Phalaenopsis are one of the easiest orchids to grow in the home. Your Phalaenopsis finished blooming and you cut back the flower spike in an attempt to induce the development of a fresh spike. You begin to notice new growth and then you are surprised to see what appears to be leaves forming. What are these little leaves growing from my phalaenopsis flower spike?
The small plantlet you see forming on the flower spike is called a Keiki, from the Hawaiian word for child or baby. A Keiki is the product of asexual propagation by a mature plant resulting in an exact clone of its parent. Keikis first look like miniature leaves that slowly grow into a miniature plant.
Orchid Keiki's occur naturally when growth hormones accumulate at a node on the flower spike. The production of Keikis can also be induced through the use of Keiki paste. This paste consists of concentrated growth hormones and is applied directly to the node.
If you want to force the appearance of a Keiki, buy a special hormone paste from a reputable orchid dealer and use it according to label directions.
Keikis for Propagation
Keikis can be used to propagate phalaenopsis orchids. When your Keiki has developed several leaves and roots approximately 2-3 inches in length, you can remove the plantlet from the parent orchid. Removing a Keiki from its mother too early can cause the fragile baby to die off.
Once the roots have developed on the young plant, you will want to use a sharp, sterilized blade to carefully remove the Keiki, roots and all, from the mother plant by slicing the tissue at the base of the plantlet. The young plant will be an exact genetic duplicate of its mother.
Any time there is an open wound on your orchid, it should be treated to prevent fungal infections. You can apply cinnamon, a natural fungicide, to the cuts on both the mother plant and Keiki to ward off future problems.
Repotting the Keikis
Once removed, you have two options. You can pot the Keiki in its own 4″ container or repot the mother plant along with the Keiki in the same pot (which is the best option). During its first year, a Keiki can benefit from being potted with its mother as the mature plant will help regulate soil conditions for the sensitive baby.
Be careful not to expose your new plant to too much direct sunlight immediately after transplant. Once the Keiki shows signs of growth, you can begin to gradually increase the amount of light it receives.
With the proper care, your Keiki should flower between 2 to 3 years of age.
A Keiki is Not Always Good News
The spontaneous appearance of Keikis is not always a good sign. Some stressed plants will produce them in an effort to self-perpetuate. Sometimes an orchid will put off a Keiki as a way of continuing its legacy if it fears that death is in the future. Keiki production should not instill panic but should act as a reminder to constantly monitor the health and happiness of your original plant.