How to Grow Orchids From Cuttings

How to Grow Orchids From Cuttings

Grow-Orchids-from-Cuttings

Once you get a couple of orchids, you’ll find yourself wanting to expand your orchid collection even more. You have two options: you can either go buy more orchids, or you can propagate the orchids you already have.

Although it takes a little more time than buying new orchids from a store, propagating orchids can be fun (and usually cheaper than buying new orchids).

The type of orchid that you have will determine which kind of propagation will work best. Keep reading to learn more about  how to grow orchids from cuttings, from keikis, and from division.

How to Grow Orchids From Cuttings

Even though most plant owners are probably most familiar with growing new plants from cuttings, this isn’t the most common method used to propagate new orchids. That’s because most orchids will not grow from cuttings. The majority of orchids are best propagated from other methods.

However, there are a few orchids that will grow from cuttings. If you have an orchid that can be propagated from cuttings, then you’re in luck because this method is possibly the easiest. 

Phalaenopsis and other single-stem orchids can be propagated from stem cuttings. Most orchids with multiple stems or bulbs cannot be propagated from cuttings unless you have a dendrobium. Some dendrobium, like dendrobium nobile, will sprout from cuttings. Although most people don’t own vining orchids, vining orchids are easily propagated from cuttings.

Propagating Orchids From Cuttings Step by Step

Materials

Step 1: Select the stem that you want to propagate. For monopodial orchids like phalaenopsis, you will essentially cut the orchid in half. The bottom part with the roots will remain in the original container. If you are cutting a dendrobium nobile, you’ll want to cut one cane and then divide that cane into several cuttings each containing 2-3 nodes.

Step 2: Place the stems into the new growing medium. Cover with a clear plastic bag. Be sure to keep the cuttings in a spot with lots of light.

Step 3: Water to replace moisture when necessary, and continue to care for the cuttings. You should eventually see root growth. This lets you know that the propagation has been successful. Be patient, though, because some orchid cuttings won’t show any signs of growth for 3 or 4 months after cuttings are taken.

Growing Orchids From Divisions

Although growing orchids from cuttings is an easy process, the problem is that most orchids just won’t grow from cuttings. If you have sympodial orchids (the ones that have multiple canes), then propagating from cuttings isn’t likely to work for you.

Don’t worry, though, because you have another easy option for propagating new orchids: dividing. As sympodial orchids mature, they create new pseudobulbs. You can create a clone of your existing plant by dividing the plant (usually in half). 

Unlike other methods for propagation, there’s no time spent waiting to see if the new orchid will grow. Instead, you just have two smaller orchids that should happily continue growing because they already have established roots, leaves, and stems.

Propagation orchids can be simple! Keep reading to learn more about how to grow orchids from cuttings, keikis, and division.

Propagating Orchids by Division Step by Step

Dividing orchids is an easy process. The only downside to dividing is that you do need to wait until you have a mature orchid that is ready to be repotted. This generally occurs about every 3 years.

This means that you cannot divide the same orchid every single year to get new plants, but on the bright side, the success rate for growing new orchids from divisions is very high. Dividing orchids is very similar to repotting them.

Think you’re ready to try dividing your orchids?

All you need is a mature sympodial orchid that you are ready to repot and a new container to place the divided orchid in.

Step 1: After your orchid has finished flowering and when it is time to repot, remove the orchid from its container. Carefully separate the roots and divide the rhizomes into clumps. Try to get 3 or 4 canes that are actively growing in each clump. You’ll likely be dividing the orchid in half unless you have an unusually large orchid.

Step 2: Place each clump into its own container with a new growing medium. Continue to care for each orchid as normal. 

In most cases, you shouldn’t see any delay in blooming after dividing orchids. Dividing orchids is a great way to produce new orchids.

Growing Orchids From Keikis

The word “keiki” is a Hawaiian word that means “baby” or “child.” With regard to orchids, a keiki is a tiny offshoot plant that the mother plant develops near the base or on the stems. It’s basically a very small copy of the mother plant.

These keikis develop naturally and can be easily removed to create a second plant. Dendrobiums and Phalaenopsis are the orchids that are most likely to produce keikis, which will look like tiny plants growing along the stem of the mother plant. 

If you notice a keiki, your first feeling will probably be excitement over the idea of getting to create a second plant. But first, pause to make sure that the mother plant is doing well. While some types of orchids create lots of keikis, others only grow keikis when the mother plant is stressed out. This allows the plant to pass along genetic material if it dies.

Seeing a keiki does not always mean that something is wrong with an orchid, but it’s a good idea to check to see if environmental conditions are causing stress to your orchid just in case. Once you’ve verified that everything is okay with the mother plant, you can move onto the fun part—propagating a new orchid.

Propagation orchids can be simple! Keep reading to learn more about how to grow orchids from cuttings, keikis, and division.

