Call me strange, but when I went to school, dividing and multiplying were opposites. Not so in the world of orchids. When you want to multiply your plants, you divide.
Here’s what I mean. If you want, most orchids can be divided every two or three years. Dividing orchids means removing the plant from its current pot, cutting it into smaller parts and placing the parts in new pots. As a result, you get more orchids. That’s multiplying by dividing.
Dividing orchids is a common way to propagate the plants and is fairly straightforward. The process consists of the following steps:
1. Inspect the orchid. Is it ready to be divided? It is aging? Have the new growths reached the edge of the pot? This inspection is paramount. If your orchid isn’t mature, you could wind up with weak plants. If your orchid fails this inspection, wait a while longer before dividing.
2. If your orchid passes inspection, gather supplies:
- Clean pots
- Sterilized cutting tool
- Potting Medium
- Styrofoam peanuts (you usually find these as packing material) for drainage in pots
3. Remove the orchid out of the pot. If the plant is stubbornly clinging onto the pot, soak the entire pot in water for an hour before proceeding.
4. Once the orchid is out, carefully remove the potting material from the root ball as much as possible. If it’s very compacted and the potting material is totally enclosed, squeeze it gently, turn it 45 degrees and squeeze again, continuing until the root ball loosens up. Then use a sterilized cutting tool to remove dead and rotten roots. (To determine if a root is dead, squeeze it. Live roots feel firm. Dead roots feel hollow.)
5. Inspect the root ball for points where the plant has grown in separate directions. These points make good places to divide the root ball. Using these natural separations, pull (or cut if necessary) the root ball into divisions, ensuring that each division has several young, healthy roots. (With orchids that form pseudobulbs, ensure each division contains at least three pseudobulbs.)
6. Put styrofoam peanuts in the bottom to help drainage and then add medium. Then, place each division in its own pot giving the roots enough room for two years of growth. Add medium until the roots are several inches below the surface and press the medium around the plant until it’s steady. An orchid that wobbles does not create a strong root system and will fail.
7. Water your plants thoroughly.
Tada! You’ve successfully divided to multiply, and you didn’t even need a calculator! Just one more step left: sit back, relax and enjoy your new orchids.