How to Propagate Orchids Four Different Ways

Orchids are beautiful and exotic flowers that can add a touch of elegance to any space. While they have a reputation for being difficult to care for, propagating your own orchids is an easy and rewarding endeavor. There are four main methods you can use to propagate orchids: division, backbulbs, keikis, and seed. With a little knowledge and patience, you’ll be able to grow new orchid plants in no time.

Divide Mature Orchid Plants

Dividing a mature orchid plant is one of the easiest ways to propagate new orchid plants. This method works well for sympodial orchids that grow laterally with rhizomes.

Here’s how to divide an orchid:

  • Wait until the plant is mature and has at least six canes or pseudobulbs. This ensures the divided sections will be large enough to survive on their own.
  • Water the plant thoroughly a day before dividing. This makes it easier to separate the roots.
  • Sterilize a sharp knife or pruners with rubbing alcohol to cut the plant. Dull blades will crush and damage the plant tissues.
  • Locate the rhizome between two canes where you want to divide the plant. The rhizome is the horizontal green stem from which the canes grow.
  • Make a clean cut through the rhizome with your sterile blade, separating the plant into two sections. Each section should have 3-4 canes and an ample root system.
  • Pot each new plant section in its own orchid potting mix, water well and place in indirect light.
  • In a few weeks, you’ll have two new orchid plants! Make sure to provide the right care and conditions as the plants establish.

Dividing orchids takes a mature plant and propagates more plants from it. As long as you sterilize your tools and make clean cuts, it’s a very reliable way to get new orchid plants.

Propagate Orchids from Backbulbs

Backbulbs are swollen bulb-like nodes on older pseudobulbs of some orchids, like Phalaenopsis. They can be used to propagate new plants through backbulb propagation. Here’s how:

  • Identify a pseudobulb on the orchid that has a backbulb. Backbulbs look like small round bulges along the pseudobulb.
  • Use a sterile knife or pruners to cut the backbulb away from the main plant. Try to retain some attached roots.
  • Allow the cut to callus over for a day or two before potting. This prevents infection.
  • Plant the backbulb in orchid potting mix in a 3-4 inch pot. Bury just the lower half, with the cut callused end above the mix.
  • Keep the potting mix moist but not soggy. Place the potted backbulb in indirect light.
  • In a few months, the backbulb will sprout a new shoot and roots. Care for it like a normal orchid plant.
  • Once established, the new plant can be repotted into a larger container. Enjoy your new orchid grown from a backbulb!

Backbulb propagation utilizes the built-in growth nodes on orchid pseudobulbs. As long as the backbulb stays viable after cutting, it can generate an entirely new plant.

Grow Orchids from Keikis

Keikis are baby orchid plants that grow off of flower spikes. Many Phalaenopsis orchids are prone to producing keikis naturally. You can leave them attached or remove and pot them up to grow new plants.

Here’s how to propagate orchids from keikis:

  • Identify a keiki growing from a flower spike. Keikis emerge from nodes as little miniature plants.
  • Let the keiki grow larger, developing its own roots and small leaves. Wait until it has 3-4 leaves.
  • Use sterile pruners to cut the keiki off close to its base, retaining any roots.
  • Plant the keiki in orchid potting mix in a 3-4 inch pot. Bury the lower half with the cut end above the mix surface.
  • Keep the potting mix evenly moist and place the keiki in bright indirect light.
  • In a couple months, the keiki will be established in its new pot. Care for it like an adult orchid.

Keikis make propagation easy since they are naturally primed for growth. Removing and potting them is an effortless way to expand an orchid collection.

Propagate Orchids from Seed

Growing orchids from seed is challenging but rewarding. It requires sterile conditions, specific growing media, and months for seeds to germinate. But it’s the only way to create new hybrids and grow species orchids true from seed.

Follow these steps for orchid seed propagation:

  • Acquire orchid seed packets from a reputable seller. Surface sterilize seeds before use.
  • Make sterile seed starting mix of nutrients like agars, gels, oatmeal or coconut water.
  • Sprinkle seeds thinly on germinating media in a sterile container. Seal.
  • Place in bright, indirect light. Maintain temperatures of 65-75°F.
  • In 4-12 months, seedlings may emerge. Pot up individual plants when large enough.
  • Growing conditions must be sterile initially to prevent damping off disease.
  • Gradually acclimate young plants to normal growing conditions over several months.

Orchid seeds lack nutrients to sustain early growth. Providing sterile, nutrient-rich media gives the seeds what they need to put energy into germination. With careful handling, you can grow orchids from seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions About Propagating Orchids

When is the best time to divide an orchid plant?

The best time is just after flowering when the plant is entering a growth phase. Avoid dividing right before or during flowering.

How long does it take for a divided orchid plant to re-bloom?

It typically takes 12-18 months for a divided orchid to regain maturity and re-bloom. Proper care like water, light, and nutrition will help it re-establish faster.

Should I use rooting hormone on cut surfaces when propagating orchids?

No, rooting hormone is not necessary. Orchid stems naturally produce roots and plantlets when cut.

What type of potting mix should I use for propagating orchids?

Use a chunky, fast-draining orchid potting mix. Options include bark, perlite, charcoal, sphagnum moss, or foam peanuts.

Can I propagate Phalaenopsis orchids in water instead of soil?

Yes, Phalaenopsis can be propagated in water. Suspend the cut plant section or keiki above water so the base is submerged but leaves are above.

Propagating Orchids Opens Up New Possibilities

Learning how to propagate orchids through divisions, backbulbs, keikis or seeds enables you to expand your collection with new plants. Follow basic sterile procedures and provide proper growing conditions, and you’ll soon have multiple new orchids. Propagation lets you reuse mature plants, take advantage of extra growths, and even create your own hybrids and species plants from seed. With so many diverse orchids to enjoy, propagation is a fun way to fill your indoor spaces with more of these exotic beauties.