Grow orchids from seeds

How Long Does It Take an Orchid to Grow From a Seed?

It takes from 3 to 12 months to grow an orchid from seed. However, it can take up to 10 years for the plant to start flowering.

Growing orchids from seed is a difficult process that requires sterilized equipment to prevent disease from spreading to the plant. An agar mixture for the seeds to sit and germinate in needs is made by boiling distilled water with agar-based orchid gelling medium. Once the mixture is boiled, it must be put into airtight containers without sealing the lids closed and then baked at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Once the mixture is cooled, the lids should to be screwed on tightly.

A grill should be placed above a boiling pot of water for a steam cleaning, which is followed by an ethyl alcohol solution cleaning. Forceps and a knife should be similarly sterilized.

Place the orchid seed capsules in a bottle filled with bleach for 15 minutes and then lay them on the sterilized grill using the clean forceps. Cut open the seed capsules using the sterilized knife and place them in the containers with the agar mixture. Allow the seeds to germinate and grow for 45 days. Once the seedlings are big enough, they can be transplanted into a pot with peat moss, fir bark and orchid compost.

The Dove Orchid belongs to the genus of the orchid species known as Peristeria which is a Greek word that means dove. This orchid is also frequently referred to as the Holy Spirit Orchid or the Holy Ghost Orchid. The Dove Orchid is the national flower of Panama. This orchid species has been designated as endangered in its natural habitat. This is due to the over collection of these amazing orchids.

This “flower of the holy spirit” can be seen growing in large numbers around the edge of hardwood forests. These orchids are also seen growing in huge numbers during the fall which is the time when the trees of the hardwood forests have shed their leaves. This means these small plants get exposed to sunlight easily all through the dry and cold winter months. One interesting fact about this orchid species is that it can be both epiphytic as well as terrestrial. In its natural habitat this orchid, with flowers shaped like little doves, grows only in the months of August and September.

Facts About the Dove Orchid

  • Habitat: South America, Panama, Costa Rica, Trinidad
  • Scientific name: Peristeria Elata
  • Other common names: Holy Ghost Orchid, Holy Spirit Orchid, Dove Orchid, Bird Orchid

This orchid species is referred to as the Dove Orchid or the Holy Spirit Orchid because of the tiny figure of a dove sitting at the centre of the flower. Some people also refer to the White Egret Orchid as a Dove Orchid but that is not correct. The smell coming out of these flowers is not sweet or sacred at all and, in fact, is said to resemble the smell of beer! Irrespective of this it can’t be denied that that these white dove orchids look very peaceful and elegant.

Dove orchids are epiphytes, growing on the moss of the tree trunks in the cloud rainforests of Central America. The flowers of these orchids are so beautiful that they have become over picked and this has led to a situation where the species has become endangered and close to extinction.

The plant is sympodial in nature (meaning that it does not grow from a single vertical stem but from a stem that is more or less horizontal) and it also has pseudobulbs (thickened stems at the base of each growth). Each pseudobulb can have up to 5 leaves. The plant is known for its inflorescence as it has many flowers growing on a thick stalk that can grow up to 135 cm in size.

How to Care for a Dove Orchid

The Dove Orchid flowers are 2 inches wide and they are very long lasting. Growing this orchid is not that difficult as it can grow in warm weather conditions. It does require sufficient light all year round to produce blooms. The plant usually requires only moderate watering. To encourage growth when a new pseudobulb is growing heavy watering may be needed for a period of time. When the plant slows down its rate of growth, you should reduce both the watering and the addition of fertilizers as this may ruin the health of the plant. Lower night termperatures should encourage flower blooming to start.

Dove Orchids require open and well drained pots containing a growing medium of sphagnum moss, cocoa chips, and tree fern. Remember to give the plant lots of water, bright sunlight, and warm temperatures if you want it to bloom in a healthy manner.

Facts About The Dove Orchid

Egret Flower Information – How To Grow An Egret Flower

What is an egret flower? Also known as white egret flower, crane orchid or fringed orchid, the egret flower (Habanaria radiata) produces strappy, deep green leaves and beautiful flowers that closely resemble pure white birds in flight. Read on to learn more about this exotic plant.

Egret Flower Information

Native to Asia, egret flower is a type of terrestrial orchid that grows from fleshy, pea-sized tubers. It grows primarily in grassy wetlands, shady glades or bogs. Egret flower is endangered in its natural habitat, probably due to urbanization, habitat destruction and over collecting.