How Do You Remove and Plant an Orchid Keiki?

Congratulations, your orchid produced a keiki and you’re excited to start a new plant. Some growers decide to simply remove the keiki and get rid of it, but you have decided that you want to plant your orchid keiki.

Here’s what to do next.

Materials

  • A clean, sharp knife
  • A new container with orchid growing medium

Step 1: Allow the keiki to remain on the mother plant until it has multiple leaves and its roots are between 1-3 inches long. Although you’re probably ready to propagate as quickly as possible, the keiki needs to be able to survive on its own before you remove it from the mother plant.

Step 2: Use a sharp knife to carefully remove the keiki from the mother plant. Some orchid owners choose to put cinnamon on the cut portions of the mother plant. Cinnamon acts as a natural antifungal agent. 

Step 3: Place the keiki in the new container. Be sure to use either sphagnum moss or potted orchid mix as the growing medium.

Step 4: Keep the growing medium around the keiki moist by misting the soil as the keiki develops. Avoid placing the keiki in direct sunlight. While your keiki is developing, it needs less light and more moisture than a mature orchid.

Keikis already have a root system, so there should not be issues with the plant developing properly as long as you take proper care of it. Keikis can take 3 or 4 years to mature before you see flowers, so be patient and enjoy the process.

Is it Hard to Propagate Orchids?

Orchids have a reputation for being hard to grow, so you might assume that they would also be hard to propagate. If you assume this, then you are partially right. The methods that we’ve talked about so far—cuttings, keikis, and divisions—are fairly easy. 

If you have an orchid that can be propagated by one of those methods, then propagating should be easy; however, there are other orchids that are more difficult to propagate.

These more challenging orchids are generally grown by commercial growers. Most commercial growers propagate using tissue cultures, a method which requires special equipment and a completely sterile environment. It’s not something that you can do at home. 

An advantage to propagating using tissue cultures is that these orchids develop more quickly than some other methods of propagation and can be done on a larger scale. Commercial growers do not have the time to wait for their plants to produce keikis or grow large enough to divide once every 3 years.

Commercial growers do sometimes grow new orchids from seed. This process is also expensive and time-consuming. You could technically grow your own orchids from seed; however, just finding sources for orchid seeds is difficult. You can pollinate your own orchids with the hope of getting a seed pod several months later. 

Then you’re faced with the task of germinating the seeds. It is possible to do this at home if you are committed and willing to gather a lot of equipment and create a sterile environment. Orchids take years to mature when they are grown from seed, so it would be a while before you see the reward from your efforts.

Most of us are not quite this committed to growing orchids from seed, but if it is something that interests you, it is worth a shot. And some people do successfully grow orchids from seed at home.

The rest of us will just continue buying new orchids or using less challenging methods of propagation.

Propagating Orchids FAQ

Still have questions about propagating orchids? Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about propagating orchids.

FAQ: Can you root an orchid stem in water?

Most orchids do not do well when you try to root their orchid stems in water. If you are propagating orchids from cuttings, it is better to place the cuttings in a growing medium instead. Vining orchids are the exception to this rule. You can root cuttings from vining orchids in water.

FAQ: Can you propagate an orchid from a leaf?

No, you cannot propagate most orchids from a leaf. Some growers have had limited success in propagating certain varieties from leaves, but this method is unlikely to be successful.

FAQ: How long does it take to propagate an orchid?

The time it takes to propagate an orchid depends on the method of propagation used. When propagating from stem cuttings, expect to wait 3-4 months before seeing growth. Expect to see new growth sooner when propagating by keikis or by division. With keikis, the new plant is already in the process of developing when you remove it from the mother plant. Of course, with division, you are dividing a plant that is already mature, so you won’t have to wait to see significant growth like you would with cuttings or keikis.

FAQ: Are orchid keikis bad?

Sometimes a keiki can be a sign that the mother plant is experiencing stress, but this is not always the case. Some orchids produce keikis even when they are doing fine. However, it’s best to check your orchid’s condition if you notice a keiki. 

FAQ: When should I remove an orchid keiki?

If you are planning to propagate an orchid keiki, wait to remove it from the mother plant until you see multiple leaves and between 1-3 inches of root growth. If you don’t want to use the keiki to grow a new plant, you can remove the keiki as soon as you see it. Keikis can take nutrients from the mother plant, so some growers like to remove them right away; but it won’t severely damage the plant if you don’t remove the keiki.

Join Our Orchid Care Facebook Community

In our Facebook group of orchid lovers, we’re dedicated to creating a rich and engaging environment where plant lovers can come together and share their successes on how to grow orchids from cuttings. 

If you’re an orchid lover, come join our Facebook community! We can’t wait to celebrate your successes and help you troubleshoot your care routine. 

For continued success, you can explore our other articles or visit our online shop for plant care products that are sure to keep your plants boasting rich green leaves and big, bountiful blooms year-round.

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