Orchids are beloved for their delicate blooms that last and last, sometimes for months at a time. After the bloom fades and drops from the plant, however, an ugly, spindly stem is left behind. While it does not harm the plant to remove the unsightly stalk right away, it may mean missing out on a few extra blooms.
The stalk may be unsightly for a while, but it may produce more blooms depending on the variety of orchid. Leave the stalk in place for several weeks to see if additional blooms are going to appear. If the orchid is going to bloom again, the stalk remains green and small swollen buds appear below the site of the first bloom. If it is not going to bloom again, the stalk dies, turns yellow and then brown.
Partial pruning gives the orchid some time to either produce new blooms or new starter plants. The majority of the stalk remains in place; enough is left for additional flowers, but the gangly ends are removed. Cut the stalk about 1/4 inch above the site or node where the lowermost bloom was located. Use sharp scissors or a sharp knife and take care to make a clean cut and not rip, pull or shred the stalk.
Another option is to remove the entire stalk. This can be done either while the stalk is still green or after it has died and turned brown. Removing it while green removes any possibility of additional flowering for several months, but also removes the unsightly stalk. Cut the stalk about 1 inch above the base of the orchid plant. Use sharp scissors or a knife and make a clean cut. Do not tug or saw at the stalk or leave jagged or shredded ends.
When the orchid begins growing new stalks after the removal of the old stalks, it needs fertilizer to aid in the rapid growth. Use a 20-20-20 fertilizer designed specifically for orchids. Apply the fertilizer according to the manufacturer's directions once per month during this growth period. It usually takes around eight months for the new growth to stop, and then the orchid blooms again.