Orchid Keikis

Keiki Growing off bloom spike

What is a Keiki?

Occasionally an orchid plant will bear a little plantlet off of its flower stem or pseudobulb. These little baby plants are often called a Keiki (Hawaiian for "baby"). Frequently we are asked what should be done when this happens. Keikis are seen more frequently on Phalaenopsis, Epidendrum, and Dendrobium than on other orchids. Keikis are genetically identical to their mother and will bear flowers that look like the mother's too!

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Creating Your Own Keiki

If you would like to have a Keiki of your own to grow, Phalaenopsis equestris and its hybrids often produce such babies naturally and are fairly easy to grow.Plant hormones such as KeikiGrow Plus can be applied to a node on the bloom stem or base to stimulate the growth of a keiki and KeikiRoot can be applied to stimulate root production. This product also works to stimulate nodes on bulbs of sympodial orchids to create new lead growths.

Repotting Your New Keiki

Once a Keiki has roots of 1-3 inches, it is time to repot both the mother and the baby. We recommend planting both together in the same pot in fresh mix. When Keikis are very small they seem to do best in the same pot with the mother for the first year because the mother plant helps regulate moisture conditions in the pot. We snip off the Keiki about an inch or two down the spike (or stalk) and gently set the little plant next to the mother and encourage the roots to go downward and establish themselves in the pot. It's ok to bury a bit of the cut off flower spike with the keiki, usually we bend it straight down in an attempt to anchor the little one.

Leaving Keiki with Mom

We may also choose to leave the baby on the parent and both will bloom in due time which can be very pretty. Shown here is our species Phal amabilis which has two Keikis on each of two old bloom spike. These keikis formed on the mother plant after it bloomed the previous year. We chose to leave them on the mother plant and they bloomed along with the mother the next year. Each keiki has one bloom spike and the mother plant has two new bloom spikes.The orchid above, from our private collection, has since been repotted with the two keikis together in a pot and the mother plant in another pot.

What is a Basal Keiki?

A different kind of keiki, called a basal keiki, can develop at the base of the Phalaenopsis. Under the bottom leaves, along the main stem, are dormant nodes which can develop into a new growth. This type of keiki is left on the plant. We have seen cases where a Phalaenopsis completely dies back from crown rot only to sprout an entirely new shoot from the base. These growths tend to grow very quickly, fueled by the large root system of the mother plant.

More about KeikiGrow Plus

Accept no substitutes! This is the original formulation developed by the famous Dr. James Brasch decades ago as described in the American Orchid Society publications. 

We are delighted to bring back the original formula KeikiGrow Plus paste. This authentic and well established product is now available in two sizes and is exclusively made and labeled for rePotme.com in Australia. Information on the world famous inventor is just below. Accept no substitutes when you are looking for Keiki Paste, this is the real thing, the original KeikiGrow Plus! 

We are happy to offer this miraculous cloning product that is both fun and effective for "making" new orchids. Keikis are baby orchids and this formula makes it easy to create a new keiki either from the base or from a node on a bloom spike ( more typical ). The new baby will be genetically identical to the parent or source plant, and it is about the simplest way we know of to get a new baby just like the original. 

Cloning for fun, or because the parent plant is failing are both great reasons to use this effective formula. We send instructions for use with each plastic jar and the amount you get goes a long way. Just a very small dab is required to get the process going and formation usually begins in a matter of weeks! 

Dr. James Brasch - Developer of KeikiGrow Products

Jim Brasch, founder and director of Plant Hormones Canada, has been growing orchids for about 30 years and is particularly interested in species of the New World. He grows orchids in a hobby greenhouse and under many banks of lights.

When the challenge of saving the extinct and sterile Phalaenopsis intermedia var Diezii arrived, he began his research. After managing to clone the plant with the use of hormones to his satisfaction he began to make the hormone paste available to a wide range of friends and eventually to the orchid world through the development of Plant Hormones Canada, providing a range of products designed to propagate (clone) plants from the wild and rescue those which are endangered by human collection or error. This allows the hobby grower and the researcher to multiply rare plants on a limited scale. His ads have been seen continuously for about 15 years in pages of The Bulletin of The American Orchid Society, now ORCHIDS.

