My orchid is growing leaves and roots up on the stem. What’s up with that?
Well, look at you. Congratulations are in order because you’re having a baby. In the orchid world, the leaves and roots that are growing on the stem where you expected blossoms is called a keiki (pronounced as kay-key). Keiki is the Hawaiian word for baby.
You can leave the keiki on the mother plant for up to three years before you must wean it. Remember to fertilize the mother plant, she’s eating for two now. Also, remember to stake and support the weight of the keiki on that stem.
The keiki will put out a spike and bloom, too. We do not take the keiki off the mother plant until after the keiki has bloomed once. Then you must make sure that the keiki has grown enough roots to feed itself before you remove it. A good rule of thumb is that it needs three roots that are about three inches long (3 x 3). To remove the keiki, just twist it off the stem. If you use anything to cut it off, you must sterilize the blade first. This time table will change if the mother plant decides that she’s had just about enough of the keiki feeding off of her. She will stop sending nutrients to the baby. This will be evident by the stem turning brown from the keiki down to the base of the stem. If the stem starts to turn brown, you must pull the keiki off and pot it up no matter how many roots it has. The mother plant has weaned it and you have to give it the opportunity to feed itself by putting it into potting mix.
Pot the baby up in a small pot, probably a 3 or 4 inch pot at the most, and put it into whatever potting mix you like. We use our sphagnum moss mix. If you like bark, use a seedling bark blend which is more in keeping with the juvenile roots. Fertilize the little one every other watering. We use a balanced (20-20-20 or 15-15-15) all purpose plant food that is diluted to half the usual strength. An orchid specific balanced fertilizer would be great, too and you wouldn’t have to dilute it because it is already formulated for orchids.
For the first couple of years, repot your new plant every spring. After it gets well established, you can go to every other year if it is in a moss blend. If it’s in a bark blend, it’s still best to repot every spring.
Have a great time with your keiki. Aloha.