If you are reading this, then it is clear you love orchids. You have one or more orchids in your house or garden, but you want to take it to the next level. How do you grow orchids from seed? Is it even possible for people like you and me? I explain what you need to know about in this post to make it work ... or not work.
The seeds of orchids are tiny. You can barely see them with the naked eye. You can't easily find seed from orchids for purchase so obtaining the seed of orchids is your first challenge.
Pollinating by Hand
A plant produces seeds after successful pollination. This isn't possible if you keep orchids indoors so hand pollination is necessary. This simply means that you transfer pollen from one orchid plant to the stigma of another plant. After fertilization, the plan may produce pods that contain seeds. Hand pollination isn't difficult and can be used by hobbyists. It also gives you more control over the process.
Plant cells can be totipotent, which means that they have the capability to grow into a new plant. That is a trait botanists use to grow new plants from existing plants. You take pieces of the plant tissue (e.g., leaf, stem, ...) and transfer it to a nutrient-rich medium. This requires careful control and is usually done in a laboratory. This allows for more control, which is important for this approach to be successful.
There are thousands of seed banks around the world and many have seed of orchids. The problem is that most seed banks only provide seed for scientific purposes to other seed banks or research organizations, not to you and me.
Communities and Organizations
There are several communities and organizations passionate about orchids that exchange seed of orchids. They might be able to help you obtain the seed of the orchid you are looking to grow from seed.
The germination rate of orchid seeds is low and it can take a long time before a seed germinates.
An orchid seed can only germinate in a suitable growing medium. Orchid seeds are tiny and typically don't have endosperm. Endosperm is a tissue surrounding the embryo in the seed of many flowering plants. It is used as a source of nutrients by the developing plant.
To make things even more challenging, many orchids require a symbiotic relationship with a fungus to germinate. This means that some seeds simply won't germinate if the fungus is missing from the environment.
What growing medium should you use to grow an orchid from seed? Sphagnum moss is a base ingredient as it provides a suitable environment for the fungus. It's also recommended to add a component that aerate the growing medium, such as charcoal and or perlite.
Because the seeds of orchids are so small, you simply sprinkle them on top of the medium and cover them with a very thin layer of the medium. Once sown, protect the seeds by sealing the container with a transparent plastic bag and make sure you place it in a warm environment (20-25°C or 68-77°F).
The humidity is also important. Remember that most of the orchids we grow indoors are tropical plants so make sure the environment the seeds germinate in has a humidity of 80-90%.
Germination of orchid seeds is slow. It can take months and months, depending on the species, before the seeds germinate. During that time, you need to make sure the environment remains ideal for germination as I described earlier. If germination is successful, it is time to transplant the seedlings into pots. You can use Sphagnum moss and perlite as a potting mix. When the seedlings are a few inches, it is time to transplant them once more into a bigger pot.
Light and Fertilization
As you already know, orchids prefer bright, indirect light. The seedlings need fertilizer during their growth. Make sure to use a fertilizer that is suitable for orchids.
Some orchid species are rare and endangered, and it may not be legal to obtain the plant or its seed. It is important to follow the regulations and guidelines before moving forward and spending a lot of time on such a project.
A Rewarding Challenge
Growing orchids from seed is a rewarding challenge. It is a challenge because it is difficult and you may fail several times. That said, it is also rewarding because how wonderful is it to grow your favorite plant from seed. It is like growing your own vegetables. They taste that much better. Right?