Egret flower is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 10, although with proper care and ample mulch, it may tolerate more northern climes. Alternatively, you can grow egret flower in pots and bring it indoors when frosty temperatures approach in autumn.

How to Grow an Egret Flower

Growing egret flowers is relatively simple because the plant multiplies generously. A few bulbs can soon become a beautiful colony of plants.

Outdoors, plant bulbs in spring, pointy sides up, just below the surface of the soil. Egret flower performs best in well-drained soil and either full sunlight or partial shade is fine.

Growing egret flowers in pots is just as easy. Most importantly, use a potting mix formulated for orchids, or a well-drained media such as regular potting mix combined with sand and/or perlite.

Egret Flower Care

Water newly planted bulbs lightly at first, providing enough water to keep the soil slightly moist. Increase the amount of water when the plant is established, keeping the soil continually moist but never waterlogged.

Fertilize egret flowers every other week during flowering, using a very dilute (10 to 20 percent) liquid fertilizer.

Spray aphids or other small pests with insecticidal soap spray or neem oil.

Continue watering regularly until the plant stops blooming, then decrease gradually as temperatures drop in fall. The plant will go dormant when nighttime temperatures reach about 60 F. (15 C.).

Dig the bulbs for storing if you live in a cold winter climate. Allow the bulbs to dry, then store them in damp perlite or vermiculite. Place the bags in a cool, non-freezing room and dampen them about once every month to keep them from becoming bone dry until replanting in spring.

Check the bulbs regularly and toss out any soft or dark bulbs. Healthy bulbs are firm and pale brown or tan.

These Orchids Have a Surprise Dove Hiding in Their Petals

Courtesy of Malcolm Manners / Flickr

Take a closer look, as this flower’s natural mimicry is easy to miss. Hidden inside the bloom of the Peristeria elata, you’ll find a structure that resembles a white dove in flight.

According to the American Orchid Society, these orchids date back to 1831, when they first bloomed in England. Today, they’re mostly found in South America, specifically Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and Brazil.

At peak bloom, the bulb can grow between four and 20 petals, which surround a second, inner petal formation that gives this orchid its name. The orchid is so striking and is located around open, grassy areas, often making them the target of flower-pickers passing through. Unfortunately, this activity has landed this orchid on endangered lists within its natural habitats.

SEE: These Flowers Look Just Like Colorful Parrots Flying Together

This flower is so sweet, its good looks have landed it a spot at Panama’s national flower. But they don’t just look pretty, they also put off a delicious scent that’s been compared to beer. (Hey, if there’s a market for beer-scented candles, surely someone would be into this hoppy bouquet.) According to “Orchids of Tropical America: An Introduction and Guide,” this vague beer scent is known to appeal to bees, which encourages pollination.

The flowers are mostly white or light yellow in color, usually featuring red or pink spots throughout the petals. But you don’t have to take a trip to see these orchids in person. Unlike the parrot flower, Darth Vader flower, or monkey orchid, you can grow them from the comfort of home. A few tips: They love temperatures between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit with partial shade and should be potted with a 1:1 ratio of leaf mold and peat moss.

Feeling inspired? Watch how to propagate succulents and start your garden today:

Planting Orchid Seeds – Is Growing Orchids From Seed Possible

Can you grow an orchid from seed? Growing orchids from seed is usually done in the highly controlled environment of a laboratory. Planting orchid seeds at home is difficult, but it’s possible if you have plenty of time and patience. Keep in mind, even if you are successful at orchid seed germination, it takes a month or two for the first tiny leaves to develop, and may take years before you’ll see the first bloom. It’s easy to understand why orchids are so expensive!

How to Grow Orchids from Seed

Learning how to grow orchids from seed is tricky indeed, but we’ve provided a few basic details for you to consider.

Orchid Seeds: Orchid seeds are incredibly tiny. In fact, an aspirin tablet weighs more than 500,000 orchid seeds, although some types may be slightly larger. Unlike most plant seeds, orchid seeds lack nutritional storage capability. In their natural environment, seeds land on soil containing mycorrhizal fungi, which enters the roots and converts nutrients into usable form.

