cut off any leaves that are yellowed, browned, or have dark spots. Make each cut just above the node.

Step 4: Trim Back Flower Spikes

Once flowers have dropped, clip spikes back down to the base, where new blooms may emerge. Remove any shriveled or dried spikes.

Step 5: Cut Away Damaged Sections of Pseudobulbs

Carefully trim off any bulbs that appear wrinkled, sunken, or discolored. Cut below the affected tissue.

Step 6: Treat Any Cuts

Dab the cut ends of leaves or pseudobulbs with cinnamon powder, which prevents infection.

Step 7: Dispose of Debris

Remove all dead vegetation, sterilize your tools again, and thoroughly wash your hands. Monitor the orchid for any signs of illness.

How to Care for an Orchid After Pruning

Once you have trimmed away all dead matter, take steps to get your orchid thriving again:

Allow Time to Recover

Don’t overprune at once. Spread sessions out over several weeks, allowing the plant periods of rest to recover.

Provide Bright, Indirect Light

Place the orchid near a sunny southeast or southwest window, but avoid direct midday sun, which can scorch it.

Keep Ambient Humidity Around 60%

Use a humidity tray filled with pebbles and water, or a room humidifier to keep moisture in the air. Orchids prefer humidity around 60%.

Water 1-2 Times Per Week

Water whenever the growing medium becomes dry. Soak thoroughly until water drains from the pot, then allow excess to drain fully.

Fertilize Regularly

Use a balanced orchid fertilizer according to package directions to nourish new growths.

With attentive post-pruning care, your orchid will recover quickly and reward you with lush leaves and cheerful blooms.


Pruning away dead or dying sections can bring an ailing orchid back to life. But restraint is important – don’t remove too much at once. Carefully cut back yellowed leaves, shriveled flower spikes, mushy roots, and damaged pseudobulbs using clean, sterilized tools. Spread out pruning over time, allowing the plant periods of rest to heal. Provide bright, indirect light, humidity around 60%, regular watering, and fertilizer to encourage fresh growth after trimming. With attentive yet cautious removal of lifeless areas, your orchid will soon regain its beauty and thrive with vigorous new stems, foliage, and flowers.