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How to Propagate Orchids with Keikis?

Some orchid varieties are difficult to propagate, others are much easier, especially if they lend themselves to propagation from keikis.

Phalaenopsis, Epidendrum, Oncidium and Dendrobium are just some of the orchid varieties that can be propagated through keikis with great success.

If you’re unfamiliar with orchid propagation, I will teach you how to encourage keiki growth and propagate your orchid.

What is an Orchid Keiki?

Pronounced “Kay-Key”, an orchid keiki is simply a baby orchid (Keiki is a Hawaiian term for baby) or an orchid offshoot that you can harvest from the mother plant to create a new orchid plant.

To ensure propagation success, the keiki must be left on the mother plant to become old enough to ensure that it will survive once it’s transplanted.

In my experience, an orchid keiki that already has at least three leaves and roots that are 2-3 inches long will have a high chance of survival once it’s removed from the mother plant.

Because keikis are genetically identical to the mother plant, they will produce blooms that look exactly as the mother plan’s blooms.

Why do Orchids Grow Keikis?

Your orchid growing a keiki is usually not a cause for concern, it’s a natural process. The reason behind an orchid suddenly growing a keiki on its flower spike has to do with an accumulation of growth hormone at the flower node.

Because we figured this out about orchids, we can artificially induce the production of keikis with the use of keiki paste, which is essentially a concentrated growth hormone and can be applied on a flower node.

Sometimes, however, an orchid producing keikis will do so as a response to stress. Fearing its demise, the orchid will try to ensure its survival by producing keikis.

Therefore, always monitor the health status of your orchid to determine if it producing keikis is normal or not.

The stress factor can be anything from inadequate watering, bad lighting conditions or temperature variations.

Below, I’ll explain how to grow a keiki on your orchid and what to use for best results in promoting keiki growth.

How to Get a Keiki on Your Orchid?

Some orchid varieties will naturally produce keikis and one variety that’s more prolific at doing this is the Dendrobium variety.

You can try to naturally encourage keiki growth by using aloe vera and coconut water. Although there’s no study to back up the efficiency of these in promoting keiki production in orchids, anecdotal evidence suggests that using aloe gel at flower nodes and watering the soil with coconut water can help promote keiki production.

I haven’t tried any of these on my orchids, so I cannot speak to their efficiency. If, however, you want to go for something that is sure to produce results, I recommend using commercially available orchid keiki paste.

One product that has been working for me is the Crazy Keiki Cloning Paste. This paste contains a special cytokinin that will promote the production of keikis when applied when applied to flower nodes.

Besides cytokinin, it also contains vitamin B1, which is also known to promote keiki growth.

I apply a pea-size amount of the paste to the node after removing the bract and uncovering the bud. The bud treated with the keiki paste will develop within a month.

I’ve had buds developing in as little as 2 weeks, but sometimes it would take a whole month to see anything emerging.

I’ve also noticed that choosing a node that’s closest to the base of the plant will yield better results than choosing one that’s farther from the base.

The Crazy Keiki Cloning Paste comes with wooden cotton swab applicators and a handy guide on how to use it.

You only need to apply the paste once. Since it’s water resistant and quite sticky, you don’t have to worry about it falling off. It will stay on the plant for months.

Another great thing about this cloning paste is that its use is not limited to orchids only. It can be used on African violets, bonsais, roses, Cattleya, Vandas, etc.

Applying the paste will not give you a pass on continuing to care for the mother plant. Your orchid will allocate extra energy to growing the keiki, all the while developing itself.

You must continue to provide optimal growing conditions to ensure the successful growth of the keiki as well.

When to Repot Orchid Keiki?

Now that you know how to grow an orchid keiki, you need to zero in on the best time to repot it, so that you can make sure it survives.

Before separating your keiki from the mother plant, first, make sure it already has a couple of leaves (I usually leave mines on until they grow at least three leaves) and that they’re roots are 2-3 inches long.

Next, I use a new razor blade to cut off the keiki in one clean cut. You can use any sharp blade to cut off the plantlet as long as it’s disinfected prior to use.

As for the next step, there are two schools of thought — planting the keiki in the same pot with the mother plant or planting it in a small, clear pot on its own.

Both methods have their merits. Planting the keiki next to the mother plant will create conditions similar to that it experienced while it lived attached to the mother plant.

But this has the downside of exposing it to the same pests and potential diseases the mother plant is exposed to.

If you don’t want to go down this route, you can use a 4-inch transparent container to repot your keiki. Use sphagnum moss or fir bark for quick drainage.

Make sure your little plantlet stays out of direct sunlight. As it starts to grow and establish itself, you can gradually increase the amount of light it receives.

As for watering, you want the potting medium to be a little moist but not wet. You should use the same watering method you use for the mother plant, namely allowing the soil to dry a bit between waterings.

How Long it Takes for a Keiki to Bloom?

Orchids aren’t known for their fast-paced growth. Instead, they’re slow growing plants that take a while to reach maturity.

With this in mind, don’t expect your newly planted keiki to bloom in the first year of its life. It can take as much as 2-3 years for a keiki to bloom.

Of course, it’s not unheard of for keikis to bloom faster, especially if everything in their environment is set up to promote their well-being and development. If you’re lucky, your new orchid may bloom after just one year.

Wrapping Up

Propagating orchids from keikis can be easy once you have a keiki growing on your orchid. Getting your orchid to produce keikis is a whole other matter.

If you have one of the orchid varieties that naturally and easily produce keikis, you may count yourself lucky. But you can also promote keiki growth artificially by using a quality keiki paste.

And because naturally grown keikis on an orchid can be a sign of the plant undergoing stress, do make an assessment of your plant’s general health to detect anything that may be causing stress.

Updated: November 5, 2020

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