Propagation Of Orchids

Most home growers can easily propagate orchids by several methods - through offshoots, by division or raising the seedlings. In fact, the method for propagating orchids depends on the variety of orchid chosen by an individual and also the time she/he is willing to dedicate to the procedure.

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Dividing orchids

For the uninitiated, creating new orchids by using the division method is the easiest. For instance, when a plant is divided, it results in giving us two or even more plants that are the same as their parent. However, the technique employed for dividing plants are different and they are subject to the variety of orchid chosen for propagation.

Sympodial division

In fact you may divide nearly all orchids having a sympodial growth habit in the same way as you would divide an iris to develop more plants of the same variety and having the same characteristics. For this you require a sharp, disinfected knife to cut the rhizome from side to side at a point so that each division has anything between three and five pseudo stems or bulbs.

Subsequently, carefully separate the root mass and plant each of the divisions in different pots. These divisions are usually strong and they will rapidly establish themselves so that you may expect them to flower in the following season's growth.

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However, even if any of the old "black bulbs" (the pseudo bulbs) or orchid stems that have been taken from the stem of the plants or they do not produce leaves any longer, don't discard them at all. This is because on several occasions it has been found that even they can be persuaded to grow new shoots just by placing them in vacant pots.

You can plant them in regular pots after they develop new shoots. It is worth mentioning here that plants produced using this method will usually take anything between three to five years to mature.

On the other hand, you can easily divide clumps of paphiopedilums into varied specimens. Instead of cutting the rhizomes, in this case you should use your fingers to twist the rhizomes and break them. While breaking the rhizomes, ensure that you leave three growths on each of the divisions.

You may cut the old stems of dendrobiums into small sections and put some moist sphagnum moss on them to induce growth of new plantlets. The plantlets that appear naturally on plants themselves can be separated them from the stems and planted in separate pots as soon as you see them developing roots.

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Monopodial division

Propagating monopodial orchids is so easy that even amateurs can do it well. Many monopodial orchids develop shoots on their sides and you can remove these shoots and place them in pots once they begin to grow their own shoots.

Monopodial orchids are tall growing and they produce several aerial roots whose number can be increased if you decapitate the plant. All you need to do is just remove the upper part of the plant and replant the cut off portion in a planting mix along with some of its sprawling aerial shoot.

Usually, the lower part of the plant will grow a new growing point on its own. Occasionally, plantlets known as keikis develop on flower spikes, particularly on the canes of epidendrums and also on phalaenopsis.

When their aerial roots have grown up to a length of 1 inch to 2 inches, you may cut or break off these plantlets and plant them in a pot. Subsequently, place the pot and all other things in a plastic bag till some new growth is seen.

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Meristem culture

There are several other methods of division and some of them are worth mentioning here. However, these division methods are not meant for the home growers.

In due course, you will come to learn about the term meristem culture, which is actually an expert technique that helps to rapidly increase the number of selected plants, especially plants belonging to a rare new cultivar.

In this case, the meristem (tissues found at the terminal of a shoot and contains embryonic or undifferentiated cells) is removed and then cultured in a nutrient-rich solution. After some time, the meristem replicates itself into lots of undifferentiated tissues.

In a while, these masses of undifferentiated cells are separated into small masses and set in flasks containing growing media, wherein they grow into seedling-sized new plants that are identical to their parents in all respect. Even hybrids are produced using this method and they may be called mericlones.

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Raising seedlings from flasks

Orchids can also be propagated from their seeds, but this process consumes lots of time. Hence, it is better that this process of propagating orchids is best left to experts. Nevertheless, you may still buy a flask containing small seedling plants that are ready for being transplanted in "community pots".

This is an easier method which allows you to take pleasure in seeing your own exceptional seedlings bear their first blossoms. At the same time, you do not have to go through the procedures in the laboratory that are essential for germinating orchid seeds.

In fact, there are many orchid suppliers who sell seedlings grown in flasks and containing around 200 (but usually anything between 25 and 40) tiny plants.

You may take these plantlets out of the flasks when they have grown to about ½ inch in height. In fact, when you by these seedlings in a flask, they are of this size and ready to be planted in "community pots". You can obtain better results if the size of the plantlets is bigger. However, they need to be at least 1 inch to 3 inches in height.

Starting a community pot

Many may wonder what a community pot is. Simply speaking it is an "advanced" nursery compared to the flask for growing baby seedlings. They are transferred from the flask to the community pot because these seedlings are so small when you buy them that it is not feasible to remove them from the flask and grow them in pots.

Therefore, you need to pull together all the materials that you would be requiring for growing these seedlings into healthy orchids. A community pot can be described as a pot measuring anything between 3 inches and 5 inches (they need to be scrubbed well and then dipped in a 5 percent bleach solution or boiling water in case they have been used earlier).

In addition, these pots need to be soaked in water for many hours to ensure that they would not draw any water from the potting mix used to grow the seedlings. Once these pots have been readied for use, you need to add some seedling-grade potting mixture comprising fir bark and the material that you have filtered from a coarser grade.

