Advice, please -- new orchid growing roots in air!

lindseylu(7 - New Mexico)September 4, 2007


I am new to orchids and was given a hybrid from a friend. I do not know the type -- sorry, there were no tags on the plant -- but it had beautiful, delicate spidery-like orange blooms. The flowers are now spent and the plant is growing what looks like white roots halfway UP the plant in the air! Does this mean that I should separate the plant where the roots are and pot the new one? If so, how would that be done safely? Or is the plant telling me something else?

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!

Lindsey :)

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richardol(Santa Royale CA)

Is it something like this?

Does the plant seem to be growing up out of the pot?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 1:32AM
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lindseylu(7 - New Mexico)

Hello and thanks for your quick reply, richardol!

No, the orchid flowers I had were much smaller with shorter petals, alhtough the colors are identical. Sorry I don't have any photos of it. The plant is *not* growing out of the pot; it literally has white roots shooting out of the leaves about halfway up the plant, as if it is splitting off and forming a new plant! What a mystery! Do I cut it off below the roots and start a new plant?

Lindsey :)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 2:59AM
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jamcm(Ottawa Area, Canada)

Hi Lindsey,

How about posting a picture of your plant as it is now? It would go a long way to helping us identify what's going on and the type of orcid you have.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 7:35AM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Growth habit sounds like an epidendrum to me. See link below

Here is a link that might be useful: epidendrum

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 9:57AM
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lindseylu(7 - New Mexico)

Thanks, all, for offering to help! I took a picture of the orchid plant and the "air roots". The URL is:

Any advice is welcome! Thank you! :):

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 6:36PM
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wetfeet101b(z9 Riverside - So Cal- USA)

That is most likely a dendrobium. There are hundreds of hybrids so it will be almost impossible to ID without a tag.
And it is normal for these plants to produce baby plants (keiki) from anywhere along their cane segments.

Its hard to tell from the photo angle, but it looks like that keiki behind the mother cane is big enough to detach and start its own pot.
I see at least 5 leaves on it?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 7:09PM
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lindseylu(7 - New Mexico)

To "wetfeet101b"... is that the rule of thumb, then, that the baby plant can be detached when there are five or more leaves present?

Also, what is the proper and safe way to detach the baby plant? Does he need any special care when being planted? (I have orchid mix and orchid food but don't want to overwhelm or burn him; any tips would be greatly appreciated!)

Thank you again!
Lindsey :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 1:19AM
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orchidflowerchild(z8 TX)

just pop the plant off at the place where it attaches to the mother cane. Dab a bit of ground cinnamon on the broken area, let it dry for a bit, then just pot up.

The better rule of thumb, actually, is that a keiki needs at least three to five roots of an inch or so long, before being separated from the mother plant.

Also, since you are essentially dealing with a seedling, pot in a pot just large enough to accomodate the roots in a fine/moisture retentive media. It won't need as much of a dry-out as the adult plant, as it doesn't have the water/food stores of an adult.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 10:40AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I wouldn't detach it yet. The roots just don't look long enough and I can't tell the actual size of the keiki.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 11:41AM
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lindseylu(7 - New Mexico)

Thank you, everyone! I will wait until the roots are longer and then separate the baby from the mother plant, with the instructions you all suggested. Your good advice is greatly appreciated! Lindsey :)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 1:10PM
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Out of curiosity - what is the cinnamon dabbed onto the cut part of the plant for? I assume this gets dabbed onto both the mother plant and the keiki?

Thanks :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 10:17PM
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treefrog_calgary(zone 3a/3b)

Hi Lindsey,
there are no rules when separating keikis from the parent plant, just guidelines. The keiki right now is getting nutrients from the main plant and will continue to do so until you separate it. I would personally wait until there are at least two moderately sized pseudobulbs on the keiki and a new growth emerging before removing it from the mother plant. Orchids store energy reserves in their pseudobulbs and a small plant with just one pseudobulb doesn't have much of a chance of surviving unless you have ideal conditions.

If you have a greenhouse or a terrarium where the keiki can be in intensive care until it establishes itself, go ahead and detach it. If not, I would advise otherwise. Ultimately its up to you though, it depends on how much you are willing to pamper it. Keep in mind that if it doesn't make it, the mother plant can still produce more keikis in the future for you to practice on :)

Good luck!

By the way, the cinnamon acts as an antifungal. Don't sprinkle too much especially on the roots as it also prevents root growth if too much is applied.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 12:32PM
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I am new to the forum and can see that this is an old thread, but I cannot see a more recent thread on this and I also have a keiki that has grown on an orchid about half a year after we bought it (I think it is a Phalaenopsis orchid, and it seemed to do well, it flowered twice during the first six months).

I have only now understood that this is a keiki - we didn't realise we should separate it when the roots started growing - and now it's about to flower AND the stem with the flowers and new leaves on it is growing in the same direction as the 'air roots' are, and not in the direction of the leaves around which the new root system has developed, so it seems impossible to separate it. How can to make sure the plant will continue to grow?

I would very much appreciate advice from someone more experienced with keikis - I hope the image is clear enough.

Thank you!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:34AM
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You can separate that keikei for sure! Just gently pull it away from the stem and it should come right off. Notice the leaves are pointing away from the light. The spike is growing towards the light, that is why the spike did not grow in the direction of the leaves. Potting that up may be difficult, once you orient the plant into its new pot the spike will be down inside the pot. So you will have to remove it. I know that stinks but you can wait until the flowers bloom so you could enjoy them at least. Then if you want to pot it up you will remove the spike and proceede with the potting up.

I hope this helps!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 8:40AM
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Yes, that is very helpful, thank you! I will wait for the flowers to bloom, there are seven of them and it would be a shame to remove the spike now, but I'll follow your advice once the flowers have passed.
I do hope the new orchid will continue to bloom this abundantly :)

Many thanks!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 8:18AM
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You could just leave it grow that way. You will have two sets of flower spikes. Very pretty.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 1:33PM
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I just wanted to share this with everyone and to thank you for your advice.
It seems I'll have to wait a while before I can pot this keiki as new flowers keep forming all the time!

B :)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 10:48AM
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Sheila(8b SW Texas)

Very pretty! I've seen photos of plants with multiple kiekis blooming as well as the mother plant. I would be quite indecisive regarding severing and potting the kieki....just personal preference.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:13AM
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So pretty, I love the look.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:14AM
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Absolutely beautiful. I too love the look of that plant. It seems very happy with you!
Do you spray the air roots and how often?


    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 4:33AM
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My orchids are growing healthy green leaves and roots but flowers are few. I had the orchids outside in a shaded area in the summer and was fertilizing with dilute manure tea and rain water every 2 weeks or so. Indoors they are near a southeast window. I have been using a commercial orchid fertilizer every 2 weeks and watering every week. They get sprayed with water whenever I think of it.

What do I need to do to get more flowers?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:51PM
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westoh Z6

Either more light (but no mid-day direct light) and/or a 10-15 degree drop in temps from day to night...

Good luck,


    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:41PM
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