Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Orchid Babies! Potting an Orchid Keiki
How to remove and repot an orchid keiki (offspring)
One of my orchids had babies! Yes, many orchids grow little baby plants or”keiki.” You can remove these plantlets and pot it up to grow more orchids. Here’s how it’s done.
I have a Phalaenopsis “moth orchid” which is one of the more common orchids, especially for beginners. This orchid and many others (including Vanda, Dendrobium and Catasetum) can be easily propagated by removing “keikis” (Hawaiian word for “baby”) at the right time.
I’m a lazy orchid grower. Normally, you cut off the flower spike once the blossoms have dropped. But I usually leave it on the plant until it dies back totally and then I cut it off. The upside to being lazy is that thee old stalks keep on growing and eventually develop another flower spike rewarding me with extra blossoms!
My phalenopsis has rebloomed on an old spike several times and now it has formed 2 plantlets or keikis. It has also produced a new spike of flowers and to be able to show that off best I think the time has come for the keikis to be removed.
I have been letting them grow still attached to the mother plant since last summer.
They needed to have at least 2 roots and show signs of an active growing tip before I could cut them off and pot them up on their own.
Phalenopsis are one orchid that readily produces these new babies at the joints on an old flower stalk. Often, it is a sign that the mother plant is about to die and is trying to reproduce while she still can. My plant is very healthy, still producing new leaves and new flower spikes so I don’t know why it decided to form these two new plants but I’ll take them. Even after potting up it will be years before they will produce flowers of their own. They should be identical to the mother plant.
Once considered a luxury for only the wealthy to enjoy, orchids are being mass produced and can be found for sale everywhere—grocery stores, drug stores, and the big box stores—along with garden centers and nurseries. These plants are so inexpensive that many people pick up an orchid as they would a bouquet of flowers to brighten their table for a while. The orchid blossoms are long lasting—definitely outliving a bouquet of cut flowers. Some people treat these plants as disposable items. If they are not inclined to try and get the plant to re-bloom they will often just throw it out! Most of my plants have been freebies from friends who know I love orchids and will do my best to bring them back into bloom.
I cut the keikis off and potted them up individually in a little bit of fine orchid bark. Their aerial roots put up a bit of a struggle but I finally got them into the bark.
Here are the 2 keikis in their new pots. I will slip the pots into plastic bags for bit to make a humid atmosphere for the newly separated babies. Once they start actively growing on their own they can come out of the bags and go on the windowsill next to the mother plant. I can now add orchid midwife to my resume.
The plant looks much better now and we will be able to enjoy the new flowers without all the extra stalks and babies in the way.
See the Orchid Growing Guide for more information about orchid plant care and orchid varieties!
About This Blog
Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.