Propagate Orchids with offsets

Ulrike Hanninger Ulrike Hanninger

To stimulate the growth of Orchids and ensure that it does not stagnate, they should be divided regularly and propagated with offsets. The right time for this is when you are repotting them.

Propagating Sympodial Orchids

Sympodial Orchids are particularly easy to multiply by offsets and division

Sympodial Orchids are easy to propagate with plant offsets. They grow pseudobulbs, a kind of thickened stem, which grow in width through a rhizome. By dividing the rhizome from time to time, you can easily multiply these types of Orchids. Popular sympodial Orchids are Dendrobium and Cymbidium Propagating your Orchids with offsets will keep your plants young and blooming because they have more space in a new container and can continue to grow — and as they grow, they renew and rejuvenate.

The right time for propagation

Orchids need a new pot every two to three years. The best time to successfully repot Orchids is in spring or fall. This is also applicable for propagation: In spring, the plant starts its growth cycle again and is therefore able to grow new roots relatively quickly. In fall the Orchid has finished its flowering stage so that it can devote its energy exclusively to the formation of roots and does not suffer from a double burden because of the flowers.

Repot and propagate Orchids

The best time to propagate is during repotting

You can tell whether your Orchids are ready to be repotted or propagated if the pot becomes too small, i.e. if the new shoots hit the edge of the pot or even grow out of it. Also check how many pseudobulbs have already formed. If there are at least eight, you can split the Orchid in one go. A rule of thumb: There should always be at least three bulbs for each offset.

Dividing and propagating your Orchids

Loosen the interwoven roots by carefully pulling the leaf clusters apart. Try to tear off or break off as few roots as possible. If some roots are damaged nevertheless, simply cut off the broken parts neatly with scissors. Also remove the dead, sapless roots that are not as firm and white as the healthy ones. The tools you use and the planters in which you put the offsets should be sterile.

shorten Orchid roots

The roots are shortened for repotting or dividing

Place the offsets in the substrate

After the division, place the offsets in sufficiently large containers. The roots should fill the space as much as possible, but they should not be squeezed in together. Then let the loose substrate fall in between the roots and lightly tap the pot on a firm surface from time to time to avoid creating large voids. Alternatively, you can carefully plug the substrate with a pencil.

Once you have planted the offsets, water the Orchid and substrate thoroughly. A spray bottle is ideal for this. As soon as the roots have gained a foothold in the new pot, we recommend to soak your Orchid in water. The roots will rot if the water doesn’t drain out well and stagnates in the pot.

Soak the rootball of the Orchids in water

Orchid offsets that have already rooted well can be soaked in water once a week

The right planter

It is best to use a special Orchid pot as a planter. It is a slim, tall container with a built-in step — on which the plant pot rests. The large space under the plant pot protects the Orchid from getting waterlogged.

Other types of propagation

Orchid species such as Epidendrum or Phalaenopsis form new plants, called "Keiki", from the shoot eyes on the pseudobulbs or the inflorescence stem. Once they have well-developed roots, simply separate these offsets and cultivate them further.

Back bulbs are formed if Orchid offsets are regularly propagated and divided. Even if some of them do not have leaves, they can still form new shoots from their reserve eyes. However, they take a few years to develop their full bloom.

Propagating Monopodial Orchids

Monopodial Orchids, such as the genus Angraecum or Vanda can also be propagated by division - but the chances of success are not great. We recommend this process only if your Orchids have grown too large or have lost their lower leaves. Monopodial Orchids either form side shoots that root themselves or you can give a helping hand. To do this, wrap the plant with a sleeve of moist peat moss (Sphagnum), which helps the main shoot to form new side roots. Then separate these rooted shoot tips and re-plant them.

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