Subsequently, pack this potting mixture compactly and water it. When you want to take out the seedlings from the flask, you need to pour ½ cup of water at room temperature into the flask. Swirl the flask a little and pour the seedling out into a shallow bowl.

Continue with the process a few times until all the seedlings are in the bowl. The easiest part of the entire procedure is planting the seedlings. Make small holes in the potting mixture in the community pot using a pencil and plant the seedlings in the holes in your community pot.

When the seedlings are planted for the first time in a community pot, they need to be kept in a humid place and the temperature at the place should be more or less constant - in the region of 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). In fact, growing the seedlings in a greenhouse will help to fulfil these requirements easily.

In the absence of a greenhouse, you may buy a small glass case to accommodate the pots. You may also build one glass case yourself. This may be done by using a packing box with a glass pane on the top. Irrespective of what you do, ensure that the seedlings are kept in a bright spot, which is not sunny.

At the same time, you need to endure that the potting mixture in the glass case never becomes dehydrated. You also need to keep in mind that even soggy conditions are not favourable for growing the seedlings well.

In most cases, you may have to water the potting mixture every day and also quite early in the day to make sure that the foliage becomes dry by the time it is twilight. Doing this will help the plants free from diseases.

When the days are sunny, the seedlings will get the benefit of excellent misting in the day time - quite early so that the leaves become dry again before it is dusk.

Every day you should also open the enclosure in which the seedling are grow for a couple of hours to ensure that there is proper air circulation inside the glass case. This will keep the plants healthy and ensure their proper growth.

Time to transplant

Depending on the orchid species you are growing, it will take roughly a year's time before the seedlings grow enough do that they can be transplanted outdoors. In case, the seedling you have bought are about ½ inch in height, you ought to place three to six of them in a clean pot measuring about 3 inches across in the type of potting mix you used earlier.

This time, you need to provide them with more light and some delicate fertilizer once every month. On the other hand, if you start your process with larger seedlings, the plants will be ready for being transplanted in larger pots as soon as they begin to crowd one another.

You need to transplant these plants into low-grade fir bark in containers measuring anything between 2 inches and 3 inches across. The final transplanting may be undertaken after another year. By this time, the plants should be put again in medium-grade fir bark in individual pots measuring about 5 inches across.

Most of the plants will bear blooms while they are being grown in these pots. If you find that the entire procedure of propagating orchids from seedlings is very lengthy, you may also buy orchids that are available in 2 inches to 3 inches pot stage.

These plants are sturdy and have already passed the most vulnerable stages in their lives and should be around 3 years old - growing from seeds to plants. In fact, these plants should be ready for their third transplantation.

You may need to transplant these orchids in bigger pots for the fourth time, depending on the vitality of the plants. This process may be necessary to grow the plants to their flowering size.

Orchids from seed

You will often find some plants that have been collected from wild or taken from vegetative divisions in typical collections. However, most plants would have been propagated from the seeds of their parents. These orchids are from cultivation or maybe mericlones of superior orchids.

The typical method followed to select the parents is to cross any good flower with another good flower. If you cross trash flower with another rubbish flower it will possibly create flowers of the same quality. In general, a hybridizer will cross a good flower with another good flower, wherein both have quality but one may have a flaw in some area while the other parent is strong in that particular area.

In order to make a good cross, you need to undertake the process at a time when the seed parent's flower is in a quarter to its third stage during its normal life. In other words, if a flower usually lasts for six weeks, you need to undertake the process when it has been unfurled for about two weeks.

The hybridization process needs to begin with cautiously removing the pollinia (this is the waxy mass that bonds pollen grains together) from the seed parent's flower using a sharpened match or toothpick and store it carefully. Subsequently, take another toothpick and take away the pollinia from the pollen of the parent flower.

The pollinia ought to be waxy and have a yellow color, but some genera also have dark hued pollinia. You need to pres the pollen properly to the sticky stigmatic surface of the seed bearer. In case the stigmatic surface is not fluid and sticky, it is possible that the flower may not receive the pollen of the parent flower.

Precisely speaking, the stigma of a flower is the sticky hollow space that is found on the base of the organ developed due to union of the stamens, stigma and style of the flowers. In some cases, the receiving flower may dry up and fall from the plant, but you need not be disappointed over this.

Moreover, even if a seed capsule develops in this case it is unlikely to be viable. It is worth mentioning here that if you attempt to cross widely dissimilar genera, it is more likely to prove to be futile. On the other hand, when a seed capsule forms, it will possibly take anything between six months and a year to ripen.

However, if you cross two flowers from the same genera, the time taken by the seed capsule to ripen will be much less. As soon as the color of the seed capsule being to turn yellow, you should remove it immediately. You may sow the seed all by yourself, as it has been done in a laboratory sink.

However, this process is usually undertaken in a laboratory. Then again, you may send the seed to any professional laboratory for undertaking the sowing process by hobbyists.

However, before you send the seed capsule to any laboratory you need to find out whether they favour receiving dry seed capsule or a seed capsule prior to it splitting. If the seed is found to be viable, you will receive the seedlings in a flask from the laboratory. These seedlings would be in the stage when you can deflask them in another six to 18 months' time.

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