What is Orchid Propagation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Orchid propagation is a technique which is used to grow orchids. Orchids are very diverse plants found in many regions of the world, and they are very popular as ornamental plants for both indoor and outdoor gardeners. There are a number of different methods which can be used to propagate orchids, ranging from techniques which usually need to be performed in a laboratory environment to methods easy enough for beginning gardeners.

Division orchid propagation takes the shoots of a healthy adult plant and separates them when the plant is repotted.
Division orchid propagation takes the shoots of a healthy adult plant and separates them when the plant is repotted.

Many orchids will produce aerial shoots and roots which can be propagated as aerial cuttings. In this method of orchid propagation, a gardener waits for a new shoot to form on an orchid, and removes it once it has started to establish roots, transferring it to a pot with a growing medium. Many orchids produce aerial shoots, and this is one of the easiest methods available for growing new plants.

The Laelia is a member of the orchid family that blooms in the spring and autumn.
The Laelia is a member of the orchid family that blooms in the spring and autumn.

Division is another orchid propagation technique which is an option with many plants. In division, the shoots of a healthy adult plant are gently separated when the plant is repotted. This technique can be used with many species. For more advanced players, it is possible to engage in stem propagation, but stem propagation of orchids requires a special culture medium, sterile conditions, and a close attention to detail.

Some plants produce keikis, or “babies” in Hawaiian. Akin to aerial shoots, they can be separated from the parent plant when they mature and potted in their own potting medium. The keiki will be a clone of the parent plant. Back bulb propagation is another technique which is relatively easy, done with pseudobulbs which have lost their leaves, but which retain circulation.

More advanced orchid propagation techniques include meristem propagation and growing from seed. These require lab conditions and very tight controls to make sure that the orchids stay healthy as they are carefully coaxed into growth. Meristem propagation is done with tissue cultures to produce a clone of the parent plant from undifferentiated stem cells, while propagation from seed requires the ability to collect and cultivate the very tiny seeds of the orchid plant.

Some orchid species are more suitable for casual propagation than others. People who are interested in orchid propagation may want to seek out orchids which produce keikis or aerial shoots, or are easy to divide. The staff at a nursery can often provide specific advice, and it is also possible to buy from a nursery which specializes in orchids; such nurseries sometimes have classes to provide people with information about orchid propagation and cultivation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon115153

Great article!I was looking for info like this, about orchid propagation.

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