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Operative Propagation of Phalaenopsis

Dr. C. H. Laws 

    What would you do if you owned the world's most precious, one and only species of phalaenopsis?   You might say, "I'll sell it to the highest bidder."  It was said that some one in Taiwan had once sold a very rare orchid for a seven-figure sum of money.  If I asked the final owner of that expensive orchid the same question, I am sure he would say, "Oh, I'll do my utmost to care for it."  Orchid, like other living organisms, is vulnerable and is subject to death.  When that happens, the owner stands to lose a huge amount of money. To safeguard from such losses, it is wise to propagate it while it is in your possession. Most orchid growers are aware of the two methods of propagation:  1) Sexual Reproduction.  2) Asexual Reproduction. 

I. Sexual Reproduction 

    In sexual reproduction, seeds are placed on special culture medium to germinate.  Young plants are transplanted to individual pots to continue to grow.  Using the sexual reproduction method, I can see at least two drawbacks:  1)  The purity of rare species may not be kept for long as hybrid may occur and the original plant thus faces extinction.  2)  The rarity and value of your one-and-only species may lessen once it is allowed to be reproduced on a massive scale. It is much better to preserve a rare species so that more people can enjoy it than to let extinction be its fate. 

II. Asexual Reproduction

    The most up-to-date method is that of Tissue Culture.  First, tissue is taken from the growing point of the parent plant.  This tissue is cut into tiny pieces and put them on the culture medium and kept on shaking while being in the container.  In time, these tiny pieces of tissue will form roots and shoots and become tiny plants.  These tiny plants continue to grow and finally become adult plants after transplanted to individual pots. However, no matter whether we use seeds or tissue culture for reproduction, we need to have a high level of technology, appropriate equipment as well as an aseptic environment.  Needless to say, such requirement is not within the reach of the average orchid grower's budget or capability.  Hence his only hope is perhaps to wait for the rare opportunity of having a shoot appear from a stem or from between a leaf and the roots.  Some orchid growers apply hormones to stimulate the plant to produce new shoots. 

    Today I would like to introduce to you an alternative method, which is called Operative Propagation of Pholaenopsis.  It is a type of asexual reproduction.  This method is safe as well as dependable.  I have performed this kind of operations for so many times and the success rate has been 100%.  When I first started using this method, I had difficulty finding a suitable plant for such an operation, but after much thinking and experimenting with various operating techniques,  I can now easily and confidently operate on almost any full-grown phalaenopsis for propagation purposes.  Periodically phalaenopsis need to be taken out from its pot and examined.  Decayed culture material should be discarded.  Old, decayed roots should be cut off.  As long as the top roots are strong and healthy, the bottom ones can be trimmed and the plant will still live.  Even if you accidentally break a phalaenopsis half way or, for some reason, its top part is dead, the plant can survive as long as some of its leaves and roots are still alive.  It is from such an observation that I come to the realization that operative propagation for phalaenopsis is feasible. 

Methodology and Principles of Operative Propagation of Phalaenopsis 

    Both methodology and principles are simple and easy.  Using a knife or a pair of scissors, you cut the plant into two.  Each part must consist at least one leaf and sufficient roots to nourish it.  Plant each part in a pot.  You will see that the distal part will heal quickly, growth will resume and before long will get back your original plant.  The proximal part will grow as well.  A new bud will emerge from between the leaf and the roots.  This new bud will grow quite fast.  When it has grown sufficient leaves and roots, it is ready to be cut off and transplanted in a new pot and this new plant is your profit.  In the same way, new buds will emerge one after another, and you will continue to get new plants until the proximal part becomes old and dies.  To date, I have had four new plants from the same proximal parent and it is possible that I may get a few more as the operation wasn't done very long ago.  

Format of Operation 

I. Si mple Section

1) Transverse Section -- Making a horizontal cut perpendicular to the long axis. 

2) Vertical Section -- Cutting through the long axis or parallel to the long axis. 

A. Sagittal Section -- Making a vertical cut down the middle dividing the plant into a left portion and a right portion, leaving all the leaves intact on the left portion or the right portion.  

B. Coronal Section -- Cut along the main vein of every leave in stages and make a vertical cut down the middle dividing the plant into anterior portion and posterior portion.  

3) Oblique Section -- Making the cut at a slant.  

II. Combination Section -- Some operations may required two or more sectioning, e.g. 

1) Partial transverse section + vertical section. 

2) Partial oblique section + vertical section. 

3) Partial transverse section + partial vertical section + partial oblique section. 

4) Others. 

III. Sacrifice Section -- It is possible that after sectioning, one section of the plant, usually the distal part may die, perhaps due to insufficient roots to nourish the plant.  If that happens, you will have to discard the dying section, and hope that the good section will grow two or more buds, which will become independent, full-grown plants so that your goal of propagation will be fulfilled eventually, 


    Some people think that operative propagation should not be carried out during the blooming stage. Others fear that operations may delay blooming.  From my personal experience, I can assure you that it isn't true either cased. Once I operated an orchid while it is blooming. Its bloom continued to thrive long after the operation. In another case, the operation was done when the plant was not in bloom. Soon after the operation, blooms began to appear in the distal section.  As for the proximal section, blooms came before new bud emerged. After one year the blooms are still thriving.  Its first bud has grown big and become a new plant with four leaves.  Its second bud is emerging now. If you own an invaluable, very rare species of phalaenopsis, I strongly recommend that you apply the operative propagation method, which is very safe and reliable, to back up your treasure, just like people would make back-up copies of important information for their computers.

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