How to grow orchids from seeds

Written by rachel turner
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How to grow orchids from seeds
Growing orchids from seed takes patience and commitment. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Growing orchids from seed is particularly challenging since the seeds do not contain stored nutrients for successful germination and growth. To produce orchid plants from seed, the home gardener must first provide a solution containing the necessary nutrients for the orchid seed to develop. The seeds cannot grow in conventional potting soil like other plants. Propagating from seed takes patience and a common knowledge of how orchid seeds germinate to produce beautiful, flowering orchid plants.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Stockpot
  • 2 glass flasks
  • Tongs
  • Clean towel
  • Funnel
  • Sterile agar
  • Distilled water
  • Orchid seeds
  • Eyedropper
  • Cotton flask stopper
  • Artificial grow lights
  • Long tweezers
  • 2- to 3-inch-diameter pot
  • Foam peanuts
  • Fir bark chunks
  • Orchid fertiliser

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  1. 1

    Fill a large stockpot with water and set it on the hob to boil. Grasp two clear, glass flasks with tongs and submerge them in the boiling water. Submerging the glass flasks in the boiling water sterilises them, providing an environment that discourages unwanted bacteria and fungus.

  2. 2

    Remove the glass flasks with the tongs and set them on a clean towel to dry. Insert a funnel into one of the glass flasks and pour sterile agar into it. Pour a 1/2-inch layer of agar into the bottom of the flask, or enough to coat the bottom without splashing onto the sides.

  3. 3

    Pour a 1-inch layer of distilled water into the other sterilised glass flask. Place all the orchid seeds into the distilled water.

  4. 4

    Squeeze an eyedropper and dip it into the flask containing the orchid seeds. Release the bulb of the eyedropper, allowing the water and orchid seeds to enter the eyedropper. Pull the eyedropper out of the distilled water flask, and insert it into the flask containing the sterilised agar.

  5. 5

    Hold the eyedropper over the agar solution and squeeze the bulb until the orchid seeds are scattered on top of the sterilised agar.

  6. 6

    Close the top of the flask containing the orchid seeds with a cotton flask stopper. Place the glass flask under artificial grow lights. Set the timer on the grow lights to provide at least 14 hours of light daily until the orchid seeds germinate, which can range from a few months to a few years depending upon the variety of orchid seed you have.

  7. 7

    Examine the roots of the growing orchid plants in the flask. Gently pull the orchid plant from the agar when the roots are at least 1/4-inch in length. Use long tweezers to pull the orchids from the agar, and rinse any remaining agar from the orchid roots with clean water.

  8. 8

    Fill a 2- to 3-inch-diameter container with a layer of foam peanuts. The peanuts will help drain away the excess moisture from around the growing orchid roots.

  9. 9

    Place a layer of fir bark chunks on top of the foam peanuts within the container. Set the orchid plant on top of the fir bark chunks, spreading the roots out around the plant. Continue to fill the pot and surround the orchid plant with fir bark chunks until the container is full.

  10. 10

    House the orchid container in an indoor location that receives full sun depending upon which variety of orchid you have. Orchids growing under artificial grow lights will require the lighting to remain on at least 12 hours per day.

  11. 11

    Water the orchid plant once per week until the fir bark chunks are thoroughly moistened. Only water the orchid plant when the fir bark has dried.

  12. 12

    Feed the orchid plant with an orchid fertiliser according to the fertiliser's included instructions.

Tips and warnings

  • Repot the orchids into slightly larger containers every 12 to 18 months, or whenever you see roots above the soil surface.
  • If you do not have access to fir bark chunks, many garden centres have potting mixes specially formulated for orchids.
  • Orchids grown from seed can take between two and 10 years to produce flower blooms.

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