Few flowers compare to the unique and beautiful orchid. With thick glossy leaves and colored blooms, orchids are one of the oldest flowering plants! Due to their exotic nature, growers could not always enjoy these plants as we do today. However, successful cultivation has allowed them to become popular among those who do not live near their natural habitat.
If you have orchids at home but are afraid to propagate them on your own, do not worry. This task will allow you to multiply your collection of these beautiful blooms! Whether it is outgrowing the pot or you want to have more orchids, here are four easy ways to propagate them.
Ways to Propagate Your Orchid
Dividing orchids is the most popular method of propagation and perhaps the simplest. Propagation through division is not only necessary if the plant is outgrowing the pot, but it can encourage more healthy growth to occur. To be successful, division needs to take place when new growth appears. The easiest orchid to propagate by division is sympodial species due to the production of new growth along rhizomes or the stem. This species of orchid has a stem that grows incredibly close to the ground on rhizomes.
To divide sympodial orchids, start by removing the plant from the pot and cleaning the roots of any remaining medium that might be clinging on. Next, determine where you would like to divide the plant. Each complete pseudobulb (the bulbous enlargement of the stem) can produce new growth eventually. However, it can take years before it is robust enough to do so. For this reason, many decide to divide into sections that have three to four complete pseudobulbs. Cut the plant into your desired divisions and then repot it.
Pro Tip: Use sterile tools to avoid disease or damage to the orchid during propagation.
Propagation with back bulbs is similar in process to division, with a slight difference. Instead of choosing several pseudobulbs to divide, this method is based on dividing out the back bulb. A back bulb is a pseudobulb that has lost its leaves and died off but is still an energy reserve for the parent plant and so it stays dormant. The eyes within the back bulb can become active growth.
When propagating back bulbs, follow the same process as division propagation, locating the back bulb and cleaning any soil from the area. Check its root system and confirm it is healthy. Remove any dead material and then ensure the eyes of the back bulb stay above the soil once planted. Propagation with back bulbs can take several years before new flowers appear due to their initial dormant state.
It is possible to propagate a back bulb that does not have active eyes, however, it can be a much more lengthy and variable process. The repotted plant may not produce for several years. Keep in mind, as long as the bulb and leaf are green, active growth is a possibility.
Offshoots are small individual plants that grow off the main stem of the orchid. This type of propagation is compatible with species such as dendrobium and phalaenopsis.
To propagate this way, remove the offshoots or “keikis” from the stem with a sterile tool once they have matured. A sign of a mature offshoot is two or three inches of roots. That’s right, keikis form on old growth and will grow roots directly out the stem of the orchid. To remove it you’ll need to make two cuts — one below the longest root and another just above the keikis to remove the old growth.
Next, follow the same planting and care as a back bulb propagation.
Did you know that orchids hold the record for the smallest seeds? On a healthy orchid, one seed capsule can house up to a million tiny orchid seeds! Although this is another way to propagate orchids, this way is more challenging.
When collecting orchid seeds, handle them with care, as they are so tiny and susceptible to contamination. Catching them at the time of release (or just before) from their capsule is the best way to achieve optimal results.
To do so, place a bag around the mature capsule to catch any seeds released. Harvest seeds right away by either planting them or drying the seeds for future use.
Tips for Success
To achieve propagation success, reducing the risk of viruses and disease is key. Sanitizing tools and working in areas of good airflow and temperature decreases this risk.
Using single-blade razors for each plant is the most user-friendly. Other options include dipping knives or shears into sterilizing solution between cuts or using an open flame to sear the blade.
Try it For Yourself!
If you find yourself with an overgrown orchid or want to multiply your collection, propagation is possible for home growers! The four easiest ways to propagate your orchids are through division, back bulbs, offshoots, or by seed. Through proper care and sanitization, you can achieve success at home!
Have you propagated orchids with any of these four methods? Comment below with your experiences and share with fellow orchid lovers!