About Orchid Seeds
Have you ever seen an orchid seed? Probably not with the naked eye, as an orchid seed is normally the size of a speck of dust. While many plants can easily be sown for propagation, growing orchids from seed requires lab-like conditions and one heck of a lot of patience. In fact, from the time the seed is sown to the first flowering of an orchid, can take from three to five years!
Considering the investment of time and energy involved in growing orchid seeds, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t attempt to get your seeds from orchids of dubious parentage – such as your Moth Orchid from the grocery store. You should only invest in orchid seeds from a qualified grower.
Some of the issues of orchid seeds to be aware of before you attempt orchid seed germination:
- Orchid seeds must have an embryo to be viable, although the embryo does not guarantee viability. To check for the presence of an embryo, the seed is usually viewed by a microscope;
- Orchid seeds don’t have an adequate supply of nutrients to thrive; therefore, nutrients supplied by a fungus are needed for germination. In the early 20th Century, a method was found to grow orchid seeds in a sterile culture with sugars and other nutrients without the fungus, which is the flasking method detailed below.
- Orchid seeds must be handled in a completely sterile environment to avoid contamination.
Orchid Seed Flasks
Orchid growers who have the facilities to sow orchid seeds use sterile flasks to sell seeds and seedlings. They place seeds in a single flask, called the mother flask, until they are large enough to be on their own. They are then transferred in a process called replating. At the replating stage, the seedlings are put into sterile flasks with a richer medium. They normally stay in these flasks for up to one year.
When the flasks are sold, they should be properly identified and the date they are flasked should be noted. When the seedlings are removed from the flask, they need to be potted into a moist, humid environment. They can then take two to ten years before flowering, with most species flowering within three years.
If you happen to get a seed pod on your orchid, you have two options to attempt growing an orchid from seed:
- Orchid nurseries may offer flasking for orchid seeds. They take your seed pod and use their sterile facilities to flask them for you. Prices for this service vary.
- Before flasking was an option, some growers attempted to sow their orchid seeds in the same pot as the parent orchid. While not the most successful method of orchid propagation, it can work. Simply sow seeds from the pod around the roots of the parent plant. With the moisture from normal watering and the fungus from the parent plant, orchid seed can germinate. As soon as the seedlings can be handled, pot them on their own and hope for the best.