The Orchid family (Orchidaceae) is a huge group that features epiphytic, lithophytic, and terrestrial members. Although most orchids won't grow from cuttings, some members of the genus Dendrobium will produce new plants from stem cuttings. Dendrobium nobile, commonly known as Noble Dendrobium, is one such species. Grown as a houseplant, it provides an impressive display of flowers from late winter to early summer.
Noble Dendrobium produces single blossoms or groups of flowers on short spikes that emerge from the nodes along the stem or pseudobulb. After the flowers fade, you can clip the spikes with scissors or shears. Dip the blades of your cutting tool in rubbing alcohol between cuts to prevent the spread of infection.
After the flowers die back, select one or more up to 1 foot (30 cm) long stems. Snip them off the parent plant and cut them into sections with 3 to 4 nodes each. Set the cuttings aside.
Prepare a rooting tray with a layer of pebbles, sphagnum moss, or bark. Soak the moss or bark in water until completely wet, then allow the water to drain from the medium. Spread the medium in an even layer in the tray. Place the stem cuttings on top of the medium and mist with water. Cover the tray loosely with plastic wrap to keep the humidity high. Put the tray in a warm, dark location.
Keep the rooting tray at a temperature of 75 to 85 °F (24 to 30 °C). A seedling heat mat can help maintain a consistent temperature. Mist the cuttings regularly to keep them moist but not waterlogged. Every two weeks for the first two months, mist with water-soluble nitrogen fertilizer or liquid seaweed extract, followed by a light misting of water. You can also spritz the cuttings with a 6-6-8 foliar fertilizer in alternate weeks. Continue to use the foliar fertilizer every two weeks until the cuttings develop leaves and roots. Discard any cuttings that show signs of rotting.
After the cuttings develop new shoots and roots, gently cut the stem between the plantlets using sterilized anvil pruners. These baby plants are also called keikis when they develop naturally on the pseudobulbs or stems of the parent plant.
Dendrobiums prefer small flowerpots. Pot the new plants in 2-inch (5 cm) pots using a loose orchid medium of bark, weathered volcanic rock, or sphagnum moss. Soak the medium first to ensure it is completely moist. Plant the new plantlet with the old stem standing upright and the shoots facing to the side or upward. Gently tuck the plant into the medium and add a stake if necessary to hold it upright and in position. The new leaves will grow up, and the roots will wind their way through the potting medium.
Place the Noble Dendrobium in a brightly lit location, such as a south or west-facing window covered by sheer curtains. These orchids prefer day temperatures between 68 and 85 °F (20 and 30 °C) and 65 to 75 °F (18 and 24 °C) at night. In winter, allow night temperatures to drop to 50 to 55 °F (10 to 13 °C). Noble Dendrobiums prefer a 10-degree difference between day and night temperatures.
Water when the medium is nearly dry by putting the flowerpot in the sink and adding water until it drains from the pot. A small orchid may need watering twice weekly, while large plants may only need watering once per week. Reduce watering in fall and winter. Keep the potting medium barely moist.
Maintain high humidity around the orchid. Avoid placing the plant near heating and air conditioning ducts. To add humidity to the air, group plants together and use a cool steam humidifier in the room.
During the active growing season in spring and summer, use a foliar fertilizer monthly. As an alternative, apply a dilute one-quarter-strength 12-12-12 water-soluble fertilizer with every second watering.
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