Germination Techniques: Botanists use two techniques to germinate orchid seeds. The first, symbiotic germination, is a complicated process that requires use of mycorrhizal fungi, as described above. The second, asymbiotic germination, involves germinating seeds in vitro, using agar, a jellylike substance that contains necessary nutrients and growth hormones. Asymbiotic germination, also known as flasking, is easier, quicker and more reliable for growing orchids from seed at home.

Sterile Conditions: Seeds (usually seed capsules, which are larger and easier to handle) must be sterilized without damaging the seed. Sterilization for orchid seed germination at home is a process that generally requires boiling water, bleach and Lysol or ethanol. Similarly, all containers and tools must be carefully sterilized and water must be boiled. Sterilization is tricky but absolutely required; although orchid seeds thrive in the gel solution, so do a variety of deadly fungi and bacteria.

Transplantation: Orchid seedlings usually need to be thinned at around 30 to 60 days, although it may take much longer for seedlings to reach transplantation size. Each seedling is moved from the original container to a new container, also filled with jelly-like agar. Eventually, young orchids are moved to pots filled with coarse bark and other materials. First, however, young plants must be placed in hot water to soften the agar, which is then removed by washing in lukewarm water.

Orchid seeds: Nature’s tiny treasures

Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. Famed for both its volume and suggestive shape, the seed (actually a single-seeded stone) of the Seychelles nut or double coconut (Lodoicea maldivica, Arecaceae) holds the unbeaten record for the world’s largest seed. It can weigh up to 18 kg and resembles something that, while bobbing in the waves of the Indian Ocean, gave sailors in the Middle Ages all kinds of, well, “seedy” ideas.

Seeds like dust

At the other extreme of the spectrum we find the seeds of orchids. Famed for their beautiful and fascinating flowers, with over 26,000 species worldwide, orchids are the largest of all flowering plant families. What’s more, they also hold the world record for having the smallest seeds of all flowering plants. A typical orchid seed is merely the size of a speck of dust.

To give an impression of the dimensions involved: a single capsule of the tropical American orchid Cycnoches chlorochilon produces almost four million seeds, and one gram of seeds of the southeast Asian species Aerides odorata contains 3.4 million seeds. At around 0.2 mm in length, Aerides odorata has the smallest seeds I have ever come across at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. According to the literature , there are orchids with even smaller seeds. Those of the New Caledonian species Anoectochilus imitans are said to be the smallest of all, measuring just 0.05 mm in length. At a ‘gigantic’ 6 mm, the seeds of the lopsided star orchid (Epidendrum secundum) are allegedly the longest of any orchid.

The reduction in seed size and weight is mainly achieved at the expense of embryo and endosperm, the latter failing to develop in orchids. At the time of dispersal, orchid seeds consist of a spindle-shaped, wafer-thin seed coat that encloses an extremely small and simplified embryo in the shape of a spherical cluster of cells. Just one single cell layer thick, the seed coat (also called testa) forms a balloon around the embryo, a clear adaptation to wind dispersal.

With a little help from their friends

Because orchid seeds lack a food reserve in the form of an endosperm or a large embryo, most of them, especially terrestrial ones, are generally unable to germinate on their own. They first have to engage in a mycorrhizal relationship with a fungus that helps to feed the emerging seedling. Some orchids are able to join up with many different species of fungi whilst others only accept a very specific fungus to enter their lives (or rather roots). Few orchids don’t need any fungus at all for their germination, such as certain species of Disa from South Africa, a remarkable exception among terrestrial orchids.

Their dependence on certain fungal partners is most probably the reason why orchids produce vast numbers of tiny seeds. With their small size, low weight and balloon-testa, orchid seeds are perfectly adapted to wind-dispersal. However, their strategy is not to travel long distances. Scattering large numbers of seeds with the wind merely heightens the chances that at least some end up in a place where they are lucky enough to meet their specific fungal partner without which they cannot germinate.

Long-distance dispersal would mean that the same amount of seed is distributed over a larger area which could actually lower the odds of encountering a compatible host in a suitable location. The fact that many orchid species are endemics with very limited distributions supports this theory. This does not mean, however, that their seeds are not able to cover long distances. Orchids managed to reach isolated islands far away from the mainland. As famously documented, they were among the first pioneers to resettle on the islets of Krakatoa after the catastrophic volcanic eruption of 27 August 1883.

Why so small?

