Orchid owners may not send out birth announcements, but they’re just as proud as any new parent when one of their orchids forms a “Keiki,” the Hawaiian word for “baby.” Keikis are baby plantlets that are occasionally produced by mature orchids. More frequent in Phalaenopsis, Epidendrum and Dendrobium orchids, Keikis are rare enough to warrant celebration.
Keikis form when a mature orchid propagates itself by producing new leaves and roots – a copy of itself in miniature – along the flower stalk. In Phalaenopsis orchids, this typically occurs at a node. There’s no guarantee, but you can encourage the growth of Keikis by leaving the flower spike in place after your orchid has finished blooming.
Repotting Your Orchid Pair
Keikis can be separated from their “moms” when their roots are 1 to 3 inches long. Some orchid experts recommend repotting mother and baby together in fresh potting mix. Like animal babies, Keikis often do better if they stay near their moms for the first year, relying on the mature plant to regulate moisture conditions in the pot. Within a year, the Keiki’s root system should be well enough established to sustain the plant and both orchids can be repotted in their own containers.
To separate a Keiki from its parent plant, use a sharp sterile blade to cut through the stalk one to two inches below the plantlet. Repot the parent orchid in a new pot. Add the Keiki, bending the stalk downward to serve as an anchor and gently pushing the roots into the potting medium. Mist your Keiki daily until it starts to grow; then care for it as you do your other orchids.
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Photo: Grigoris Deoudis