I recently received an email from one my reader asking how he can grow the Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla Striata) from seeds. This inspires me to share with you some of the intricacies of growing orchids from seeds. To do so, would require an understanding of its natural environment.
The wonder of nature
In the wild, Mother Nature makes it all look so easy. The orchid plant produces hundreds, thousands and millions of seeds. Many of them are small and can be carried in the wind to land on branches of trees. From the thousands of seeds, some lucky few will land in a location with the right fungus that can help it to germinate and provide a kind of nutrients that it will need during the time of germination. Most orchid seeds do not contain the necessary food source for the seed to germinate and feed itself.
Once they find the right condition, the seeds will germinate. After germination, the young plants will have to survive harsh conditions such as wind, rain and long periods of drought and make it to maturity to produce flowers and the cycle starts all over again. Hence, any collection of orchids from the wild can rapidly diminish their numbers quickly because of the chance of the thousands of seeds to grow to maturity can be a low probability.
In your home
However, in a protected condition such as your home, they can have a better chance if you are careful about keeping the environment clean of contaminants. Start with a sterile condition for all the equipment you will use. You will need some clean jars or flasks to hold the seed and the agar (a gel that helps to hold up the young plants). To sterilize the jars or flasks, you can boil them in hot water for half an hour, the same way you would sterilize the baby bottles. Put the agar into the jars or flasks. Then add the nutrients and some growth hormone. You can then put the seeds into the flasks or jars. Make sure to make several different ones so that there are more chances for you to succeed. A plant grown from seed can take a long time to reach flowering phase, it can take up to 8 years.
Somewhere in between
For those who have the Chinese Ground Orchids already growing in the yard, you can sow the seeds next to the parent plant come spring and make sure to keep the soil moist. You can also collect some soil from near the parent plant, because they would most likely have the needed fungus for the seed to germinate, and put it in a pot and sow the seeds in the same soil. Keeping the soil moist would help the seeds from drying out. If your plant is already grown in a pot, you can also sprinkle the seeds around the root of the parent plant. This is one of the best methods to get the seeds to grow. Good luck.