Although Jim has some serious reservations about CITES legislation and implementation, he has found it more useful to develop programs for the cloning of endangered species and the preservation of endangered species. This has led to his role in the founding and development of the New World Species Orchid Collection at the Royal Botanical Gardens, (P O Box 399, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3H8.) In this role he coordinates the activities of the Orchid society of the RBG with the administration of the RBG.

Extensive travels in his professional life (teaching American literature in American and Canadian and Chinese Universities) have allowed him to study orchids in a variety of habitats. He has been especially interested in the orchids of Nigeria, Austria, and China as well as Florida, Brazil, and Venezuela in the New World. He continually seeks out orchids in Ontario and has several "rescued" plants growing in his garden. He has lectured widely on plant regulators and collecting activities in Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Venezuela and various universities as well as botanical gardens in Niagara Falls, Linz, Kentucky and Toronto. Jim also teaches two courses at the Royal Botanical Gardens: 1) "Getting Started with Orchids" and 2) "Intermediate Orchid Growing."

He was instrumental in forming a flasking group recently as a means to increasing the variety and size of the New World Orchid Species Collection at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Hopefully specimens propagated fromthe collection in the RBG will be made available to hobby growers across Canada.

Publications (Orchids)

  • "Orchid Collecting in Nigeria," Bulletin of the American Orchid Society, Vol 43, No. 10, October, 1974, pp. 899-905.
  • "Canadian Orchid Culture: Water Quality," The Canadian Orchid Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1981, pp. 5-8.
  • "Chysis," The Canadian Orchid Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer, 1981, pp. 33-35.
  • "Poor Water Quality-An Orchid Menace," Bulletin of the American Orchid Society, Vol 51, No. 8, August, 1982, pp., 836-841.
  • "You Can 'Meristem' with Hormones," Bulletin of the American Orchid Society, Vol 49, No. 10, October 1980, pp. 1123-1132. (with Ivan Kocsis)
  • "Plant Growth Regulators: Understanding the ABCs of these chemicals can aid in your attempts to propagate orchids," Orchids, Vol 69, No. 3, March, 2000, pp. 251-257.

Understanding Apical Dominance

A constant flow of auxins from the apical (top) buds in a plant suppress dormant buds further down the plant. This action gives a plant its shape by only allowing the top buds to grow. Apical dominance controlled by a constant flow of auxins allows plants to have an important survival mechanism when a plant is damaged. When the top of a gum tree for example, is burnt in a fire or broken off during a storm, the loss of the auxin flow from the growing tip of the tree causes the buds at the base of every stem to grow and a tree with shoots all up the trunk results. The most advanced of these new branches will replace the damaged ones and eventually start to produce auxins to themselves to re-establish apical dominance in the tree. By adding cytokinins to the buds at the base of virtually any plant, we are able to produce stems, leaves, branching and eventually flowers without damaging the plant. This same effect can also cause axillary buds on plants such as those on the stems of African violets to go into growth, rather than remain dormant. By altering the balance of auxins and cytokinins in a plant we are able to overcome the dominating effect of the tip of the plant in a very selective way. This is an over-simplification, but it provides the basis for the production of keikis (plantlets) on Phalaenopsis or the activation of a dormant bud in orchids when the major lead or the tip of a plant has been damaged or we want to proliferate the growths. Many orchids have had to survive hurricanes and floods during which their major growths have been damaged. We can take advantage of this self-preserving mechanism in an orchid by applying plant growth regulators and, without damaging the plant, increase its production or promote its survival capabilities.

Uses for KeikiGrow Plus

When plant hormones are used by growers to change the way their plants grow they are more correctly called growth regulators. Here are some examples of what we can do using growth regulators.

