Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where to Prune my 'Gold Rush' Orchid?

Above is a photograph of my Epicattleya 'Gold Rush' at home in Astoria, Queens, and below is a helpful diagram of an orchid with a sympodial growth habit which I found at howthingswork.com

This is a piece about an Epicattleya orchid. Different orchids have different growth habits and different requirements as to where and when they should be pruned post-flower. This post is specific to Cattleya orchids and their hybrids and should not be used as a general guideline for all orchids. It is important to properly identify and understand how your orchid grows and flowers before initiating any pruning.

I was given a Gold Rush orchid when it was in bloom. It finished blooming, and I was uncertain how to prune back the spent flower spike. I was told by a friend that I should just prune off the spent flower cluster, leaving the bare spike. The spike has continued to stay green, but the orchid is not creating any new flower spikes or new buds on the existing flower spike stem. I'm not even sure when it should start blooming. I received the orchid at the end of June. Should I have pruned the flower spike stem all the way down to the leaf joint, or was my friend right suggesting to leave the flower spike stem on the orchid? When should my Gold Rush Bloom?

Let’s first clarify what you are looking at. Your orchid should have tall pseudobulbs which look like fat green stems covered by a thin, papery cover. For my Gold Rush, each pseudobulb is 4-6 inches tall, and has a single large leaf at the top of it. After many months of having the plant, it grew a couple new pseudobulbs, again, with a papery cover and one large leaf. Then a little growth, referred to as the “sheath”, which looked similar a narrow upright leaf grew straight out of the top of the pseudobulb. This was the bud that the flower spike eventually emerged from, even though I admit it was many, many months before the flower spike finally emerged and blossomed. So, then I had a full flower spike that emerged from that narrow sheath. When the flower is past, what I will do, and what I would recommend, is to cut off the flower spike and sheath from the main plant right above where the large leaf is on each pseudobulb. Then, of course, what you will then be left with is each original pseudobulb and its single large leaf. To answer your other question, a new flower spike will not emerge from the pseudobulbs that have already flowered. You will water and fertilize regularly and wait for the plant to put up 2-3 new pseudobulbs, and those will produce next years flower. As far as when the plant will re-flower, I can not definitely say. The Gold Rush that I bought was advertised as blooming in either spring for fall and it bloomed right in the middle of winter. I received it in early March, I assume just past flower, and it was a solid year before I got to see flowers myself. As I said earlier, the protective bud sheath around the new flower spike was there for many months before finally opening.

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