Issue: November 11, 1996


Dendrobium orchid keike (baby plant)

Question:

I have a dendrobium orchid plant growing in the window planter of our solar home in Taos. It has shown extraordinary growth during the last month and has two new branches. At the base of the new branches there are what appear to be multiple root shoots. I believe these are called keikis. Can these be separated, planted, and produce new plants? If so, what is the proper method for doing this?

I believe there must be an orchid society in New Mexico, but I have not been able to locate them. Please help me contact them.

Answer:

There are many kinds of dendrobium orchids, but many of them do frequently produce keikis. Keiki is the Hawaiian word meaning baby, thus these are baby plants produced on an aerial portion of a dendrobium cane. If the roots are being produced at the base of the plant near the region where the canes all come together, then it is a new shoot, not a keike. However, if the roots are being produced from a small growth produced from a bud on the upper portion of the cane, it is a keiki which may be removed and potted to grow a new plant.

The keiki can be removed from the cane with its roots attached and potted in a seedling grade of orchid potting medium. Epiphytic orchids such as most dendrobiums should be potted in a well-drained potting material such as fir bark, not soil or peatmoss. There are several new potting mixes being used by orchid growers, but be sure to get one that does not retain too much water. The best time to remove the keiki is when root growth is just beginning, before the roots get so long that they will be injured during repotting. Allow the potting medium to dry well between irrigations. Too much moisture around the roots will cause the roots to rot. Keep the plant in a location with high humidity. I use an old aquarium converted into a terrarium placed in a south-facing window with sheer curtains to reduce the light intensity. You can also use fluorescent lamps suspended four to six inches above the top of the little plant. A minimum of two 40-watt lamps is needed; four lamps would do a better job.

The American Orchid Society 1996-1997 Almanac lists two orchid societies in New Mexico - one in Albuquerque, the other in Los Alamos. The New Mexico Orchid Society meets in Albuquerque while the Escalante Orchid Society alternates meeting between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. Contact your local County Extension Office for details. In Albuquerque, you can also contact the Albuquerque Council of Garden Clubs at 296-6020 for information. Join one of these orchid societies to learn more about the specifics of growing orchids in New Mexico and to develop contacts with people who have had experience facing the problems you will also encounter. If you are interested in joining the American Orchid Society, members of the local society can help. You may also want to check your local library for the American Orchid Society publication "Orchids."