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How to: Dividing Orchids
by Peter Gallagher - posted 10/26/15


How to: Divide Orchids
 - Video Transcript, Demonsration by Peter Gallagher, Ph.D.

Here's an example of an orchid that has been in the same container for probably about ten years in the greenhouse. It really should have been divided 2 or  3 times in that period of time, but since it was not, we will try to show you what you would do to get that back in better shape.

First of all, I'll take away all of the dead leaves and some of the rhizomes that are not in very good shape. But, it's almost impossible to get this out of the container, so what I'll do is actually break the pot. So, breakup the pot in order to get it out of the container. And then once that is done, then we can start fooling with the plant itself with the roots and rhizomes.

Alright, now there are a lot of roots in here and what we need to do is to separate those and try to divide this and by the way division is a little different from separation. Separation as we did with bulbs is actually just puling them apart. These actually have to be cut. So, division is where you actually take a knife and make some cuts in strategic locations. So, we will take the knife and cut some of these rhizomes or these back bulbs, pseudobulbs back apart. And, as I say the terminology gets a little confusing on these, but basically we're working with stem structures. And, we'll pull some of that apart after we make some cuts. See that is very, very tight in there. And it has needed to be separated or divided up in order to, uh, invigorate the plant so that we can maintain good flowing as well.

Okay, so here we've got this much, uh, here and that still is a little more than we want, but some of these are not good. So, they need to be cut out. So, I will take a clipper and cut some of those away. Ones that are brown are not going to produce anything. They need to just be removed. So, I'll cut those out, and here's another one. And another. Now we're getting down to a little bit more manageable size of plant. This one can just be pulled out completely.

Now as we remove these, it opens up this whole plant structure and it looks a lot better in terms of having exposed roots. The, uh, stems are more, uh, further apart and able to take advantage of the medium in which it's planted and so forth. We can dip it into a clorox solution – a 10% clorox solution, and that will help to prevent fungal diseases with that. And then this as it is or maybe even divided one more time i think i might take one more off of there.

Okay. This is a good size to, uh,  replant into a loose mixture of either pine bark or some other type of fur bark that would be used for the orchid and fertilized of course to invigorate it as well. This probably could be divided into two as well. So, as you'll see from this plant that we had, one plant, we'll probably get one, two, three, four, five, six ... we'll probably get about eight plants off of it, or maybe more, maybe ten. Uh, and they'll each be about this size and then perhaps in a year or two, we'll be able to have some really nice flowering out of these orchids.


Peter Gallagher is professor of plant and environmental science, teaching for over 35 years. He has a Ph.D. in landscape horticulture.