how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

How To Care For A Dendrobium Nobile Orchid (With Pictures)

Dendrobium Nobile orchids are one of the most popular species of orchids. Their profuse, beautiful, delicately scented flowers produce a wonderful display for up to several months at a time. This article is going to walk you through how to care for dendrobium nobile orchids. First, a quick summary.

How to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid: Keep in bright light, at 65-85 °F (18-30°C) and 50-70% humidity. Plant in orchid potting mix, water when the top of the potting medium is dry and fertilize lightly every 1-2 weeks. Prune after flowering. In the autumn, reduce water and fertilizer and expose to cooler temperatures to stimulate reblooming.

I’ve so many useful tips to share and all the details about caring for dendrobium orchids. So read on and I’ll tell you everything you need to grow amazing dendrobium nobile orchids

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

Dendrobium Nobile Light Requirements

Dendrobium nobile orchids require and tolerate more light than most other commonly cultivated orchids. They are best kept in bright light conditions all year round. In the winter, they can tolerate direct sunlight, but in the heat of the summer, you should limit direct sunlight to a few hours in the early morning or late afternoon.

A south-facing window is best during the winter, spring and autumn, but they are better moved to an east-facing window in the hottest months of summer, to reduce the risk of leaf scorching.

If you notice wrinkled leaves, brown shrivelled leaf tips, or yellowing or fading leaves, this can be a sign of excessive lighting, and you should move your dendrobium nobile to a location with less intense light conditions.

Watering Dendrobium Nobile Orchids

The water requirements of dendrobium orchids vary during the year. During active growth of the orchid in the summer, water thoroughly once the potting media is almost dry. Use your finger to monitor the dryness of the potting media, to get an idea of when it needs watered.

Another good tip is to monitor the weight of the pot. By lifting the pot, and judging the weight, you will soon know when the potting media is dry and can get a good idea of when it needs watered.

Try to ensure that you provide your dendrobium nobile orchid with sufficient water during this time to maximize growth.

Frequency of watering will depend on a number of factors including the size of the pot, how root bound the orchid is, the temperature and ventilation conditions the plant is being grown in. Be guided by the condition of the orchid and dryness of the potting media, rather than watering on any set schedule or a certain number of days.

Each time you water your dendrobium nobile, soak the potting media thoroughly and allow the water to run out the bottom of the pot. Water your dendrobium nobile orchid in the morning if possible. Increased heat, light, and ventilation during the day allows excess water to evaporate, which is particularly important to reduces the risk of fungal disease.

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Once the canes produce the last of their leaves in the autumn, and growth slows, reduce watering significantly. You should monitor the canes for signs of drying out, and water just enough at this time to prevent the cane from shivelling or the leaves from wilting.

You may only have to water your dendrobium nobile every 2-3 weeks at this time. Relative water deprivation is an important step in encouraging bud and bloom development.

Once you see new buds starting to develop, you can increase watering again, to provide sufficient water throughout the blooming phase.

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

What Temperature Do Dendrobium Orchids Need?

Dendrobium nobile orchids are quite tolerant of variations in temperature throughout the year and between day and night. However, to get the best out of your plant and encourage it to rebloom year after year, you should provide quite specific temperature conditions in the autumn.

During blooming and active growth phases, from February to September, dendrobium nobile orchids are best kept at warmer temperatures of 65-85 °F (18-30°C), with nighttime temperatures of not less than 54 °F (12 °C).

In the autumn, from October to January, they require cooler temperatures, with significant variation between day and nighttime temperatures, to stimulate bud and bloom development.

Dendrobium Nobile Humidity Requirements

Dendrobium nobile orchids are less sensitive to humidity conditions than many other species, but 50-70% humidity is ideal. With higher humidity levels, the need to ensure adequate ventilation increases, to reduce the risk of disease.

If you need to increase humidity levels for your dendrobium nobile orchids, consider a humidity tray, or grouping plants together. If needed, monitor the humidity level of your growing environment with a hygrometer. I use a simple digital thermometer/hygrometer for my indoor plants to ensure I am providing the best conditions.

