Orchid propagation is acquiring multiple numbers of plants from the one plant. There are six types of orchid propagation. They are seed, meristem, keiki, aerial cutting, division, and backbulbs. Seed and meristem propagation are both laboratory methods. The other four methods are vegetative propagation, the easiest for the home grower or hobbyist. Sometimes you will find that the method of vegetative propagation of orchids is determined by the type of growth of your plant.
This is an orchid propagation process best suited for the laboratory requiring a high level of sterility. The other reason is that orchid seeds are very fine particles that need special growing techniques because the seed has no nutrients in it to sustain the seedling during its initial growth.
This orchid propagation procedure is taking plant tissue and cultivated in the laboratory. The procedure requires sterility and cleanliness of the highest degree also. This is a process used in industry to mass produce a particular hybrid for commercial usage. It is not a method recommended at home because of the high clinical sterility needed which isn’t achievable in the home environment. Meristem culture is available for purchasing but you may have to wait 3 to 5 years of growth before it begins to bloom.
Keiki is a vegetative form of orchid propagation. It is the formation of new offshoots, baby stem or baby plant with roots from the stem of the plant itself. Usually under normal conditions this would be a branch. This is quite a common occurrence amongst many popular orchids such as vanda, phalaenospis and in dendrobiums. When they have mature they can be cut off with a sterile razor followed by treatment of the cut surface with a disinfected such as Physan. This too is a method easily achieved in the home.
This type of orchid propagation is similar if not the same as keiki, the only difference is that the new baby plant does not start on the spike but in the place of a flower bud would normally develop. This results in a small plant developing instead of a flower. This is an occurrence with Dendrobiums. This occurs when it is in an unfavorable growing environment. The cutting process is the same as in keiki.
Division is another orchid propagation process that can be achieved by the newbie at home. This is basically a process of splitting the plant into two or more plants. Splitting is beneficial to the plant since this will kindle the plant to grow new more vigorous shoots. Repotting the plant in fresh media mix will enhance the growth.
Best time to divide is when there are three or more pseudobulbs. Otherwise anything less than three would need at least three years before the new division blooms. The most appropriate time to begin the dividing process is in the early days of spring. This will give your orchid a chance to grow throughout the spring and summer seasons.
The method you choose to divide your orchid depends on the growing nature of your plant. This means that you must first understand the type of growth pattern your orchid has. These growth patterns are two of a kind that all orchids fit into. They are monopodial growth and sympodial growth.
Monopodial growth characteristics are displayed in plants such as phalaenopsis and vandas. They have a single tall stem that grows vertically upwards. As the stem grows, new leaves are added in pairs opposite to each other on the stem. Older leaves further down the stem towards the base tend to die out and aerial roots begin to develop at the node (the junction between the leaves and stem). In this event once aerial roots take form, cut the plant just below the node where the aerial roots are. Take the cut spike and plant it into the center of another pot of fresh medium. Take also the lower section and repot that too into a fresh medium mix. The lower cut section will grow a new stem from the cut or it might develop signs of new growth from the base.
Characteristics of sympodial growth are showed in cattleyas, oncidiums, cymbidiums and in dendrobiums. These have a horizontal stem growing along the ground surface. This horizontal stem is called a rhizome. From the rhizome, roots will sprout out into the surface. Also the pseudobulbs will shoot vertically upwards from the rhizome. The rhizome is where one or two leaves will normally grow on the pseudobulbs. The pseodobulbs store water and nutrients for the plant. It is on the pseudobulbs that the flowers are formed. The leading pseudobulb is called an eye or lead. This is where new growth occurs. Many sympodials have many growth leads or leading pseudobulbs. To divide a sympodial plant, the entire rhizome system must contain initially at least six pseudobulbs so with each new division of the rhizome there must be at least three pseudobulbs, the more the better. When executing the slicing of the rhizome use an unused razor blade. Take the new divisions and have them planted into a pot by the side of the pot with the eye facing towards the opposite side of the pot.
This is an orchid propagation process of taking bulbs that are not on the leading growing sections but cutting the bulbs that are behind the leading growth. These bulbs have passed their flowering stage or perhaps never yield any flowers. They are sometimes leafless, dormant and are old pseudobulbs their only function is to store water. Once again when cutting these, one should group them into at least three backbulbs. Backbulbs may take up to three years or longer before you will see flowers. Before planting them, clean away by removing dried up foliage and place in a flat tray or pot with moist live sphagnum moss. They should be kept continuously warm and moist and sprayed with water, both leaves and bulbs. After a few weeks you should see new root growth; however there are cases in which growth will not appear for up to two years. Once growth has initiated then plant the backbulbs into a pot as you would normally do with orchids.
Off the six methods of propagating only aerial cutting, backbulbs, keiki and division are the methods for the home grower. Division is the most common for the home grower and that every grower should be aware of what type of division is considered necessary for their plant before dividing, does the plant need the method used for monopodial growth behavior or the method used for sympodial growth behavior?