Keiki Production on Phalaenopsis Orchid Flower Spikes

The propagation of Phalaenopsis keikis is the easiest application for the use of plant hormones, because the defense mechanism of the plant is most easily accessible. Keikis, a Hawaiian word for baby plants, are frequently produced by Phalaenopsis in the wild (in situ) because of the natural hormones present in the plant itself The application of KeikiGrow Plus (a mixture of the cytokinin BAP and vitamins in a lanoline paste) can merely assist the plant's natural inclination to produce cytokinins and perpetuate itself by prompting dormant reserve buds into growth.

To summarize, we can promote keikis without damaging the plant by simply enhancing the hormonal content of the meristem tissue which is already poised to affect differentiation, but which is restrained by the phenomena of apical dominance.

Carefully slit the bract covering the second node from the bottom of the inflorescence. The bottom node seldom produces a keiki. Be careful not to damage the bud beneath the bract. Depending on the age of the plant one or two additional buds may be treated on the spike. 

Don't be greedy and try to develop too many keikis. A large mature Phalaenopsis might support many keikis, but a first bloom seedling should be treated with care. Do not treat the fifth bud counting from the base of the inflorescence. It generally produces a branch to the flower spike. Carefully remove the bract. Do not apply the regulator until after the last flower on the Phalaenopsis flower spike has opened fully. This timing is crucial and not a casually "recommended" procedure.

The purpose of the application is to bolster the natural hormones of the plant and these naturally occurring substances will not be produced until the plant enters its growth cycle after blooming has occurred. Waiting several weeks on a younger plant would raise the probability of success.

Apply a small amount (the size of a green pea, is ample) of the plant growth regulator, KeikiGrow Plus, to the bud and the surrounding tissue. This cytokinin is suspended in lanolin (oil removed from sheep wool). Small amounts of Vitamin B-i and Vitamin B-2 are included in the formula so that any resulting growth has a positive cultural milieu similar to what would be included in a flasking procedure. The importance of the lanolin is that it sheds moisture, may be massaged into the plant tissue and will not wash off during normal watering or the generally high humid atmosphere of an orchid-growing greenhouse or light-growing area. 

Nutrition - Since the application to the flower stem is after the Phalaenopsis has flowered and is beginning to enter the vegetative cycle of its growth, it is generally acceptable to provide extra nitrogen for support of green growth.

In one or two weeks the tiny bud should show signs of development. The time of development varies greatly because of growing conditions of the plant, genetics and a host of other variables. The speed of development depends on many characteristics of both the plant and the cultural conditions in which it is being grown. The following conditions have been found conducive to speedy and healthy keiki growth and development:

1) Maintaining a daytime temperature of at least 22 degrees C. 

2) Treating only nodes 2, 3, 4 counting up from the base of the inflorescence. 

3) Maintaining at least 60% relative humidity. 

4) Using fertilizer of 30-10-10 or 6-i-i (NKP) during the period when you expect keikis to develop.

When the keiki has about four roots, two centimeters long, it can be removed. Root development usually follows leaf differentiation. Occasionally roots will develop first. It is not necessary to cut the keiki. A brisk twist will usually cause the keiki to separate naturally. The small scar may be protected with a fungicide such as powdered sulphur, but it usually washes off during misting or watering. Stoprot (with bordeaux mix in lanolin) is an excellent fungicide and a sealant. Adding Vitagrow B-i to your regular fertilizer improves root development. Roots may be initiated by the application of lanolin-based KeikiRoot. 

Producing Extra Flower Spikes

This can be achieved by applying KeikiGrow Plus before flowering to two or three nodes on the upper portion of the spike, immediately below the lowest flower bud to promote spike branching. After flowering the hormone paste is applied to one of the upper-most buds on the spent spike to encourage secondary flowering. Some Phalaenopsis do not branch at all and KeikiGrow Plus can be used to promote branching. 

