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10.4.13

How to Plant an Orchid Keiki

For some indoor gardeners orchids are passion. I'm orchid agnostic. Over the years I've grown a few orchids, but always give them to another gardener after they are done blooming. Currently, I own one mini Phalaenopsis orchid that holds a bit of sentimental meaning for me. It has bloomed reliably for me, and has produced two keikis. In this post on how to plant an orchid keiki I'll show you the steps I took to remove the baby orchid and pot it up.   

How to Plant an Orchid Keiki


Before I begin, I'd like to mention that if you want to grow orchids, but don't have the space, the min orchid varieties available are a great option. Mini orchids--reaching only a few inches tall--are hybrids with all of the pros of growing orchids, without the space and light constraints of their much taller counterparts.

Orchid Keiki

"Keiki" is a Hawaiian word that translates to "baby." In horticulture, a keiki is how an orchid reproduces asexually. Dendrobium, Epidendrum, and Phalaenopsis orchids can reproduce in this way. In a Phalaenopsis orchid, the new plant, which is an identical clone to the mother plant, grows along the flowering stem. This can happen in other plants too. Outdoor gardeners see my post on a Daylily Proliferation in my garden.

Orchid repotting supplies

What you'll need to plant an orchid keiki: Obviously, an orchid with a keiki or two. You'll need garden pruners, or a really sharp blade. Make sure whatever you are using to remove the keiki has been sterilized. You can sterilize your cutting tool of choice by burning the blades for a few minutes of your stove's burner to prevent passing on a plant disease. An orchid growing medium. My miniature Phalaenopsis came potted in sphagnum moss, but you can consult the review of orchid growing mediums by the American Orchid Society for tips if you are a first time orchid grower. I'm using these hydroponic pellets that I have available because I find sphagnum moss to be finicky growing medium for orchids. Lastly, you'll need a container that's about the right size for your keiki. Since my miniature orchid is rather small, I chose a container the same height as the one the original plant was potted in. As you can see, I have filled it halfway with the hydroponic pellets to make the final step easier.

Orchid Keiki pruning

Before you prune your orchid's keiki make sure your blades are sterile! If your keiki has developed a large root system, run the roots over water until they are soaked to make them more pliable and less likely to break when you are pruning and planting your orchid. Make a cut along the stem of your orchid just below where the keiki is growing.

Orchid Keiki removed

Here you can see the keiki has been removed from the parent orchid. While making sure you don't damage the roots, clean up any of remaining dried and dead stem.

Orchid Keiki potted

The last step is to center the keiki in the pot you're going to plant it in and fill in the remained of the growing medium you're using and make sure your orchid keiki is stable when potted. If the keiki moves around there is a good chance that you'll break some of the stems. Try not to be too rough when potting your little orchid. That's pretty much all there is to planting your orchid keiki.

Miniature Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

My mini orchid lives on the bathroom sink. The only light it receives comes from an east-facing window that gets morning sun. If I'm taking a shower I'll take the plant in with me and give is a quick drink before placing it back in it's spot. I've noticed that the leaves of my miniature orchid start to wrinkle when the plant is in dire need of watering.

If you've caught the miniature gardening bug, or are looking for small plants for a terrarium I highly recommend miniature orchids, and miniature Phalaenopsis orchids in particular. They're pretty much the toughest little orchids I have ever grown.

Do you have a favorite orchid you would recommend to indoor gardeners?

25 comments:

  1. Mother grew orchids and loved every minute, tho they have always seemed a bit too much. She gave me many, many plants that would bud up nicely and then every single bud would drop off - i never got a single bloom. then I learned that my gas fire place logs are the culprit. Enough gas gets into the air to affect them. My hat is off to those who have the patience.

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    1. Webb, yeah, orchids can be a bit of a pain to deal with if you don't have the ideal conditions for them. I've bought orchids in the past and had all the buds drop because they didn't like the change in temperatures. I'm surprised how well my Phal has done considering it doesn't get ideal light and is in a bathroom where the temps fluctuate widely.

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    2. First, one item I would like to add to your discussion of "keikis" -- that of correct pronunciation. (Sorry but incorrectly pronounced words tend to drive me up a wall and this word seems to get mispronounced most of the time.) The correct (and only correct) pronunciation of "keiki" is KAY-kee.

      "Ideal" conditions? Hardly necessary. I find orchids to be far easier than many blooming plants. (Such as the ubiquitous African violets -- only way I can grow those successfully is in a terrarium. Otherwise they croak on me.) In my apt, my humidity throughout the winter is 33% IF I'm lucky. And that is with a humidifier running 24/7. Most of my orchids do just fine -- far better than plants like Maranta (prayer plants). Many of my high light plants sit in a SE exposure window as opposed to under lights. Despite the lack of sun which typifies a Michigan winter, I still get blooms. Water daily? Not on your life. I do have a couple minis (fully mature plant is only an inch tall) that I try to water every other day if I remember, but most get watered once a week -- provided I'm not out of town.

