Propagation of Orchids by Division

By Leah Ritts

The amount of orchid hybrids has grown tremendously.There are thousands of orchids found in all parts of the world.It can be very intimidating for a person to take on the challenge of trying to grow an orchid in there home.Phalaenopsis, Cymabidiums, Dendrobium and Cattleya are just a few types of orchids that work well in a home environment.With the right environment and the small amount of care they need, orchids really are not that hard to grow.Hopefully after reading this paper you will be able to share your admired orchid with a friend or two. 

Orchids have two growth patterns, monopodial and sympodial.Knowing whether your orchid is a monopodial or a sympodial is important because it will help you pot and grow is successfully.It also helps tremendously when it is time to propagate your orchid.Monopodial orchids grow vertically and sympodial orchids grow horizontally.Orchids can be propagated sexually and asexually.I am going to explain to you the easiest and most popular way to propagate an orchid.Division is an asexual method; therefore you are basically multiplying the mother plant and know exactly what you are getting.It is a process of splitting two or more actively growing pieces of an orchid.This is usually done at repotting time, when your plant has completely outgrown its pot.Some other signs that you need to divide your plant are; the center of the plant may have died out or your sympodial orchid has grown in a too long of a line.Your goals when you are propagating orchids are:to get as many new plants possible, improve its appearance and stimulate more promising growth.

DIVISION OF SYMPODIALS: When dividing a sympodial orchid, you need to cut it into sections by slicing through the rhizome using a sterile knife.You must be sure to leave at least three leafy growths on each section.If you can leave more, maybe four or five that would be better.Most likely you will be dividing your orchid at the same time as you are repotting it, either to develop new plants or improve its appearance.If you are repotting your orchid to improve its appearance, you can remove and discard any shriveled or dormant pseudobulbs, dead or damaged roots and preserve only the healthy ones.But if you are dividing your orchid to propagate as many plants as possible, you should not throw away the dormant pseudobulbs.They can be made into new plants.Just pull way any dead leaves and skin and plant them in moist sphagmoss with the dormant buds facing up and stored in a warm area.When it starts to sprout, you can slowly bring the plant to its natural climate.It is a slower process, taking anywhere from 3 to 5 years, but well worth it.Once you have your orchid in sections you may repot them.There are many types of medium that work well with orchids, such as bark, mosses, perlite cork and so on.You just need to tailor a mixture to you orchids needs.Since sympodial orchids grow in a line fashion, you need to repot them so that the active end is a bit farther away from the pot.

DIVIDION OF MONOPODIALS:Monopodials can be propagated in a few different ways compared to the sympodials and you decide which method to use depending on the plants growth situation and your reason for propagating.As a monopodial orchid gets older is will tend to get too tall and leggy.The bottom becomes almost leafless and the top isnít very appealing.One way to solve this problem is to cut off the top portion, directly below a node with well-developed roots.Next plant the upper part of the plant in new medium.Then take the lower portion of the plant and return it to its original home.This may seem odd since there are no leaves, but eventually there will be new growth above the cut and can then be removed and planted.It may even sprout new growth at the base, and if that is the case you can just cut off the old growth.One other way of propagating monopodials is when the aerial roots of the orchid are no longer healthy or have rotted off.First you must get your roots back.To do this you must cover the bare stem with moist sphagnum moss and enclose the moss portion in plastic.After some time, roots will begin to form.The next step is to cut the stem directly beneath the air layer and repot as necessary.

As you can see propagating by division is very simple and effective.But there are a few guidelines to follow regardless if you are working with a monopodial or a sympodial orchid.So for my closing I will leave you with a list of dos and doníts, and with you the best of luck in sharing a beautifully grown orchid.


1)Donít divide or repot an actively growing orchid.

2)Donít use tools until they have been sterilized.

3)Donít overcrowd your orchids.

4)Donít bring home an orchid unless you have an ideal home for it.


1)Do keep record of your orchids repotting and propagation history.

2)Do repot your orchid in a pot size bigger than its original home.

3)Do divide your orchid just before a new growing season.

4)Do enjoy your beautiful orchid and take pride in the fact that you grew it.





Jerome, Kate.Ortho Books, Orthoís All About Houseplants.MeredithPublishing, Copyright 1999.