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Propagating Orchids: A Step-by-Step Guide for Exotic Beauty

Uniquely colored and symbolic of love and beauty, orchids are the perfect flower for celebrating all of life’s special moments.

While folks are tickled to receive these fragrant florals as a gift or kind gesture, many others enjoy growing these plants themselves.

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can propagate orchids at home! Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on four ways to propagate orchids.

propagating orchids

What You’ll Need

Propagating Orchids: A Comprehensive Guide

There are several different ways to propagate orchids. In this guide, we’ll provide you with the steps on how to:

  • propagate orchids from keikis
  • propagate orchids from cuttings
  • propagate orchids through division
  • propagate orchids through back bulbs

Propagating Orchids from Keikis

beautiful orchid flower blooming at rainy season

Propagating orchids from keikis is one of the most common methods of orchid propagation.

In the plant world, keikis are small plants that stem from a main plant, otherwise known as an offshoot. If you’re familiar with growing succulents, then you’ll know that it’s possible to grow a new succulent plant using a single leaf of a mature plant. Keikis work in very much the same manner.

Keikis, or the flower stalk or stem, grow after an orchid has flowered, which occurs once or twice a year. To propagate orchids using this method, you need to cut the root and knot of the keiki using sterilized garden scissors. Then, replant the keiki in close proximity to the mother plant until it matures enough to repot.

You should only cut the keiki after its leaves have reached two or three inches in length. With orchids, leaf growth to this length signifies a healthy plant.

Here are a few additional details to consider.

1. Note the Quality of the Keikis

Not all keikis will guarantee successful orchid growth. There is certainly a chance that not all keikis will survive the repotting process.

A strong keiki should have at least three attached roots of about 1.2 inches, as well as three adult leaves. If a keiki meets this description, then it’s safe to go ahead and cut it.

2. Plant the Keikis Next to the Main Orchid

Part of this process requires planting keikis in their own separate pots. However, in the beginning, the keikis will need to grow around the main plant, known as the mother. The mother will provide the keikis with enough nutrients until they are able to survive on their own. It’s important not to re-pot the keikis on their own up to this point.

Propagating Orchids From Cuttings

Cutting orchid roots, garden hobby

Propagating orchids from cuttings, or other parts of the plant, is another popularly used method. Cuttings can be collected from plant buds, which grow in the spring, or by cutting the end of thick stems in late summer. It’s important to note that cuttings don’t work with all types of orchids, but they are successful for phalaenopsis and other single-stem orchids.

Follow these steps to propagate orchids from cuttings:

1. Prepare an Area to Place the Cuttings

First, create a designated area for the cuttings to sprout. To do so, you’ll need a deep growing tray and sphagnum moss to fill the tray. Cut the stem.

2. Collect the Cuttings

Choose a healthy plant to collect your cuttings from. If you’re collecting cuttings from a single-stem plant—which this process works best with—you’ll need to cut the plant in half at the midway point.

You’ll grow a new plant from the upper half of the plant. The lower half of the plant, which has the roots still attached, will regenerate the top portion.

Use sterilized scissors to cut the stem off the orchid. It’s important to sterilize your scissors with rubbing alcohol to avoid spreading bacteria, which can affect the growth process. Cut a section that measures approximately 12 inches so it can be divided into several parts. The sections that you cut must include a recent orchid bud.

3. Leave the Cuttings in the Tray

Leave the cuttings in the tray for about 2.5 weeks. You’ll want to cover the tray and place it in an area that allows it to develop humidity.

The tray should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Water the cuttings frequently using a spray bottle, so they do not lose their moisture.

After 2.5 weeks have passed, move the tray to a warmer-temperature area. Remove any cuttings that have been damaged, because it can affect the development of the other cuttings. And be patient: it can take the cuttings anywhere from three to four months to show signs of propagation.

4. Separate the Stems

Once the cuttings grow new roots and shoots, you’ll need to make a small cut between the stems to separate them. Then, place the plants in their own individual pots with orchid potting soil and moss on the surface. Be sure to place the sprouts upwards.

5. Place the Pots in a Warm, Well-lit Area

Place the pots in an area where they are exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures. Water the plants twice a week. Take care to ensure that you aren’t under- or over-watering the plants. If the process is a success, then individual orchids should start to grow at this point.

