How to Grow Your Own Orchids from Seed
© Linda Fortner

Jul 1, 2001

Seeds in a bottle

Growing orchids from seed is difficult. Orchid seeds require a symbiotic fungus to germinate, and it can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years from germination before a resulting plant blooms.

Preparing to Grow Orchids from Seed

First, know what you are growing. If an insect has pollinated your plant, it could be crossed with the pollen of another orchid. To avoid such surprises, plants should be hand-pollinated.

Know the parentage of the plants and only cross pure species or award wining hybrids. This means you may have to make a significant investment in purchasing the parent plants from reputable suppliers. Also, the plants you raise will not necessarily all have the same flowers as its parents. Because of this unknown factor, professional hybridizers prefer to use stem propagation where ever possible .

If you can not provide a sterile area to propagate the seeds, then don't try to proceed. Fungus spores in the air will attack the new growth as fast as it grows in a non-sterile environment. To create a sterile area, a glove box or flasking case works very well.

Orchid Growing Tools and Materials

(All items used in the flasking case MUST be sterile)

1. Spray bottle with 10% bleach and soap solution (made from Clorox and dish detergent)
2. 500ml Pyrex Beaker (for the preparation of the growth media)
3. Flasks with one hole rubber stoppers
4. Synthetic cotton (to fill in the hole in the stoppers)
5. Labeling material (to note parentage of the cross)
6. Pressure cooker or autoclave
7. Razor blades (to cut the pod open)
8. Toothbrush (for cleaning the seed pod)
9. Small syringe (for introducing water into the flasks)
10. Bamboo skewers or small sticks
11. Aluminum foil
12. A place to grow the seeds that has controlled light and temperatures, e.g., growing room or greenhouse.
13. Tray ( to wash seed pod in)
14. Distilled water (gallon bottle)
15. Growth media

The growth media is very important and can vary with the types of orchids you are growing. It must be mixed and prepared according to the directions. Retailers of growth media are listed in the American Orchid Society magazine.

Seed pods can take 3-6 months to ripen depending on the type of orchid. All tools, materials, and equipment should be in place before harvesting the seeds.

1: Clean the seed pod with the bleach and soap mixture using the toothbrush, then place the pod inside the sterilized case (wash the inside of the case with the bleach and soap mixture). Make sure your hands are sterile too. Once the flasks are prepared with the media, keep them horizontal so as not to disturb the mixture.

2: Cut the pod open with the razor blade and expose the white cotton-like material inside. Keep the pod on paper towels and avoid touching the seed with the bleach solution. Using skewers, remove a small amount of seed from the cotton material and gently wipe the seeds on the surface of the media inside the flask. Do not place too many seeds in the flask - the seeds are tiny and this is a common mistake. Always make more than one flask in case one of them becomes infected.

3: Add about 30 ml of distilled water per flask and replace the rubber stopper (the hole should be covered with the cotton). This allows filtered air to enter the flask. Cover the ends of the flasks with aluminum foil and identify each flask with the cross.

4: Place the flasks in the growth chamber or room. After a few days, check for contamination. Contaminated flasks will have cloudy water and colored streaks in the media. Discard any contaminated flasks. For some crosses, like Phalaenopsis, you may see tiny protocorms in a few weeks. It can take as long as a 6 months to a year before you see growing plants in the flasks. Allow the seedlings to grow in the flask as long as they can. When they outgrow their flask, pot the seedlings into family trays or move into a larger flask so they can continue to grow. Now, care for the young plants until they mature.

Beginning orchidists should get the hang of growing orchids from the seedling stage before trying the seed stage. There are companies that will flask your seed pods for you, such as Burleigh Park Orchids and Phyto Technology Laboratories LLC.

The copyright of the article How to Grow Your Own Orchids from Seed in Orchid Gardening is owned by Linda Fortner. Permission to republish How to Grow Your Own Orchids from Seed in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Please visit the website to view the article in its entirety.

How to Grow Your Own Orchids from Seed
Jul 1, 2001
© Linda Fortner
Comments: 0