How to Breed Orchids

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Breeding orchids is the process of pollinating mature flowers to produce seeds. Some varieties of orchids are self-pollinators, so you can pollinate them with pollen from the same plant or from plants of the same species. Orchid flowers have both male and female reproductive parts, which makes locating the pollen and stigma easy. Having clean hands and using a sterilized implement for pollinating ensures your breeding practice will not be ruined by fungal infections.

Things You'll Need

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Toothpick
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White paper
  • Wash your hands in anti-bacterial soap before beginning the pollination process. Dip the end of a toothpick in rubbing alcohol to sterilize it. Wait for the toothpick to air dry. Place the two plants next to each other on a piece of white paper.

  • Insert the toothpick up into the column of the orchid flower that you want to use as a pollinator. The column is the structure in the center of the flower that holds the reproductive parts. Press the toothpick toward the back of the column and into the stigma. This will cover the toothpick in a sticky substance that helps pollen stick to the toothpick.

  • Pull the toothpick up along the top of the column and press it into the back of the anther cap. The pollinia, which are small pollen masses in the anther, will stick to the toothpick. Carefully pull the toothpick out of the column of the pollinator.

  • Carry the toothpick over to the column of one of the flowers on the other orchid plant. If you drop the pollinia, they will land on the white paper and you should be able to see them to pick them up again with the toothpick.

  • Press the pollinia into the stigma in the back of the column of the flower. The sticky stigma will easily hold the pollinia. Remove the toothpick.

  • Move the flower that you have pollinated to a sheltered area of a greenhouse. Let the potting mixture become dry to the touch. If the stigma swells and the petals wrap around the center of the flower or begin to drop, you have successfully bred the two orchids together.

  • Keep the fertilized orchid in the sheltered area of the greenhouse while the seeds develop. Resume a regular watering schedule. Maintain the orchid until the seeds are mature enough to use. This time can be anywhere from 9 to 18 months depending on the species.

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