Propagating Orchids Through Division

Propagating orchids through division is another process you can do at home. This method is used to propagate orchids after an orchid plant is a few years old and has grown to a large size. Here’s how to do it:

1. Remove the Orchid From Its Pot

The first step involves removing the orchid plant from its pot and checking the plant’s roots. You’ll want to note the color of the roots to ensure it’s healthy, as well as the number of bulbs.

2. Separate the Plant Into Two or More Parts

Using sterilized garden scissors, separate the orchid plant into two or more parts. To avoid damaging the plant, separate it from its base while simultaneously checking for bulbs. To create a foundation for healthy plants, check to see if each “new” plant has three separate bulbs as well as a new shoot.

3. Cut the Roots

This is a step where you’ll need to take extra caution and care. First, cut the roots that join the “new” plants together. Then, cut and remove any roots that are dry or have rotted, and do the same for any dead leaves.

4. Pot the New Plants

Place the new plants into their own pots, with the new plant in the center of the pot. Add pieces of bark in both pots to function as an organic fertilizer.

5. Soak the Plants

As the final step, you’ll need to soak the plants for about 1.5 hours. Then, lightly spray the plants with water daily, but do not fully water them. Leave the pots in a place that does not receive a lot of light.

Propagating Orchids Through Back Bulbs

The fourth and final way that you can propagate orchids at home is by using back bulbs. Back bulbs are orchid bulbs that do not have active leads. These bulbs no longer produce roots or flowers, but exist to store extra water for the plant.

To propagate orchids using this method, follow these steps:

1. Separate the Back Bulb From the Plant

Use a sterilized garden scissor to remove the back bulb from the plant. You can remove the back bulb by itself, or do so while also dividing the plant.

This first step is crucial because it will allow you to see whether the back bulb has an active eye, or if it has an active growth that’s starting. If a back bulb has an active eye, it’s known as a pseudobulb.

2. Re-pot the Bulbs

If the back bulb has an active eye, then you can re-pot it and use a similar process as you would propagating orchids through division. If the back bulb does not have an active eye, you can re-pot it in a small pot; one that measures just 2.5 to three inches in size. Rest the bulb above the orchid potting soil and moss.

Use your spray bottle to lightly water the bulb daily. Keep doing so for a few weeks and you’ll experience one of two results: the eye will “break” and begin to sprout, or it will remain dormant for up to two years, and then suddenly sprout.

Instead of using this measure, you can also place back bulbs in six-inch pots filled with sphagnum moss. Again, rest the back bulbs directly above the moss. House the pots in humid conditions and keep a close watch for developing eyes.

Why Propagate Orchids?


There are a number of reasons why growers propagate orchids. The first reason is perhaps the most obvious: to increase the yield of orchid plants.

If you’re planning to expand your garden and sell orchids of your own, propagating is a way to reap the highest yield from your plants—and prolong the lifespan of your orchid farm.

Another reason why growers propagate orchids is to help maintain the size of existing plants. After growing for several years, orchid plants grow between one and three feet tall and six to 12 inches wide.

Propagating Orchids: Frequently Asked Questions

Do orchids prefer big or small pots?

It’s best to plant orchids in pots that are large enough to accommodate the plant’s roots. Most orchid plants fare best in pots that measure four to six across. Planting orchids in a too-big pot will not encourage faster growth.

Can you reuse the orchid potting mix?

Orchids are the type of plant that requires its growing conditions to be just right. For this reason, it’s best to avoid reusing old orchid potting materials, whether that’s to pot other orchids or to pot other houseplants.

You should always replant plants with fresh materials unless suggested otherwise for that specific plant type.

Wrapping up on Propagating Orchids

Propagating orchids is a great way to ensure that you have a steady flow of fresh orchid plants growing at home!

Whether your goal is to sell orchids or grow a small orchid farm for you and your family to enjoy, you’ll be pleased to see the results from using any of these four propagation methods.

Interested in learning how to propagate another beautiful flower at home? Check out our post on Propagating African Violets: A Simple Guide for Beautiful Blooms.