Air Circulation

As dendrobium nobile orchids require fairly high levels of humidity, this can predispose them to fungal disease, unless sufficient airflow is provided. Opening a window in a poorly ventilated house, or using an oscillating fan can greatly reduce the risk of disease. Just be careful not to expose your orchid to cold drafts, which can cause bud drop on occasion.

Potting Media For Dendrobium Nobile

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

Dendrobium orchids are epiphytic plants, which means that in nature, they grow attached to other plants, rather than in soil. For this reason, you should ensure that your dendrobium nobile orchid is potted in a very well aerated and well-draining potting mix.

A good quality pre-prepared orchid mix will be ok, or you can make your own. An equal mix of coarse pine bark, coconut husk and perlite is a mix that I use very successfully with a number of orchid species.

Choice Of Potting Container

The potting container must have plenty of drainage holes and should not be excessively large. Dendrobium nobile orchids tolerate being root bound very well, and avoiding excessive potting media around the roots will improve drainage and aeration of the roots.

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I normally use a plastic pot that is just big enough to hold the roots of the plant, and has plenty of drainage holes. I always place my dendrobium nobile orchids into an outer decorative pot to add to the aesthetics when they are on display and to add weight to prevent this top-heavy plant from tipping over.

This also makes it easy to take the inner pot to the sink to water the orchid, allowing it to drain thoroughly, before returning it to its decorative pot.

Clay pots are possibly an even better option, as the porous nature of clay allows for more rapid drying of the potting media and reduces the risk of root rot.

Fertilizing Dendrobium Nobile Orchids

Fertilize your dendrobium nobile orchid with a water-soluble orchid fertilizer every 1-2 weeks. It is better to make the fertilizer up at half the recommended strength and fertilize more frequently, than use a stronger fertilizer less often.

Dendrobiums are at risk of nutrient toxicity and root burn if excessively strong fertilizer is used, so fertilizing at half strength reduces this risk significantly.

If fertilizing weekly, just use water every 4th week and thoroughly soak the potting medium to flush the excess fetilizer salts from the potting medium.

Another issue with overfertilizing, or using a fertilizer which is particularly high in nitrogen, is that this can casue too much green leafy growth, or promote the production of keikis (baby plant offshoots), which will divert the plant’s energy from producing further blooms.

From October, stop fertilizing as this is part of the process to stimulate reblooming, along with reduced watering and exposing your dendrobium nobile to cooler temperatures.

Don’t start fertilizing again until flowering has almost finished.

Dendrobium Nobile Blooms

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

The flowers of dendrobium nobile orchids are beautiful, delicate and numerous. Buds form on small flower spikes of no more than a few centimeters in length, that grow from the stem, in between pairs of leaves. A single dendrobium nobile cane can have 25-50 blooms and a plant with several canes blooming will produce a spectacular display.

The flowers have a light, sweet scent, which is pleasant, but not overpowering.

Buds normally develop in December and January, with blooming from January to March in the northern hemisphere. Blooms typically last for at least 6 weeks. Cooler conditions and healthy plants given good care can extend blooming for up to 12 weeks in total.

Pruning And Care After Flowering

After your plant has finished flowering, you should trim the flower spikes off close to the cane. Do not cut a cane that has finished flowering, as an individual cane can rebloom the following year, but they also contain a store of energy which the plant can use to grow new canes and vegetative growth, leading to bud and bloom development on a new cane.

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Cutting an old cane removes this energy source, and it is more difficult for the orchid to produce new canes the following season.

Reblooming

Once blooming has finished, increase watering, begin regular fertilizing, keep it in temperatures of between 65-85 °F (18-30°C) and ensure it gets plenty of bright light to maximize vegetative growth. You can expect at least some leaf drop from the canes which have flowered, and this is to be expected as dendrobium nobile orchids are semi-deciduous.

You can expect new vegetative growth to develop over the months of April to August, and it is normal for one or more new pseudobulbs to develop, which will be the most likely site of blooming the following winter.

Eventualy, the canes will stop producing new leaves, and as you enter the autumn, this is the time to reduce watering, stop fertilizing and reduce the temperatures the orchid is grown in.

Dendrobium nobile orchids will typically produce buds after being exposed to nighttime temperatures of 50-60 °F (10-15°C) for at least 4 weeks, with daytime temperatures of up to 70 °F (21°C).

