When an Orchid Produces a Baby

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Question: I have an orchid that produced a keiki on its flower stalk after it bloomed last year. It currently has 3 small leaves and 4 aerial roots. I would like to know when I can remove it from the mother plant and if there is anything special I need to do when repotting.

B. Charron

Answer: After flowering, an orchid—and especially the very popular moth orchid (Phalaenopsis)—sometimes produces a baby, called a keiki, from the Hawaiian word for child, on its flower stalk or, more rarely, at its base. This keiki is a clone of the mother plant and will be identical to it.

You did well to let the keiki grow. It should be allowed to develop on the mother plant for several months, even up to a year, until it has two or three leaves and a few aerial roots about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) long, exactly what I see in the photo you sent me. The time has therefore come to cut the keiki free and grow it on its own.

When the baby is well-formed, cut it free. Photo: B. Charron

With a sterilized sharp knife, cut the stem about ½ inch (1 cm) below the keiki, freeing it. Also remove the flower stalk above the keiki in the same way. This will give you a young rooted plant still attached to a small section of stem.

Pot up the keiki in orchid mix. Photo: mariasorchids.blogspot.com

Now take a small, clean 3- to 4-inch (8 to 10 cm) pot with drainage holes and fill to two thirds its height with commercial orchid mix. Center the keiki on the mix with the leaves facing up and the roots at the bottom and add more mix, covering the roots, but not the leaves. Gently moisten the mix with lukewarm water and allow any surplus to drain away.

Grow your keiki under the same conditions as the mother plant, at normal room temperatures in a brightly lit location and continue to water when the growing mix is dry to the touch. After a few months, when you see new leaf growth, you can start to (lightly) fertilizer as well.

Your baby orchid will grow slowly and eventually be big enough to flower. Photo: http://www.anthura.nl.

So far, so good, but do be aware your keiki is still about 2 or 3 years from its first bloom. Orchids are in the “slow but steady” plant category and if you want to grow orchids, you have to learn to be patient!

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