It is exciting when you first spy a tiny bump of green poking out among the leaves at the base of your Phalaenopsis orchid plant. Is it an aerial root or could it be a new flower spike? In Phalaenopsis orchids, both roots and spikes begin as tiny green shoots; and it can be tricky to tell them apart, especially if you’re an orchid newbie. You may have to wait to see what develops.
Patience Pays Off
As you gain experience with your orchid, the differences between roots and spikes will become more evident. Determining whether a new growth is a root or a flower spike is largely a matter of visual observation and time. You should wait to stake a new growth until you see that it is in fact a flower spike and is as tall as the stake itself. Quite often, Phalaenopsis orchids will send up new leaves and new roots shortly before producing a new flower stalk.
Here’s what to look for when identifying new orchid growths:
- Orchid roots have rounded green tips. As roots grow, they are covered with a protective substance that gives them a whitish or silvery appearance. Aerial roots that hang from the orchid’s spike or curl up and over the edges of its pot are common in Phalaenopsis orchids.
- Flower spikes are usually greener than roots and have a flatter, mitten-shaped tip. While growing, spikes remain green along their full length. Spikes usually emerge from between the plant’s leaves, not from the plant’s center.