After the plant has been exposed to at least 4 weeks of colder conditions and cooler nights, you can expect buds to develop in about 40-50 days. Once buds develop, you should ensure that you avoid exposure to temperatures below 54 °F (12°C) F to reduce the risk of bud drop.

Interestingly, some of the newer varieties of dendrobium nobile orchid will bloom without these specific care requirements, but unless you are absolutely sure, I would recommend following the above advice.  

Staking Dendrobiums Orchids

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

Dendrobium nobile orchids are very top heavy, and should be staked to ensure the canes grow as you wish them to and to reduce the risk of the pot toppling, which is likely, if the canes of your plant are growing at an angle, away from the centre of the pot.

Place a stake close to and parallel with the cane and loosly attach the cane to the stake with clips or wire which do not restrict the growth of the orchid.

Obviously, this is not the natural way for dendrobium nobile orchids to grow in nature. They normally grow attached onto another plant and the canes hand down from the plant. You can try this alternative way of growing your dendrobium nobile orchid as long as the pot will not topple, or try growing them in a hanging basket or wall mounted planter.

How To Repot A Dendrobium Nobile Orchid

Dendrobium nobile orchids like to be root bound, so only repot every 2-3 years, and only to a pot one size bigger. Triggers for repotting should be if drainage of the potting media slows down due to the media breaking down, canes overgrow the pot, or the root mass is significantly filling the pot.

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Repot once flowering has finished and the plant is about to enter a period of rapid vegetative growth. Fresh potting media and space to grow will be most beneficial for your plant at this time. Repotting at other times can interrupt bud and bloom development and repotting when flowering can lead to premature ending of the blooming phase due to the stress caused to the plant by the repotting process.

You can divide a dendrobium nobile when repotting, as long as each individual plant will have at least 3 canes. Division of the rhizome can be done with a sharp blade and is relatively simple. Take care not to damage the healthy canes while doing this.

Origin

Dendrobium nobile orchids originate from jungle regions of Asia, including India, Thailand, Nepal and China. They typically grow in forested areas above 3000 feet above sea level and are epiphytic plants, which grow attached to other plants or rocks, rather than growing directly in soil.

how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid

Common Problems With Dendrobium Nobile Orchids

No guide to how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid would complete without some detail about the common problems and how to fix them. Thankfully, dendrobiums are fairly easy to care for and most problems can be fixed if you are paying close attention to the health of your orchid.

Yellow Leaves

Dendrobium nobile orchids can develop yellow leaves after the flowering phase, as they are deciduous and you can expect at least some of the leaves to yellow, wither and fall from the plant. If this happens, don’t worry, it is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle.

Old leaves will be the ones most likely to be shed from the plant, so keep an eye on this. If you see yellowing of the new growth during the growing season, suspect a problem with the plant.

Yellow leaves can be due to either overwatering or underwatering. Feel the leaves to check them for dryness. Dry and crunchy leaves are either a sign of underwatering or sun damage.

If the leaves are not crunchy, check the potting medium. If it is waterlogged, you should examine for any signs of root rot. If you detect this, you should immediately repot the orchid, removing any affected roots, and reduce watering going forward.

Yellow leaves can also be due to underfeeding, particularly during the vegetative growth phase, where nitrogen deficiency can cause leaf chlorosis. However, if you are feeding your orchid with an orchid fertilizer at least once per month, the chance of nutrient deficiency is virtually nil.

Excessively high or low temperatures can cause yellowing of the leaves due to the stress that this will put the plant under. Consider getting a digital thermometer which records the current, maximum and minimum temperatures in the growing area.

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Orchid disease and infestation can also cause leaf yellowing, so examine the soil, and both the top and bottom of the leaves for any sign of disease or infestation. If you identify disease, make sure to treat it immediately and take steps to prevent recurrence.

Drying Out

As mentioned previously, insufficient watering can cause dry, brown and crunchy leaves, but it will also cause leaf wilting and drying and shrivelling of the canes. Dendrobium nobile orchids can generally tolerate more water and are less susceptible to root rot than phalaenopsis orchids.

You should generally water them once the surface of the soil is dry during the growing season, from approximately March to September, and only let them dry out in their period of dormancy from October to December.

