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Propagate orchids by cuttings

Sympodial orchids can be easily propagated by plant cuttings. Namely, they form pseudobulbs, a kind of thickened stem axis spheres, which grow in width through a rhizome. By dividing the rhizome every now and then, it is very easy to propagate these types of orchids. Well-known sympodial orchids are, for example, dendrobias or cymbidiums. Propagating your orchids by cuttings will keep your plants young and blooming as they can have more space in a new container and so on - and as they grow they renew and rejuvenate.

In a nutshell: How can you propagate orchids?

Orchids can be propagated in spring or autumn, preferably when they are about to be repotted. Sympodial orchids form pseudobulbs, which are obtained as offshoots by dividing the plant. An offshoot should consist of at least three bulbs. If an orchid forms Kindel, these can be separated for propagation as soon as roots have formed. Monopodial orchids develop side shoots that can be rooted and separated.

The right time for propagation

Orchids need a new pot every two to three years. The best times to repot orchids are in spring or autumn. This also applies to reproduction: in spring the plant starts its growth cycle again and is therefore able to develop new roots relatively quickly. In autumn, the orchid has finished its flowering phase, so that it can use its energy exclusively on the formation of roots and does not suffer from a double burden because of the flowers.

You can tell whether your orchids are ready to be repotted or to reproduce when the pot becomes too small, i.e. if the new shoots hit the edge of the pot or even grow beyond it. Also check how many pseudobulbs have already formed. If there are at least eight, you can split the orchid at the same time. As a rule of thumb, there should always be at least three bulbs per branch.

Divide and multiply orchids

Loosen the intertwined roots by carefully pulling the tufts of leaves apart. Try to tear off or break off as few roots as possible. However, if some roots are damaged, simply cut off the breakage neatly with scissors. Also remove the dead, sapless roots that are not as firm and whitish as the healthy ones. Both the tools you use and the planters in which you place the cuttings should be sterile.

Put offshoots in the substrate

After dividing the cuttings, place them in sufficiently large containers. The root system should fill the space as completely as possible, but not be squeezed. Then let the loose substrate trickle through in portions between the roots and, with the pot in your hand, tap lightly on a solid surface every now and then so that there are no too large cavities. Alternatively, you can carefully replenish the substrate with a pencil.

Once you have inserted the cuttings, water the orchid and the substrate thoroughly. A spray bottle is ideal for this. As soon as the roots have taken root in the new container, we recommend an immersion bath once a week. Make sure that the water drains well and does not collect in the container and thus possibly cause the roots to rot.

The right planter

It is best to use a special orchid pot as a planter. This is a slim, tall vessel with a built-in step on which the plant pot rests. The large cavity under the plant pot protects the orchid from waterlogging.

Other types of orchid propagation

Orchid genera such as Epidendrum or Phalaenopsis develop new plants, so-called "Kindel", from the shoot eyes on the pseudobulbs or on the inflorescence stalk. You can simply separate these offshoots after they have developed roots and continue cultivating them.

If orchids are regularly propagated and divided by cuttings, back bulges occur. Even if some of these no longer have any leaves, they can still form new shoots from their reserve eyes. However, these often only develop their full bloom after a few years.

Propagate monopodial orchids

Monopodial orchids, such as the genera Angraecum or Vanda, can also be propagated by division - but the chances of success are not so great. We recommend doing the process only if your orchids have grown too big or have lost their lower leaves. Monopodial orchids either develop their own side shoots that take root, or you can help a little. To do this, wrap the plant with a sleeve made of moist peat moss (sphagnum), which helps the main shoot to form new side roots. You can then cut off these rooted shoot tips and replant them.

Practical video: Repotting orchids properly

Since it is a good idea to propagate orchids when you have to repot them, we will show you in this video the best way to proceed with repotting.

In this video we will show you how to repot orchids.
Credits: MSG / Alexander Buggisch / Producer Stefan Reisch (Insel Mainau)

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