Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Some types of orchids produce small plantlets which can be removed from the adult plant to produce a new plant. These small plants are called keikis from a Hawaiian word. Keikis are an asexual way orchids produce new plants and they will be exact replicas of the mother plant or clones. The most common types of orchids to produce keikis are Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, Epidendrums, and Phalaenopsis. The little plants can be produced from an inflorescence, at the side of the plant or just from a spot on the regular pseudobulb itself. Keikis will bloom much faster than comparable size seedlings since they have been able to do most of their growing using strength from the mother plant. Many will bloom in just one or two years, depending upon the type of orchid. This is a wonderful way to expand your collection, or give a piece of a favorite to a friend.
Many times the small vegetative growths will resemble a new inflorescence or a branching of an inflorescence, but then suddenly roots will appear at the bottom. If you want to produce another plant from the growth, you will need to wait until the roots are about one and one half inches, or four to five centimeters, long. Clip the whole growth off the supporting infrastructure. Carefully plant the keiki in a small pot with orchid mix and place in a shadier location than the mother plant was growing. You will need to provide some kind of prop to hold the little plant up because it will not have enough roots to do so by itself. The base should be placed just at the top of the medium with the roots carefully covered. Mist daily until you see the plant growing well and then move into a sunnier location and water as you do the mother plant.
One group of Dendrobiums, the nobiles, will produce keikis rather than flowers along the stem if they are given too much fertilizer with Nitrogen in it and warm temperatures in the winter. This type of plant, however, is not normally sold commercially unless by a vendor who should be able to tell you the type of plant it is. The more common Dendrobium type will produce keikis mostly from the bottom of the plant and from the inflorescences.
Phalaenopsis will sometimes produce keikis on the finished inflorescence after the flowers have dried and fallen off. Sometimes the plants will produce a keiki at the side of the main growth stem if something has happened to the growing tip. Often this is the only way to save a plant which has lost the growing tip through crown rot. Since the plant has virtually all the roots of the parent plant, blooming should not be affected.