You should easily be able to identify an underwatered dendrobium nobile orchid due to dry, wilting leaves, shrivelled canes and dry potting media. Increase watering and the plant should recover, taking care to monitor the dryness of the potting media going forward.

Wilting

Many of the same reasons that can cause yellowing of the leaves can also cause wilting. Over and underwatering are probably the most common reasons for wilting, so assess the potting media and roots to see which is more likely. Otherwise, consider the same factors that we discussed earlier.

Dendrobium Nobile Orchid Pests

Dendrobium nobile orchids are fairly resistant to pests, but there are a few to watch out for. Scale is the most common pest found on dendrobium nobile orchids, but they can also be affected by mites, mealybugs, thrips, whitefly, fungus gnats. For more information on how to identify and treat pests on dendrobium nobile orchids, see the AOS website, which has a wonderful resource.

Diseases

Fungal and bacterial diseases are more likely in an overwatered plant or where there is excessive humidity. Bacterial soft and brown rot is a bacterial disease that causes sunken water-logged patches on the leaves.

Fungal Pythium and Phytophthora can cause black rot which can quickly devastate a plant. High humidity and temperatures increase the risk.

Botrytis is another fungal disease that can cause unsightly black spots on the blooms, destroying the beauty of the flowers. Again, high humidity, standing water and cool conditions increase the risk. For more information about identification and treatment of common dendrobium diseases, see the AOS website.

Pyllosticta is another fungal disease which causes widespread small black spots on the leaves. This can spread very rapidly among plants

I hope you have found this guide helpful. If you have any questions about how to care for a dendrobium nobile orchid, please get in touch and I’ll be glad to help. If you would like to learn more about orchid care, see the orchid section of this website for more information.

Comments

  1. This article was very informative! Love my Orchids, I have 11 different orchids. I am a fairly new orichid Enthusiast.
    Thank you!

  2. A very comprehensive article.
    This is my first Dendrobium nobile.
    I am so pleased I found your site, as I did not realize that the care is much different to other orchids.

    Thank you very much.

  3. An excellent article, comprehensive of all I wanted to know. The various aspects of plant care are explained in a clear comprehensible way that has left me with the feeling I know what I’m doing!!!

    1. Hi
      I have three plants two in bloom one just finished..however, along the canes there are white tenticles (root like )..what are these? Do i cut them off or leave on cane ?

      1. Author

        Can you send a photo of these? It sounds like it may be the old flower spikes once your Dendrobium has finished flowering, but I wonder if it could also be a keiki.

        1. Mine has these too like a wandering creamy white cluster of tentacles. What are these , is the plant looking for a medium to cling to ?
          Jane

        1. Very useful, informative article which will be an enormous help to me and my orchids! Thank you so much, 😊

          1. Hi..I live in India, I have many dendrobium orchids.. The climate here is hot.. Our Winters are not very harsh.. Do I follow the pattern of not watering during October to Jan

      2. Thank you for this very informative article! I have 2 dendrobium nobile orchids which are doing well. One of them is producing new growth right now and its growing what I believe is a new cane at the base of the orchid. The new growth is growing at an approximately 15 degree angle, so very lateral coming out. It’s not big enough to stake yet. Is it normal for it to grow a new cane in a lateral direction like this? My other question is, since it is actively growing in October, would I still start to reduce watering at the end of October or wait until new cane has grown out more, it is growing rapidly.
        Thank you so much!

        1. Author

          Hi Jacque
          It is perfectly normal for dendrobium orchid canes to grow at an angle. In fact, in nature, they don’t usually grow up, but out and then hang down from where they are growing. It is only that they are popularly grown in the upright position. Start to stake it once it grows to about 6 inches in length.
          It you have multiple mature canes that stand a good chance of blooming next season, I would cut back on watering and fertilizing about now. This will help the fully grown canes to bloom, but your new cane will be less likely to bloom. If this is your only new cane, then it is unlikely to bloom next year unless you continue to promote healthy growth, so just continue to water and fertilize as needed.

  4. A very succinct guide on how to care for a very lovely – and different – houseplant, thank you very much. After reading a different guide a few weeks ago, I thought they were a highly complex plant to look after, requiring at least 2 different types of fertiliser. However, this guide is far better and much easier to read, and gives the suggestion that only one general orchid fertiliser is sufficient – so probably much better on the pocket too! I look forward to having flowers next year 🙂 .

