Expert Tips for Propagating Orchids – Orchid Propagation
Propagating orchids – specifically hybrids – from seed is an extremely specialized procedure which needs to be performed under laboratory conditions. The seeds are sown on an agar jelly medium containing various sugars and mineral salts. Everything needs to be sterilized – glassware and implements and seeds too, as aseptic conditions are essential. After germination, which will take a minimum of three weeks and indeed can last many months, the seedlings are then usually placed onto a fresh agar jelly, again under totally sterile conditions. After approximately six months to a year, the seedlings will are then ready to be transferred to large community pots of standard potting compost and positioned out in the open greenhouse or orchid house.
Propagating orchids by division is the only method of increasing choice varieties of orchids. Some orchid plants, such as paphiopedilums, can be split at potting time, but it is vital to make sure that each new piece has several growths including a leading growth. It is best to treat Cattleyas by severing the rhizome behind the fourth or the fifth bulb from the front and this should be done some months before the orchid plant is ready to be repotted. A bud on the base of the bulb – usually on the older section – may start to grow, and eventually form a new shoot. It is possible to pot these pieces can up separately.
Back bulbs of most orchid types can be induced, to encourage the production of new shoots, either as single bulbs or in groups or clusters of two or three. These should then be placed in the warmest spot, preferably in a pot containing some crocks and topped with sphagnum moss. Dendrobiums of the nobile section of orchids, often produce fresh plantlets close to the top of old pseudo-bulbs. These can be removed with a sharp knife when they have made a few small roots and then transferred into the smallest pot available, in pure sphagnum moss. You can cut up old back bulbs into small pieces – of about 5cm (2in) – and these can then be inserted around the edge of pots filled with sand and peat or moss.
Some larger plants of many orchid types, often have several leading growths, and if these are cut up into pieces with the correct amount of bulbs per growth, equally as many new plants will then be formed. Duplication of fine varieties of orchids is always recommended, just as a precaution in order to prevent any possible loss by accident. However, before deciding to break up a large and healthy orchid plant, you should perhaps consider the value of such a specimen first. Such large orchid plants are particularly attractive and may receive more attention at plant shows. A small frame designed specifically for propagating orchids in the greenhouse or orchid house, will greatly facilitate the establishment of orchid plants from the division of bulbs, and at the same time will provide a place for smaller-growing orchid plants that need extra warmth.
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