In this post, we are going to show you how to pollinate a phalaenopsis orchid. This is an especially important skill to learn if you are interested in developing new orchid varieties. The process can be a bit finicky, but with enough patience and a steady hand, anyone will can do it. At the end of this post we have shared our 4 top tips for pollinating orchids. We also have a free eBook available for all of our viewers. With that in mind, let’s get started.
First things first, lets take a quick look at the morphology of the orchid flower. There is a projection or nose that protrudes in the middle of the flower. Please note: ‘nose’ is not the correct terminology for this structure, but it does make it easier to visualise and find for descriptive purposes.
If you gently lift the cap on the tip of the nose, it will fall off. Inside the cap, you will find 2 pollina. These tiny yellow grains house the pollen and they are what you are going to use to pollinate. If you tilt the flower back, you will be able to see a cavity at the base of the nose. You will need to place the pollina inside this cavity to pollinate the flower.
So now that we have some background, we can start pollinating. Make sure that you have 2 flowering orchids. One will act as the pollen donor and the other will be pollinated and grow the seed pod. You will also need a toothpick to transfer the pollina from one flower to another. Remove the pollina from the first orchid. Using your toothpick, you can gently detach the yellow grains. The grains are attached to a membrane which will keep it sticking to your toothpick.
Take this pollina on your toothpick and gently place it inside the cavity of your other flower. You can also remove the cap on the nose of this flower to make pollina transferral easier.
And once your pollina are safely inside the cavity, your work is done! Within a few days, the nose of the orchid will begin to swell. The flower will wilt, and the plant will start allocating energy into growing the seed pod. Over the next few months, the stem attaching the flower to the spike will grow, eventually forming the seed pod. In about 6 months’ time, your seed pod will be ready for harvest.
Unfortunately, your hard work does not stop here. Orchid seeds lack an endosperm, which acts as a nutritive food source for developing seeds. Therefore, orchid seeds need to be ‘flasked’. This refers to the manner of placing orchid seeds into a nutritive medium that provides them with the energy to grow. Keep an eye out for a future post where we show you how to flask your orchid seeds.
Tip #1: Make sure your orchids are healthy and strong. For an orchid to grow seeds, they need to invest a lot of energy into forming the pods. Therefore, if your plant is showing any signs of stress like wilting leaves, rotting roots and overall poor growth, you should not pollinate those flowers, if any are present at all.
Tip #2: You can try wrapping the tips of your toothpick in cotton wool and dipping it in water. This helps to prevent the pollen grains from falling off the toothpick and makes transferral easier.
Tip #3: Only pollinate one flower per plant. As we mentioned before, seed pod formation is extremely taxing on the orchid. If multiple flowers are pollinated, the orchid is more likely to become stressed. Therefore, let your orchid invest the maximum amount of energy into producing one perfect seed pod.
Tip #4: Use 2 different orchids to produce new varieties. You can pollinate a flower with the pollina taken from another flower on the same orchid. However, the orchids grown from this seed will be identical to the parent plant. Using different species to cross-pollinate one another will provide you with seed that you can grow into new varieties, each with their own unique characteristics.