How To Propagate Orchids Phalaenopsis?

Propagating your own plants is one of the most rewarding and cost-effective ways to add more plants to your garden, and it is relatively easy to do successfully.

There is more than one way to propagate Phalaenopsis orchids: you can either do it through keikis, or through head or stem cuttings.

In this article, we will discuss both methods of propagation, so if you are considering propagating your Phalaenopsis orchids, then keep reading.

What is orchid propagation?

Before we dive into the different methods of propagation, let us first discuss what propagation actually is.

Propagation is a process of reproducing multiple plants from a single parent plant by taking a cutting from that plant and planting the cutting in its own growing medium, or by dividing the plant in half and then planting both halves.

Propagation is an asexual form of plant reproduction, which means that you are essentially cloning the primary plant and the two plants will have identical characteristics and features.

Plant enthusiasts propagate because it is an easy way to add more plants to their collection, and it is also an effective way of keeping plants a certain size and not having them grow to unmanageable sizes. Gardeners also love the fact that they can essentially create clones of plants. This is beneficial for those that have plants with unique or spectacular blooms that they wish to reproduce.

Is there a difference between propagation and raising an orchid from seed?

Yes, there is a difference, because using a seed to grow an orchid is sexual reproduction. Two plants cross-pollinated for the seeds to be produced, and this creates an entirely new plant with its own unique sets of characteristics that come from both parent plants. You can raise orchids from seed, but it can be challenging and can take some time before they become fully grown.

Propagation is much easier and results in full-grown plants in a much shorter span of time. The propagator will also know what the plant will look like, because they are aware of what the parent plant is like. It is simply a more straightforward method overall.

How do Phalaenopsis orchids reproduce?

There is a popular belief that the cultivation and reproduction of orchids is complicated and difficult, but this is not always the case. These orchids are native to the tropical rainforests and they have survived those conditions by being tough and resilient.

Orchids can reproduce both though the traditional system followed by most plants, wherein the flower is pollinated by insects or small animals, and also by generating a new plant by themselves, without external fertilization. The young plant grows on the parent plant while it develops its own roots. This small plant is a clone of the parent plant and is also called a keiki.

Keikis are a result of the parent plant’s survival instinct. If the plant senses a change in its living conditions, be it a change in the temperature, humidity or light, it will go into survival mode and produce the keiki to make sure that its species continues in case it dies.

Sexual reproduction in orchids is much more common in the wild. This is when one orchid is pollinated by another via insects or small animals. The plant will then produce seeds and these seeds will continue the orchid species. This method can be difficult to simulate in a home greenhouse setup. You also have no control over what the resulting plant will look like, because it will be a combination of both parent plants.

What are the different methods of orchid propagation?

Keikis

‘Keiki’ literally means ‘baby’ in Hawaiian, and this is exactly what keikis are to the parent plant. Not all orchid varieties produce keikis. Keikis are floral layers, but most people just use the term to mean the actual small plant growing from the main plant.

From the orchid’s floral stick, a tiny plant will grow out, and this tiny plant is an exact replica of the mother plant. Keikis can grow naturally, but there are also ways of encouraging a plant to generate keikis.

This is the easiest way to reproduce Phalaenopsis orchids. They may not be the most prone variety of orchid to produce keikis, but they still can. Keikis can develop for various reasons, but the most drastic is when the plant is subjected to a lot of stress and produces the keiki as a way of reproducing before it dies.

You will know that a keiki is forming when you see a knot form on the floral stick and aerial roots start to appear on the knot. Soon enough, leaves will start to form on the knot, and will start to look just like the parent plant.

Wait until the keiki is at least two inches long before cutting it off, or wait until it has at least three leaves on it.

You can stimulate the production of a keiki by cutting the floral stick above a node. Remove the skin covering the node and expose it to light. The roots and keiki will hopefully come out from the node.

Cut the keiki around one to two inches down the stem and transplant it by placing it in a new pot, or in the same pot as the parent plant. Planting it in the same pot as the parent plant is recommended because the parent plant will shelter it by regulating the soil conditions so that the keiki has a better chance of growing. Place it in the pot root-down and cover with substrate.

The moment the keiki has begun growing properly, it can be separated from the parent plant. Be careful when uprooting it, because the roots may still be delicate and fragile.

Cuttings

If your orchid is not growing keikis, you can still produce more orchids using cuttings. This method is recommended for Phalaenopsis orchids because they are a fast-growing orchid variety, and the faster the orchid grows, the more cuttings you can get from the plant.

In order to take cuttings from your parent plant, you will need a sterilized pair of scissors, a sterilized knife, coconut fiber chunks or sphagnum moss, rooting hormones, a shallow plastic container, transparent film and an orchid plant with a floral stick that has lost all of its flowers.

Cut a stem from the orchid plant that is at least 20 inches long. Divide the stem into 4-inch sections and make sure each section has a dormant bud on it.

Place the growing medium on a shallow tray and spray it until it is moist. Place the cuttings on the medium and cover the tray with the plastic film. Place the tray somewhere that is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and where the cuttings only get indirect sunlight.

Keep the cuttings moist, but make sure the medium is not soggy because this can end up rotting the cuttings. If any of the cuttings do end up rotting, remove them and throw them away.

When the cuttings develop new shoots and roots, you can plant the new plants in their individual pots, with a mixture of bark, lava rock and sphagnum moss. If you need to use a stick to keep them upright, do so. 

Place the pots where they can get bright, indirect light and start watering the plants normally once they start growing new leaves. Make sure the humidity around the plants is high and fertilize them once a month during the growing season of spring and summer.

Conclusion

Propagating orchids using keikis and cuttings is the fastest way of reproducing the plants in your collection.

You can propagate your Phalaenopsis orchids by waiting for the plant to produce keikis, which is another name for baby plants that grow on the parent plant, or you can take cuttings from the parent plant and plant sections of the floral stick so that they grow their own roots and leaves.

Once the keikis or the cuttings have established their roots well enough, they can be treated like normal plants and watered accordingly. Expose them to sufficient bright, indirect sunlight and fertilize them once a month during the growing season.

Image: istockphoto.com / Nelly Senko