What is an orchid keiki? A keiki (kay-key from Hawaiian for “baby”) is an offshoot of the mother plant. This isn’t the usual way for most orchids to reproduce, but it is indeed a method of propagation.
With some orchids, producing keikis can simply be a result of the plant’s genetics. But sometimes orchids produce keikis instead of flowering because the light level is too low. Either way, the keikis can be a way to start a new plant to give to a friend or family member.
The orchids that most commonly produce keikis are Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, Epidendrums, and Phalaenopsis. On a Phalaenopsis, a keiki arises from one node along the flower stem. On a Dendrobium, the keiki is typically found sprouting along the length of the cane or from the end of the cane. This is induced by the accumulation of growth hormones at that point. Producing keikis is asexual reproduction, so the “baby” will have the same characteristics as its mother.
If you don’t want to keep the keiki to form a new plant, you can safely remove it at any time. If you cut away the whole flower spike (inflorescence) after flowering is finished, you can prevent the production of keikis, and tidy up the flower’s appearance at the same time. Remember to use a sterilized cutting tool to remove the offshoot.
If you want to keep the keiki to produce a new plant, you need to leave it attached to its mother for a while. Keikis grow quickly, because they have their mother for resources. Soon the offshoot will sprout a couple of leaves and some roots. When the keiki has several roots of at least two inches long, you can remove it and put it in its own pot.
Before you remove the keiki, gather supplies. You’ll need your sterilized cutting tool, fungicide (optional, but a good idea), a pot with orchid medium, and something to support the new plant. With the sterilized tool, remove the keiki and include a piece of the stem on the plantlet. It’s at this point that fungicide can be added. Some orchids are susceptible to disease, so taking a moment to swab fungicide on the cut ends of the keiki and on the mother plant can mean the difference between an ill and a healthy plant.
Put the keiki in the new pot of orchid medium, placing the base at the top of the medium, carefully covering the roots. Add the support and place the new plant in a shadier spot than its mother. Mist the new plant daily until the new plant is growing well then put it back into the sun and water as you would the mother plant.
Take care of the fledgling plant and soon you’ll have a beautiful, flowering orchid. Simple, right? Right.