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Growing offshoots from orchids: When is it okay to cut off filaments and bulbs & how to plant them properly?

Those who have been engaged in the care of orchids a little longer, know that you should not immediately cut off the faded stems. After all, from them could develop a new flower. But not only that! Did you know that a baby orchid can also appear? Many a beginner is quite surprised and delighted the first time. Suddenly you get a second orchid through this so-called child all for nothing – how convenient! But how to proceed to this end? Can you simply cut off orchid offshoots or do you have to take care of something? And how does propagation work for orchid varieties with bulbs? We explain it to you!

When to remove offshoots from orchids?

Phalaenopsis and Epidendrum offshoots

Planting orchid cuttings - How to propagate the orchid depending on the species.

In these two types of orchids, the orchid offshoot is formed on the stem. If the orchid forms kindels, you can safely let them grow. First, a leaf will appear, then probably a second. Only when the first root is also present, this new orchid is able to grow independently. Indeed, if you plant orchid offshoots without a root, the plant will die, because they are still fed by their mother plant before.

However, you do not have to be in a hurry. Just let them continue to grow until it’s time to repot. The best time to do this is after flowering in the fall, but spring is also good.

Cut off orchid cuttings when at least one root has grown

However, if you don’t want to wait that long, you can plant the orchid offshoot right away, once a root has been formed. Then, using sharp and disinfected scissors, carefully separate the offspring and plant it in the fresh substrate.

Offshoots of orchids with bulbs

Using a sharp knife, remove orchid offshoots and divide bulbs

If you take a closer look at the bulbs, you will notice that, in principle, each bulb with its leaves looks like a separate plant. This is almost true, which is why you might think that you can simply separate them from each other. But this is only half the truth. As soon as the plant needs to be repotted (when it no longer has enough space in the pot), you can divide it. However, the rule here is that you should always leave groups of at least three bulbs.

Leave at least three bulbs per plant

When you take off these orchid cuttings, also be careful not to injure the roots. Again, of course, you should use sharp and disinfected scissors.

Propagate monopodial orchid

Vanda and other monopodial orchid species propagate by side shoots

Not so simple is the reproduction of a so-called monopodial orchid. The Vanda, for example, belongs to this group. If you still want to try, choose a time when the plant must be repotted anyway, because the old container has become too small. In order for the separated orchid cuttings to grow well, they must be well rooted. Usually the plant forms side shoots by itself, from which sooner or later the first roots will grow.

However, as is often the case in plant care, you can help it along a bit. All you need is sphagnum moss, which you simply wrap around the main shoot. Keep the sphagnum moss moist. Separate the side shoot along with developed roots and plant it as a new and independent plant in a new pot.

Planting orchid offshoots correctly

Child with bud but no root on mother plant.

When planting yourself, simply follow the same things you would otherwise:

  • Choose the right pot. A special orchid pot with drainage holes and slight elevation in the bottom is important to avoid waterlogging. The small young plants also need it. With the optimal pot size, the roots fill the pot well, but without being squashed. The planter also has a step so that excess water can drip off and the plant is not standing in water.
  • Use high quality substrate . You should also disinfect this before use. The fastest way to do this is in the microwave for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can keep the bark over steam for 30 minutes or put it in the oven at low temperature for several hours. This is important to eliminate any pathogens or pests.

Young oncidium with bulbs planted in fresh substrate

  • Hold the plant in the pot and drop the substrate inside between the roots. In this way, gradually fill the container until you no longer need to give support to the plant. Now you can gently tap it on the surface to allow the bark pieces to slide in. There should not be too many cavities. A pencil can also be used for overnight tamping. Then top up with substrate if necessary.

Plant orchid offshoots in high quality substrate

  • After planting, moisten the substrate and roots well. However, since the roots have not yet settled and you could move the plants by watering or dipping, it is better to use a spray bottle for this purpose. Once the roots adhere to the substrate, you may also dive as usual, once a week or every two weeks, depending on the season and humidity.

Propagation of orchid by filament, bulb separation or side shoots.