      The most common cause of orchid demise is overwatering and crappy media -- especially if you are buying an orchid from a big box store or supermarket. (Not only are the folks working the "garden center" in such places generally clueless, but the media they arrive in is typically not a great one for the first time orchid buyer to use.) Lighting is often the next problem in line with folks assuming that because the light "looks" bright to our eyes that it must be bright for a plant. Very often this winds up being woefully incorrect.

      Considering the diversity of habitats orchids inhabit (orchids are one of the 3 largest plant families with members found on every continent except Antarctica & in environments ranging from chilly cloud forests on mountains to deserts) there are many that can do quite well in a home.

      Mr. B while the dropping of buds due to a sudden large temperature change is not uncommon, it is also possible that the bud drop you experienced was due to not only the change in temperature but also the simultaneous changes in all of other conditions the plant was experiencing. From a plant point of view (if we assume they have such) it rather makes sense to forget about blooming until one adjusts to the new living environment. ;)

      Typically phals (there are exceptions dependent upon an orchid's ancestry) require a day to night temperature difference of about 10 degrees F in order to initiate a flower spike. If kept constantly warm year round, many will not bloom. For those of us in the northern regions, this can often be quite easy as many folks turn down their thermostats overnight to conserve energy and keep their homes warmer during the day. Having the phal on a windowsill can also help achieve the desire day-night temperature difference.

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    3. Paul, Thank you for your thoughtful reply here. Do you have a garden blog of your own? You should. I totally understand what you mean about the pet peeve of yours. This blog post originally was suppose to include a video showing me cutting and potting the keiki, but guess what I did? Yeah, I mispronounced the name. I had even talked to an orchid grower last winter about the name and the grower didn't correct me. So rather than show my ignorance I decided not to publish the video until I could redo the audio portion.

      Anyway, I really appreciate all the orchid tips you provided in your comment.

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    4. No Mr. B, no blog. I'm not organized enough or a prolific enough writer to be able to regularly post entries. :)

      Don't feel bad about not knowing how to correctly pronounce keiki -- most orchid growers I know pronounce it wrong. Typically they say "kee-kee" which drives me bonkers. Even more maddening is that even when told the correct pronunciation, most insist on continuing to pronounce it wrong.

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  2. Thanks soo much for this post! I sure hope my Phal produces these!

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    1. Garden Broad, I hope yours does too! I noticed that after I removed my keiki that the new one seems to be putting out more roots and I'll have another one shortly.

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    2. I should have added earlier ....

      It is best to leave a keiki on the mother plant until the keiki has at least two or three roots about 2 inches in length.

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  3. Thus far I have only been successful at killing orchids. You make it sound so simple that I am tempted to try again. The growing...not that other thing...

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    1. Heh. See the comment above by Paul-he offers some good tips on caring for orchids if you decide to give orchid growing another shot.

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  4. I must be orchid agnostic too then because I do the same thing. Great info as usual!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Nadia.

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  5. I love orchids. But my experiments with them hasn't been successful enough. :)

    For now, I like reading about them on blogs such as yours. Visiting orchid flower shows. Listening to orchid growers talk passionately about their plants. That's such a positive energy!

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    1. Asha, I have only talked to a couple of people that were obsessed with orchids and I found they have that same kind of energy that you describe.

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  6. I love orchids and with the help of this tips. I am surely more loving it.

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    1. Hi Adam, Thanks for the feedback. I hope you have success with your orchids.

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  7. Here we plant orchids in a medium of broken pieces of brick and charcoal placed in a perforated pot.

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    1. Stiletto, The different mediums that people use for growing orchids amazes me. Different species like different conditions around their roots and there really is no medium that the home orchid grower can't replicate themselves to successfully grow orchids like the pros do.

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    2. Media is one of the issues I find troubles newbies a great deal when they ask for advice (watering is always #1). Truthfully, orchids can be grown on/in an amazing array of things. While the type of orchid does impact ones options, the importance of the cultural conditions a person will be providing cannot be emphasized enough. A media that works great for someone growing orchids outdoors in Florida will likely be disastrous for someone in Arizona. Even for those who grow strictly indoors advice received may need to be taken with a "grain of salt" because one person's indoor conditions and watering habits may be considerably different than that of someone else. Growing just about any plant (not just orchids) often involves a bit of experimentation on the grower's part.

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  8. I never knew about hydroponic pellets being used as a growing medium for orchids. Keiki I find concern most first time orchid growers as they are unsure about what has happened to their orchid.

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    1. Rosie,

      I didn't know if they were used for that purpose myself. But I took a chance and did some research after I was gifted a houseplant growing in it instead of traditional potting soil. I'll have to write a post about that one too. It's been doing great in the hydroponic pellets since I got it.

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    2. Semi-hydroponics is used by a number of growers. Personally, I have never had any success with growing orchids that way, but I have known folks who grew some phenomenally beautiful orchids using this method. As mentioned above, what works for some people may not work for others -- don't be afraid to experiment. ;)

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  9. I see that your keiki had three quite big leaves before you potted it. Is there an optimum size?

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  10. This gives me another reason why I am loving orchids.. Very great info being shared.

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  11. hello where did you buy your clay pebbles please?

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