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Articles About Orchids
   What to do with the babies we have been growing in our bottles for the past few months? If you missed my articles, Growing Orchids From Seed and Stem Propagation, you may want to first read them to learn how the orchids got into the bottles in the first place.
  Orchid seedlings will need to spend close to a year in their bottle nursery before they are ready to be removed. When the leaves are at least three cm long and are touching the top of the flask or the roots have consumed the medium, it will be time to move them to a community tray which brings us to the purpose of this article.
Orchid seedlings developing in sterile bottle
Deflasking Seedlings
   Cleanliness is very important!
Waterborn pathogens (fungi, bacteria, etc.) is one of the main causes for seedling death. Using distilled or boiled water at the same temperature as the flask, fill the flask and gently swish the water around to loosen the babies from the agar mixture.
   Then, using a spatula or plastic knitting needle, untangle the roots and separate the seedlings. Carefully pour the seedlings into in a bowl of water. Wash as much of the agar off the leaves and roots as you can.
  Be very gentle, because the babies are very fragile at this stage. After cleansing, soak the little plants in a diluted fungicide solution such as Physan, RD 20 or Captan Powder. Remove the seedlings and place them on a clean paper towel or clean newspaper. At this point you can decide if you want to plant all of them or just the strongest ones.
   You can use pots, but I have found shallow trays work much better for the little orchids first home. The seedlings will grow much better if they are kept together rather than trying to pot each seedling in an individual pot.
   Make sure the tray or pot is sterile. Fill it with a medium that will stay moist such as shredded Sphagnum moss, orchid bark, or small coconut chips. Gently wrap some wetted Sphagnum moss around each seedling root system and place in the tray. When your tray is full, fill in around the little plants with whatever medium you have chosen to use.
   Do not overplant. Leave room for air and water to easily access each one of the plants root system.
Growing your babies
   Keep your trays out of direct sunlight! Moderate light intensity is needed to encourage good growth. The same lighting conditions you used when growing the flasked seedlings is perfect.
   Watering is the hardest part of growing seedlings. Too wet, they will die. Too dry, they will die. Never allow the tray to dry out! You also do not keep them sopping wet either because your little plants will develop rot and die.
   There are no set rules, because each individual setup is different. Humidity needs to be 100% for the first week, and then adjusted to 60% to 70% thereafter.
   You can control the humidity by placing a plastic dome over the seed tray. Adjust the humidity by lifting the dome as needed. Feed the babies using a very dilute fertilizer ONLY after watering. To prevent burning, never fertilize when the roots are dry.
   You will notice the larger plants will keep out-growing the smaller ones, so you may want to concentrate on the care of only the largest seedlings. Pick out and discard the weaker smaller ones.
Community Pots
   Once the seedlings reach about 15 cm, they can be potted into community pots.
   Continue to grow your seedlings the same as you did while they were in the trays and flasks. As the seedlings grow, gradually move them into the environment that will be their new home.
   Keep the pots out of direct sunlight at all times because it can take only a few minutes in the sun can cook the little seedlings. If you chose to use Sphagnum moss, keep it moist not wet, and do not let it dry out around the roots.
   When the seedlings outgrow the community pots, they are ready to be placed in their own little pot. never over-pot orchids (placing the plant in a pot which is larger than necessary), especially seedlings.
   Choose a pot size no larger than what will accommodate a year's growth. The time to the blooming stage is now much closer and your little seedlings should be looking like mature orchids.
   If you have succeeded to raise your babies to this stage, congratulations! If not, well, you can always try again taking note of your errors to improve on your process. You may consider first trying to raise purchased pre-flasked or young seedlings before attempting to grow orchids from seed.
   Orchids are not your average plant so don't expect them to grow from seed like an ordinary house plant!