  5. Hi
    This is my first Dendrobium bought for me for mothers day. I didn’t know anything about it as it didn’t come with a name or instructions so thank goodness I found your very interesting and informative website.
    Thank you

    1. What happens if you don’t fertilise atall? I have other orchids which seem to thrive without fertiliser so just checking whether this variety definitely needs the very specific care suggested?

      1. Author

        Your dendrobium will do fine for a good while without fertilizer, but it will grow less vigorously and be less likely to produce bloom-bearing canes. The plant will gain nutrients from the growing medium it is in, and it is only when there is a deficiency of important nutrients that the plant will start to suffer. Even applying fertilizer a few times per year can make a big difference to your success with these orchids.
        Best wishes
        Andrew

  6. This has been really useful. I was given a Dendrobium as a gift that was potted in what looked like garden compost so coming upon your site was a blessing. I live in North Yorkshire so am a bit nervous about winter temp these old terraces are cold. I have a green finger in the garden but house plants can be a bit tri ie for me so fingers crossed. If I manage to keep this alive through 2019/2020 winter I will buy another. Anyway I sorry I ramble. Thanks for all the great advice.

  7. Love Any Orchids ! My Flowers died off my Dendrobium a month ago , however there are still little dried up flower pieces on the cane where the flowers had been . Am I supposed to full them off ?
    Thanks for this article ! Very informative !

    1. Author

      You are probably referring to the small flower spikes that grow out of the side of the canes. You can safely remove these if you prefer, although I just leave mine alone.

    2. My Dendrobium orchid has got some black spot on three of the leaves how can I get rid of it please .

  8. Is it ok to cut the stems down they have become wrinkly not all of them I have watered didn’t make any difference.thank you very interesting to read your comments.

    1. Author

      I would leave the old canes in place until they have completely dried out. They store water and nutrients that the rest of the plant will use, leading to a more healthy plant. I normally leave the canes for a year after they finish flowering.

  9. Our plant looks like it is growing, roots near to the cane at the top, near the base of a flower? Is this possible? We were going to bit it off and plant it to see if it would grow.

    1. Author

      Hi Janice
      Yes, this is very possible. Sometimes dendrobium nobiles will produce new plantlets called keikis that grow out from one of the canes. Leave it on the cane until the roots are a few inches long and it has a few leaves. Then you can remove it and pot it separately, to grow a new orchid.
      Best wishes
      Andrew

        1. Author

          I would definitely recommend planting the new plant in a separate pot. If planted in the same pot, it will be competing with the parent plant and is unlikely to do as well.

    2. Hi Andrew,
      My Dendrobiums is old one year had flowers just last year. They grow two new from the root and one baby. I am expecting the flowers😔.
      And I am little a bit worry because between the leaves on the trunk but under green I see something black. What is that?
      I love my Orchid.

  10. Hi Andrew, I’m trying to resurrect a Dendrobium and I’ve read through your guide but as helpful as it is I can’t really fathom what to do with my plant! I’m wondering if I send you a picture would you be able to make a suggestion as to what I should do to tidy it up and stimulate some blooms? It hasn’t flowered since the ones it arrived with dropped off and now it’s just sprouting new stems everywhere! Any help would be greatly appreciated. It was a gift from my Gran who has since passed away and I’d love to see it flower again.

    1. Author

      Hi Aimee
      I’d be delighted to help you with your dendrobium. Pictures would be so helpful. From what you’ve said so far, it is possible this is entirely normal. Dendrobiums will produce new canes one year, but they don’t produce blooms on the new canes until the following growing season. You can send further info and some pictures to [email protected] and I’ll try my best to help you.

  11. Hello,

    I just threw out a Dendrobium (terminally, it’s on the compost heap in small bits) because I’ve never managed to get it to re-flower. My girlfriend bought one about 5 years ago, in full flower, and when it produced keikis gave me a couple. Both of us tried to grow these, but have never had any flowers since from the keikis or the original plant (and she’s usually quite successful getting phalaenopsis to reflower).

    I did try feeding the plant, though probably not as often as you recommend, and over the years tried watering it more or less to see if that made any difference. It didn’t. It always looked fairly healthy and did keep on producing keikis, however.

