In need as cut flowers and as plants for hobbyists and enthusiasts, wild orchid populations were frequently threatened by harvesting for all these markets before efficient means of cloning developed. Cloning is vegetative reproduction from existing plant parts, instead of sexual reproduction from growing seeds. Through cloning, it is possible to find an exact replica of the parent plant, and the technique is essential in reproducing hybrid cultivars that won’t come true from seed.
Many orchids have sympodial development, with horizontally growing stems that kind enlargements called pseudobulbs. Divide these orchids after they finish flowering and before they start new development. Find new development factors with leaves, which might be known as leads. Pseudobulbs without leaves have been known as back bulbs. Decide on where to make cuts in the stems to provide each division a lead in addition to back bulbs. Unpot the orchid and use sharp pruning shears cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Make the cuts and repot the sections. If there’s just one growing stage but a variety of back bulbs, plan for sections featuring three to four back bulbs. Instead of unpotting the plant, then make a V-shaped cut partially through the stem in the division points and then wait until the back bulbs start to grow. Then unpot the plant, then finish the cuts and repot the sections.
Rooting Back Bulbs
Separate back bulbs in the mother plant and root them. Put single dormant back lights at a grass around 2- to 3-inches wide, finding the eye place above the rooting medium. Or, group several back bulbs at a 6-inch pot on top of a layer of moist sphagnum moss. Spray them sometimes but don’t soak them. Be patient — it might take six weeks to two years for them to begin growing new leaves. As long as they’re green, they’re feasible. Cymbidium orchids (Cymbidium spp.) , hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10, are an illustration of orchids with pseudobulbs.
Some orchids don’t create pseudobulbs, but possess direct, vertical stems instead. This is known as monopodial growth. Examples of orchids with monopodial growth are dendrobium orchids (Dendrobium spp.) , hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. They will develop new shoots at nodes along the plant stem. Nodes are places where leaves appear. Lay dendrobium canes on their sides on moist sphagnum moss and keep them misted. Usually in about six months new shoots, known as keikis — that is the Hawaiian word for “babies” — start appearing. Cut the stem off part with the keiki, wrap it into moist sphagnum moss and set it in a 3-inch pot to grow roots.
Tissue culture, or micropropagation, is the standard business method of cloning orchids. It’s hard to do at home since you need sterile conditions. Although cells from nearly anywhere in an orchid plant can be cultured to produce a new plant, shoot tip cells are usually taken. They’re put to a glass vessel containing mineral medium which nourishes the forming plant. Cultures are kept under prescribed temperature and light conditions until new plants kind. Since the plants are so small, it might take a micropropagated orchid plant five years to flower.