Knowing how to propagate orchids means you’re aware of using either back bulbs, offshoots, and divisions. The orchids themselves can also reproduce sexually by seeds, but most UK gardeners opt to propagate themselves with the methods mentioned. After all, vegetative propagation is an easier way to create more orchids for the Britsh garden.
The beauty of learning how to propagate orchids also gives you an idea of how to crossbreed them later on. With the 25,000 orchid species available, who wouldn’t want to learn orchid propagation and breeding? You can also use your polytunnel for propagating these flowers to ensure that the vulnerable young plants will grow vigorous for transplanting.
Guide On How To Propagate Orchids
The first method of propagating orchids is by division. According to the American Orchid Society, this practice is viable for mature plants that have flowered for several years. As a UK gardener, you have the option of either repotting the mature orchid or dividing it.
Division puts those who have existing orchids at an advantage because you can create more orchids from an existing mature plant. You already know what to expect with it visually, and if you grow it in an ideal environment like a greenhouse, you can be confident that it’s healthy for the division. So how does one divide an orchid?
Division pseudobulbs vs back bulbs
To start, check if the plant has new growth and divide it into pseudobulbs. One lead typically produces three to four pseudobulbs. Once you finish dividing, identify the group of pseudobulbs with the lead and the group without it.
The pseudobulbs with new growth or active lead are what the gardeners in the UK call division, while the remaining groups without it are the back bulbs, which this article will discuss later on. Once you have the division group, you can cut the rhizome after flowering before repotting.
Propagating orchids from the division are also sometimes synonymous with rhizome propagation. You’ll cut a V-shaped notch through the rhizome, reaching more than its half. Compared to back bulbs, you don’t have to wait for dormant eyes to break before planting since division has active growth.
Make sure to remove all the old pseudobulbs and dead roots or leaves before repotting. Afterwards, you can spray the plant and start watering as you notice root growth.
As mentioned earlier, the other group of pseudobulbs without the active lead will be your back bulbs. These bulbs have dormant eyes that you have to force into activity, which means you can’t immediately plant them like the division group. To do this, you need to pot the back bulbs in a small pot where the eyes are above the potting media.
Please place them in an area in the polytunnel that does not support growth and spray them and their leaves frequently as maintenance. Depending on the circumstances, the eyes should break after some weeks, but others may take years. You can check if the leaf and bulbs are still green to know if they are worth waiting for.
Several other methods force dormant eyes into development; use pots with sphagnum moss and live moss before placing them in a humid location or a wooden tray with moss in a warm and moist area. Afterwards, you can remove those with wet rot and pot the bulbs that get underway.
The final method of propagating orchids is the use of offshoots or keikis. This method is ideal for Dendrobiums or monopodial orchids because they develop them along their stem. The offshoots that look like individual plants along the stem are what you’ll grow, making this method relatively easy compared to the previous two.
Carefully cut them from the parent plant and pot the same way you would with the back bulbs. However, make sure that the keikis have developed leaves and roots before removing them from the parent plant. Ideally, the leaves and roots should be around three inches long for planting.
It would help if you also waited until the plant finishes flowering before you propagate from keikis. Plant the offshoots in sphagnum moss and ensure moisture for establishment before transferring them in a bark mix. After some weeks, you can expect growth from the offshoots.
The many orchid species available makes it possible to create a unique-looking UK garden. And what better way to develop many plants than learning how to propagate orchids? You can start by dividing to create a division group and back bulbs, but some orchids also grow offshoots ready for planting.
The division group of pseudobulbs already have an active lead, so they are ready for planting. On the other hand, the back bulbs have dormant eyes that you have to wait to activate before planting. Either process would be more comfortable in the polytunnel because you can create an environment that can help them break out of dormancy.
For offshoots or keikis, the method is straightforward to do. However, you must ensure that the parent plant is healthy and the roots and leaves of the offshoots are at least three inches long. Overall, one can conclude that orchid propagation is safer and more convenient in polytunnel because of your control of the environment.