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Propagation of Orchids by Division

Click Here if you need to know how to re pot an Odontoglossum, Coelogyne or Cymbidium orchid
Division is a very simple way of propagating your favorite species or variety of orchid. It involves finding the natural break between the two or more parts of the plant and dividing down this natural split. Here we are dividing a Beallara City of Glasgow 'Langley Pride' AM/RHS but you can use this method on almost any plant which grows pseudobulbs such as Odontoglossum and types, Cymbidium, Coelogyne and Miltonia plus the clump forming varieties such as Dracula, Masdevallias and Paphiopedilums.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 

This plant has reached the limit for this size pot and is in need of division or repotting. The plant is in need of either dividing or repotting when the new growths have reached the very edge of the pot and any future growth has to take place outside the edge of the pot - above left
After removing the pot you should see plenty of white roots which have filled and used used the compost, (see opposite) if your roots are not white then it could be due to over watering. 

An orchid plant with bulbs can survive for quite some time without watering but will not tolerate being over watered and will in fact wilt giving the impression that it needs watering more. The reason for this is that the roots have died and the plant can not take up the water so it does indeed die due to lack of water!. If in doubt leave it a week. 

Don't use this method with plants that are bulbless though as they have no water store built in and will wilt due to 'genuine' water loss.

Some orchids don't have white roots though and it is important to be able to differentiate between the two, Paphiopedilums have dark brown or even black roots naturally but the roots are firm to the touch and not soft as is the case with a rotten root.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Gently pull the plant in opposite directions making sure that each part has at least 3 bulbs and one new growth, the aim of doing this is to establish where the plant has a natural split.

This loosening will show you where to divide the plant, in the photograph opposite you can clearly see where the left part of the plant has grown away from the right side of the plant.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Once you have established where the natural split is you can apply stronger pressure to split the plant fully in to two or more parts.

If the plant has a strong rhizome connecting the two parts then you can use a sharp, preferably sterilized knife, to cut through it so that uncontrolled ripping doesn't occur.

You will now be left with 2 or more divisions of the same plant each with at least 3 bulbs and one new growth - see opposite

Re planting an Odontoglossum orchid, Coelogyne or Cymbidium

You will now need to remove the old compost from around the roots and trim away any brown, soggy, dead roots. Cut the dead roots off right up to the base of the plant and this will ensure that they don't rot upwards and affect the rhizome or bulbs.

This is also the time to remove any ferns or other plants growing in the pot - weeds - for that is what they are should be removed otherwise they will quickly clog up the open compost mix with their 'normal' root system and use up and nutrients you give the plant. Many of the ferns you may find growing in orchid pots are very suitable as house plants in their own right and can, if you want, be potted and given to friends as gifts.

Carefully trim back any white growing roots to about 4 inches and use them to help anchor the plant in the new compost.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

That's the scary bit over with!

You should now assemble the repotting kits which comprises of:

  • Your division
  • A pot with sufficient space for two seasons growth
  • A suitable grade of orchid compost - more
  • The label for the plant

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Starting with a clean pot, add some larger pieces of bark or some polystyrene chunks in to the bottom to allow swift drainage.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Here we are using the former.

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Ease the roots in to the pot and spread them evenly to ensure that the plant will be securely anchored.

Don't put the plant in the centre of the pot but position it in such a way that the new growth is in the centre, this will ensure that there is sufficient space in front of the plant to allow for 2 growing seasons.

Use an appropriate grade of compost dependant on the type of orchid, here we are using a medium grade orchid compost as this plant has relatively thin roots and so they will be able to get hold of it easily, thicker rooted orchids such as Cymbidiums will require a large grade compost.

The easiest way of adding compost is to hold the plant in one hand whilst filling the pot with compost using the other.

Make sure that the bulbs rest on the surface of the compost and are not buried in it. They may need pulling up a little to get the level just right.

Using your thumbs press heavily on the compost to compact is sufficiently to hold the plant steady. The open nature of the compost will prevent you from over compacting it so don't be afraid to apply pressure.

An orchid which wobbles in it's pot will not root well and will not re establish itself.

 

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

 2000 Orchid-Guide.com

Finally label your new plant and give it a good soaking from the top, do this twice with 2 hours between to ensure the compost is damp and then leave it for two to three weeks before watering again. During the first 6 to 8 weeks keep the plant in a shady position and leave well alone (other than watering) to give the new brittle roots time to get a hold in the new compost

After about 6 weeks you will see new roots emerging and the plant will be fully established after approximately 10 weeks.

Congratulations you have just divided your plant and you can use this technique on several varieties of orchid including:

  • Cymbidiums
  • Paphoiopedilums
  • Odontoglossums and types
  • Draculas
  • Masdevalias and any other 'grassy' type orchids

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