Flowers

Orchid multiplication by seeds

Orchids aroused special interest in Europe during the last century, to such an extent that some specimens were sold for gold by collectors. Professionals and scientists of the time could not multiply them fast enough to meet the high demand.

Even today there are many doubts about the multiplication of the orchid by seeds among fans, because if everyone discovered the mystery, in all probability we could enjoy these beautiful and elegant plants even more.

How do orchid seeds germinate in nature?

There are many plants that have established symbiotic relationships with other plants or other living beings. In fact, it has been discovered that in the same way that conifers grow much stronger if they find certain very special fungi in the soil where they grow to form mycorrhizae (symbiosis between fungi and roots), exactly the same thing happens with orchids with respect to its seeds.

This was discovered in the 19th century, by the French botanist Noël Bernard. The microrriza allows the seed to germinate in nature. Its operation is as follows: the fungus nourishes the seed, providing it with nutrients and water, and in return it feeds on carbohydrates and vitamins that it cannot produce in sufficient quantities.

To this day this is not used since it is a very demanding method, as it also requires caring for the fungus.

Can orchids germinate without the fungus?

Over time it was found that the germination of the orchid is also possible without its inseparable fungus, simply choosing a soil rich in mineral salts, sucrose and other elements.

How to sow orchid seeds?

Image – Wikimedia/ Forest and Kim Starr

In vitro planting of this plant became fashionable in the 60s. To do this, the orchid seeds must be placed in well-nourished soil in a totally sterile environment (a glass jar or bottle). The seeds germinate, reach an intermediate stage and finally their leaves begin to grow. When the first 3-4 leaves grow, it is transplanted to another land more suitable for small orchids.

Its in vitro cultivation is usually successful, since the first flowering appears at 2-3 years, compared to the 7 years it takes to occur when it is found in nature.

Tips to achieve a higher germination rate

In order for a greater number of seeds to germinate, we recommend the following:

  • Substrate: choose for example crushed tree bark, or coconut fiber. It is very important that it is a new substrate, or at least sterilized.
  • Water: always use rain or without lime. It must be as pure as possible. It would also be worth the water for human consumption.
  • Location of the seedbed: place it near a heat source, in a protected area of direct sunlight. This is very important because orchids are plants that grow under the shade of plants that are larger than them.
  • Transplant: leave your seedlings in the container where they have germinated until they reach a size of about 5-7 centimeters. In this way, it will be easier for you to separate them and get them to pass the transplant.

How important is the in vitro culture of orchids to the world?

Image – Flickr/ Teresa Grau Ros

Orchids are plants that produce very small seeds, often less than 1 millimeter. In addition, they need this microrhizal fungus to germinate, so to ensure the new generation they produce thousands of seeds, sometimes up to more than 100,000. The problem is that of all those, only about 1% germinates.

And this, how could it be otherwise, has meant that there is a great variety of species that have been and are still in danger of extinction, because to this problem are added others such as loss of habitat, illegal logging, and the extraction of specimens from nature.

Thanks to in vitro cultivation, species such as Laelia gouldiana, which are no longer growing naturally, are still alive in laboratories, specifically in germplasm banks. But not only it is cultivated in this way, but also practically all commercial orchids: Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Cambria, and a long etcetera, begin their life in a container that is usually made of glass.

Keep in mind that these plants sometimes produce keikis, which are replicas that sprout from the mother plant, but not all species have every year, and it is not possible to know how many they will have. On the other hand, the multiplication by orchid seeds, even if it is in vitro, is something that sooner or later will be a possibility for all species ; not in vain, all of them will begin to flourish at some point in their lives.

And with this we are done. We hope that you have learned a lot about planting orchid seeds, and that you are encouraged to try . Getting ahead of yourself is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible to get them to germinate.

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