Shedding millions of seeds most of which go to waste, seems very wasteful. However, evolution shows no mercy with wasters and given the orchids’ success, their seed dispersal strategy must pay off. In fact, producing lots of very small seeds with literally no food reserve (apart from some oil droplets and starch grains in the embryo) is energetically inexpensive and doesn’t take up that much of a plant’s energy at all.

The survival benefits of producing millions of tiny seeds clearly outweigh the costs of producing them. Not only orchids prove this point. Other families, like the Orobanchaceae (broomrape family), pursue the same strategy. As parasites, they have a similar problem to orchids: they need to get their seeds to meet the right host partner in order to grow into a new plant.

Vanilla ice cream and seed morphology

Since we are talking orchids here and most of us love ice cream, here’s a seed morphological nugget for you. Next time you treat yourself to some good quality vanilla ice cream you can discover that the tiny black spots in it are actually real vanilla seeds (in cheap ice cream they might be fake!). Vanilla is made from the fermented fruits (‘pods’) of the vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia). That’s how all those seeds end up in your ice cream. Sadly, though, the seeds of vanilla are nowhere near as exciting as those of other orchids. They are just very simple, unexciting looking, tiny black discs. Lacking the transparent balloon-like seed coat so typical of other orchids, their seeds are obviously not wind-dispersed.

In fact, the seed dispersal strategies of vanilla orchids are still enigmatic. The fruits of many Vanilla species, including the ones of V. planifolia, open when ripe to expose their tiny seeds covered in an extremely sticky layer of oil. The oil might serve as an adhesive to attach the seeds to visiting animals, which could either be insects or vertebrates. For example, it has been observed that euglossine bees are attracted by the fragrance of vanilla fruits and act as seed collectors and potential dispersers.

Orchid seed research at the Millennium Seed Bank

At this point I asked my colleague, Tim Marks, to tell us something about the research into orchid seeds he is involved in at the Millennium Seed Bank and he writes:

‘Being wind-dispersed, orchid seeds are naturally dry at release and appear to be desiccation tolerant. The latter is essential for us to be able to preserve them under very dry and very cold (freezing!) conditions, as we do with other seeds in the Millennium Seed Bank.

‘Unfortunately, orchid seeds have the reputation to be short-lived under seed banking conditions. Our research is engaged in finding out why this is and how we can extend their survival.

‘A basic concept in understanding their specific requirements for storage is to test the relationship between temperature and moisture content upon viability and germination. By running long-term storage experiments with temperatures between -196°C (liquid nitrogen) and +20° (ambient), and a variety of moisture contents, it is possible to identify species-specific requirements.

‘Some orchid species prove tolerant to a range of conditions, while others store better in liquid nitrogen. However, to prevent repeating this on all species, we are looking at a number of seed characteristics that could affect this response. One of these is lipid content of the seed, the physical properties of which could affect seed physiology as they go through the freeze and thaw cycles that stored seeds are subjected to. It is possible to produce thermal fingerprints describing the phase transitions between liquid and solid states that these go through, with the intention of developing a predictive model that will describe the observed responses to storage and during germination.’

Artificial orchid cultivation kit


Myco-heterotrophic plants germinate and grow through a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi coexists on the plant’s roots where it is supplied with sugar, and the plant receives energy from the fungi rather than through photosynthesis. Orchidaceous plants fall into the myco-heterotrophic plant group. Orchidaceae plants have unique shapes, reproductive styles, and highly diversified ecological features. Unfortunately, many species of this plant group are on the verge of extinction.

Plants that require symbiotic bacteria, like Orchidaceae, are difficult to germinate and cultivate in an artificial environment where symbiotic bacteria are less likely to be present. In general, orchid breeding is done by buying seedlings, but it can sometimes take years before they fully flower. In addition to the labor, orchid cultivation often requires the use of a greenhouse, giving the plant an image of only available to relatively wealthy people. Additionally, obtaining orchid seeds is challenging and, even if seeds can be acquired, orchid seed germination in an ordinary household is extremely difficult. For this reason, there are not many people in the general population who have experience germinating orchids to the flowering stage. Moreover, the efficiency of artificial cultivation is expected to help with orchid seed conservation.


