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Articles About Orchids
   Many of you have written asking for instructions on how to do stem propagation with your orchids. In response to your requests, I will give you step-by-step directions provided by Mr. Gary Gorrange of Alta Canyon Orchids, one of the best Phalaenopsis hybridizers I know. This procedure is rather complex, requires some special equipment, and is not for the beginner.
   Unlike many plants which you can just take an ordinary cutting, place it in a jar of water, and a few weeks later you have a new plant, orchids must be propagated under very sterile conditions whether you are growing by seed or doing stem propagation. Hybridizers have experimented for years looking for effective ways of reproducing their favorite orchids and cloning their perfect hybrids.
    Many orchids, such as the Cattleya relatives and hybrids have sympodial growth, which may be readily divided to produce more plants. However, other orchids such as Phalaenopsis species and hybrids have a monopodial growth and therefore can not be divided.
   Hybridizers have developed stem propagation as one of their main growing tools in which to produce identical plants of the mother plant on orchids like Phalaenopsis, Doritis and some of their intergenitic hybrids. This procedure allows hybridizers to produce exact duplicates of their most prized orchids.
   Gary Gorrange of Alta Canyon Orchids, was kind enough to show me step-by-step how he does stem propagation using his beautiful Phalaenopsis hybrids.
   If you follow the steps as outlined in this article you should be successful in making your own stem propagations. With proper growing conditions, a stem-propagated plant will flower in about one year.
   Before you start, here is a list of items you will need to gather before starting the procedure. All items must be sterile that are used in the flasking case!!!
TOOLS
  1. Rectangular plastic tray
  2. Spray bottle
  3. Square Flasks (for several cuttings per flask)
  4. Soft toothbrush
  5. Razor Blades
  6. 7" forceps or tweezers
  7. Sterile culture tubes with one-hole stoppers (one per new plant)
  8. Synthetic cotton (used to fill in the hole in the stoppers)
  9. Tube rack to hold culture tubes
  10. Labeling material
  11. Pressure cooker or autoclave
MATERIALS
  • Liquid household bleach (such as Chlorox)
  • Dish washing detergent (such as Dawn)
  • Distilled water
  • Stem propagation media
  • Agar-Agar
FACILITIES
   Gary strongly suggests you use a flasking case or chamber. Gary built his own case and it works very well.
   You will also need an area set up to grow your new plants. Temperature and lighting is very important during this period. Gary has built a "growing room" just for his propagations.
PROCEDURE
   Once you have all your tools, materials, and facilities available, you will be ready to proceed.
   1: First, prepare your stem propagation growing medium. Mix the medium according to directions. Boil mixture and then pour into cultural tubes (1 1/2" deep) cook cultural tubes containing the mixture in a pressure cooker or autoclave for 15 to 20 minutes. The pressure of the autoclave or pressure cooker is required to reach the internal sterilizing temperature of 15 PSIG.
   Next, prepare a mixture of 3 parts water, 1 part bleach, and a couple of drops of dish soap. Add this mixture to the rectangular plastic tray and fill the spray bottle.
Prepare another mixture of 9 parts water, 1 part bleach, 2 drops of dish soap. Add this mixture to the square flasks.
   2: Sanitation is the most important step of this entire procedure. If you can not provide a sterile area to perform the stem propagation, then don't even try to proceed. Fungus spores in the air will develop and attack the new growth as fast as it grows in a non-sterile environment.
   Your area must be at least as clean as a hospital operating room! No kidding! Using the spray bottle of the bleach solution, spray all of the areas inside the flasking case with the bleach solution. You can leave it wet or if you have sterile towels you can dry it.
   3: Place the prepared flasks, culture tubes, tube stoppers, synthetic cotton, forceps, tweezers, razor blades, and tube rack into the prepared flasking case.
   4: Select the orchid you want to propagate. The orchid must have an inflorescence/flower stem that has just began flowering or has half of the flowers open. Cut the stem from the plant using a sterile razor blade.
   5: Place the cut stem in the prepared rectangle tray of bleach solution.
   6: Gently scrub the stem from the bottom up to the top with the soft sterilized toothbrush. Don't brush too hard, or you will damage the dormant bud. Place the stem back in the tray.
   7: Place the tray containing the stem into the flasking case.
   8: Once in the case, you can start preparing the stems for propagation. Cut the stem 1" above and below each bud at an angle with a sterile razor blade. Gently remove the covering over the bud with a sterile razor blade. Place the prepared stem in the flask with the bleach mixture and let it soak in the flask for 15 to 20 minutes shaking the flask every 5 minutes.
   After the stems are in the tubes, it is best to keep them at about room temperature, 70-75 degrees oF. This is so the air in the tube does not expand and contract thereby possibly sucking contaminants into the tube.
   9: Remove the stem from the flask and cut off about 1/8" of each end of the stem. Using the tweezers, place the stem inside a prepared culture tube, inserting it into the medium until the bud just touches the media. Replace the stopper and set the tube in the growing rack. Place only one cutting in each tube to reduce the risk of contamination.
   10: Labels are very important, make sure you label your tubes so you know what plant is in it. It would be a shame if you have gone through all of these steps just to learn you have no idea what you just propagated.
11: Place the rack into the growing room or the area you have prepared for growing the plants.
   12: If everything is done right, the Plant Gods are happy, and you have no fungus, in a few weeks you will see tiny leaves growing in the tubes. You can expect 1 to 4 growths per bud.
   13: When the leaves are 1/2" to 3/4" long and the roots 1-1/2" long, take the little plants out of their tube and plant in individual little pots or a community pot. I use fine grade coconut husk chips, which are very good for Phals. Do not let the little plants dry out!
   If you are successful, your new little plants will look like the beautiful Phalaenopsis orchids that Gary produced in a couple of years.