    I have one single stem left, so could make a final attempt to grow these plants. Any comments on why we might have been so unsuccessful getting them to reflower?

    1. Author

      Hi Piers
      Dendrobiums can be a little tricky to get to rebloom, but the most important thing is temperature variation. It is essential to expose your dendrobium to cooler nighttime temperatures of 50-60 °F (10-15°C) for about 4 weeks, ideally in November/December, with daytime temperatures of up to 70 °F (21°C) to have any chance of getting your dendrobium to flower. It is the cooler temperatures and temperature variation between day and night that triggers the plant to develops new buds. It sounds like you doing well with all other aspects of care, but this is the missing piece of the puzzle. Also remember to cut way back on watering from October to January, keeping the potting medium fairly dry.
      Best of luck with your dendrobium.
      Andrew

  12. Hi! I am Barlène Vencatapillay from Mauritius. I have a dendrobium plant at home. But, it is not growing so well. It is planted in charcoal. Any advice, please?

    1. Author

      Hi Barlene
      Other than the advice in this article, if you’d like to email me a picture or two of your plant, I can give you some specific advice. My email is [email protected]

  13. Last year I had found a large dendrobium orchid that was bound for the trash. I didn’t know what to do with it but it had a kaki growing from it. The original plant was very yellow and the leaves were early all gone. I cut off the kaki and planted it in a bark and moss mix in a plastic pot with holes in it, and put that pot into a clay pot. Once in a while I soaked the kaki and allowed it to drain before returning it to the clay pot and IT STARTED TO GROW ROOTS! It now has some healthy leaves, lots of white roots in the pot, and a small white bump growing from the side of it. It is about 5 inches tall. What is the bump? Could it be a flower spike forming? I would love to know what colour of orchid I have.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Hi Eva
      It sounds like you are getting on really well with your plant. I’m not sure from your description what the white bump is, but if you send a photo to [email protected] I should be able to identify it.
      Many thanks
      Andrew

  14. Thank you. You have answered all the questions I needed to care for my orchid .

  15. Exactly the kind of guide I was looking for! Been after a Dendrobium for a while, and finally picked one up today.
    I have some questions about the potting mix however, for my Phalaenopsis I use a bark mix that has little ceramic pieces in, and i give the plants a good soak when they show signs of needing water.
    Are Dendrobiums also happy in a bark+ceramic mix, or must they have soil or some other mix that retains a lot more water? I’m not entirely sure if their water requirement is much higher than the Phals, or if it’s similar.
    Do the roots of Dendrobiums also like the light/air and prefer to be planted in a clear pot?
    Thanks so much for the guide!

    1. Author

      Hi Sarah
      Dendrobiums will do very well in a mix of pine bark/lava rock/perlite, just like phalaenopsis orchids. However, they can also do well in a standard soilless potting mix, with added perlite, as long as drainage is excellent. As long as you ensure the mix is rapidly draining and dries out quickly, your dendrobium should be fine. Make sure not to use too big a pot. There is no particular need to use a clear pot for dendrobiums. The dendrobium I used for the pictures in this article was potted in a combination of peat and pine bark and it is thriving, having grown three new canes this year. Much more frequent watering is required compared to phalaenopsis orchids, as long as you do not let your dendrobium sit in soggy soil or standing water.
      Best wishes
      Andrew

  16. Very helpful, I have got 4 babies taken from it and growing on in moss and. now have to pot them on. Wish I had read this earlier, I cut the big cane down down after flowering!

  17. Thank you for all this helpful information. I have had my Dendrobium nobile for may years and it blooms at least once each year, sometimes twice a year. By this time it has quite a number of old – but still green and healthy looking – canes on it and they detract from the beauty of the plant. What should I do with them?
    Thank you.

    1. Author

      I’d totally agree with you about the old canes detracting from the aesthetics of these plants. However, unfortunately my advice has to be to leave the canes alone until they have become completely brown. Having said that, you’ve obviously got the care conditions just right, so you could try removing 1-2 canes this year to see if that has a significantly negative impact on blooming, and if not, you could try removing the rest of the spent canes. This is a risk, but you will need to weigh up the pros and cons.
      Best wishes
      Andrew

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