Orchids are the most species-rich gardening plants in the world, and in the Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto, three kinds of Gastrodia orchids grow naturally. Scientists at Kumamoto University originally developed a cultivation kit to culture and identify mycorrhizae, fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with many plants and are necessary for cultivating orchidaceous plants in the laboratory. They quickly found that the kits provided an excellent habitat for the three Gastrodia orchids native to the area. The new “Orchid Cultivation Kits” are made by simply placing detritus (fallen trees, cones, leaves, branches, and mulch) collected from areas where orchids are found into a plastic case and covering the concoction with a lid.


Researchers cultivated Gastrodia orchids from seeds using this kit, thereby confirming that the plants can be fully grown artificially from germination to flowering and fruiting. Cultivation efficiency with the kit is extremely high, with some seeds that normally germinate little in the field germinating with almost 100% probability when using the kit. In the case of the Gastrodia pubilabiata orchid, the researchers saw the plant successfully grow from seed to flower three times in one year.

The cultivation kit can maintain higher humidity levels since it is a closed plastic container. It is thought that the high efficiency of the kit was due to mycorrhizal fungi that adhered to the items collected from the natural orchid habitat, which had a favorable effect on the growth of Gastrodia orchids. Indeed, the same mycorrhizal fungi identified from decomposing trees harvested from the original orchid habitat were also detected in growing orchids; clearly the fungi and Orchidaceae were symbiotic. It is thought that the combination of high humidity levels and environment that includes mycorrhizal fungi is indispensable for efficient orchid germination and growth.

“Since our orchid cultivation kit is a very simple system, anyone should be able to artificially cultivate the plants anywhere,” said Professor Shinichiro Sawa of Kumamoto University, who directed the kit’s development. “By further customizing this system, we expect that the artificial cultivation of various fungal heterotrophic plants will become simplified and highly efficient. Not only do we expect to commercialize the cultivation kits domestically, but we also hope to see it used in a wide range of applications from the conservation and growth of endangered species to the cultivation of medicinal plants.”

Never grown orchids from seed before?

We regularly get requests for seed from those who enjoy orchids, but have never been introduced to the technical rigors behind their production. For many plants, the seed propagation consists of sticking some seeds in dirt or sand, and giving them a little heat and moisture. Unfortunately, growing orchids from seed is more technically daunting.

First off, the seeds of orchids are very small- vanishingly small, in fact. Many orchids have seeds that weigh less than a microgram per seed; a 500 milligram aspirin tablet would weigh as much as more than 500,000 of these seeds. Some are much larger, but even at 10 micrograms per seed (a very large orchid seed), that same tablet would weigh as much as 50,000 seeds.

Secondly, because the seeds contain virtually no nutrition (called endosperm), they require external sources of nutrition. In the case of orchid seeds, we provide this in the form of sugar. Like children who prefer soda to something more nutritious, they also need other elements to their diet, and these are provided in the form of a chemical salt. These are combined with water, and then set into a semi-solid gel (like gelatin) using a gelling agent produced from seaweed or bacteria, called agar or gellan gum, respectively. However, because this sugar and salt mix is very good at growing bacteria and fungi, it must be sterilized in an autoclave or a pressure cooker first.

Once the nutrient media is prepared and sterilized, the seeds must have any bacteria or fungi riding on them destroyed, but without injuring the seed. This is done using certain chemical techniques. Once the seeds have been disinfected, they are sown on the media; this mmust be done in a sterile environment, usually provided in a glove box or in specially filtered air, produced by a high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filter.

If the seeds are viable and the conditions are correct, they will germinate in several days or weeks (sometimes months). After several weeks or months on the germination medium, they must be transferred to a new medium in a process called replate. Once they are on replate medium, they may continue to grow, or be transferred to another replate flask. After several months or even years, the seedlings have grown large enough and produced roots to the point where they stand a good chance at surviving out of flask, and are removed.

The entire process can take over three years, but 12-18 months is typical. This is one reason that orchids are expensive relative to other plants- they require specialized conditions for germination, and are very slow to grow. On the bright side, they’re kept absolutely sterile, and unless the flasks get contaminated, they are free of pests and pathogens.

While this sounds remarkably difficult and technical, it is worth noting that these techniques are used every day to produce orchid seedlings in homes and commercial facilities all around the world. Everything required for orchid seed germination is available on the web, and many components can be organized in your home with ease. The specialized media are available by mail order, and complete instructions for growing orchids from seed are available in our book and on the web.

Don’t let any of the above scare you off, but be forewarned that just scattering orchid seeds in dirt isn’t very effective, if at all. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us and we’ll do our best to help.

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