This technique will also work with the spikes of some Oncidiums, particularly the equitants and can be applied to the base of lower leaves on Angraecoids, Vandas and Ascocendas.

Rescuing Damaged Plants

One of the most important side-benefits of applying KeikiGrow Plus is the encouragement of adventitious buds in the attempt to save damaged plants. Buds that are slightly swollen are poised to go into growth and may be encouraged by KeikiGrow Plus.

This technique has been used to rescue crown-damaged Phalaenopsis and other monopodial orchids. The KeikiGrow Plus is applied to buds around the base of the plant (not to the inflorescence). There is a dormant bud at the base of every leaf. Some will be dry, but others will be green and ready for extra encouragement to send them into growth. A healthy root system can support these dormant buds to grow even when the primary growth is damaged.

Adventitious buds on the stem of a crown-damaged Phalaenopsis frequently respond to the application of plant regulators because the root development is active and supportive for a plant attempting to survive fungal, bacterial or animal damage.

Crown-damaged Paphiopedilums and Phragmipediums also respond to the encouragement provided by KeikiGrow Plus or better still Paph Grow because the damaged crown has caused the adventitious buds to expand in order to save the mother plant.

Obtaining Plants from Cut Flower or Broken-Off Spikes

Phalaenopsis cut flower spikes can be treated with KeikiGrow Plus after the flowers have faded to produce keikis on the bare spikes. The spikes must be kept in clean water which is regularly changed to maintain it clean and the end of the spikes recut every few days to keep water flowing into the stem. Only treat one or two buds because the isolated stems have a very limited capacity to supply nutrients to the developing buds. If you see some beautiful Phalaenopsis flowers stems for sale you can now obtain a keiki from the spike to get your own plant of this flower. This is also a great way obtain a replacement plant when your original one dies while flowering.

Obtaining Extra Plants from Old Canes or Bulbs

Usually discarded dormant bulbs (back bulbs) can be encouraged to produce new growths after the application of plant regulators (KeikiGrow Plus). New growths can be produced from old shriveled back bulbs. This is useful for plants such as species Cymbidiums and Dendrobium speciosum where some good clones are very reluctant to produce new growths. Buds at both the top and base of Dendrobium canes can be rubbed with KeikiGrow Plus. The top buds generally responded with numerous keikis or sometimes extra flower spikes while buds at the base of the canes form shoots which then develop into new growths.

The same technique also works for Cattleyas, Oncidiums and many other genera with dormant buds. Catasetum keikis from application to dormant buds on pseudobulb rings help increase these valuable plants for trading with friends or maintaining your own insurance plants in case of damage to your mother plant.

Use on plants other than Orchids

KeikiGrow plus can also be used on plants other than orchids. The caudex, (Diascorea or Testudinaria elephanties, of the yam family) rare in hobby greenhouses, is normally dormant for as long as 6 months. The application of plant hormones can induce a return to growth.

The carnivorous pitcher plants the Nepenthes have a notorious reputation for reproduction. They must be trained to develop from the basil growths so that copious pitchers result. Fertilizer discourages pitchers, but the vine-like growth habit has to be curtailed in order for large pitchers to be produced. The plant regulator encourages basal growth, and therefore pitcher growth. Undeveloped buds may be encouraged at every leaf joint for the development of future cuttings and the multiple plants which produce many pitchers. These delightful Nepenthes are excellent companions to orchids and develop symetrical growth patterns when cut close to the base and rubbed with KeikiGrow Plus. 

Bonsai growers have found hormonal growth regulators helpful in encouraging new branches where only adventious buds existed before. Valuable African violet chimeras can only be propagated from adventitious buds on flower stems. The ordinary method of African violet propagation will not reproduce the exotic chimeras. This cloning results in very valuable African Violets.

KeikiGrow FAQ

What conditions are ideal for keiki and root production?

The following conditions have been found conducive to keiki production:

a. Proper timing in the growth cycle of the plant. For example, KeikiGrow Plus should be applied only after the last flower on the stem has opened fully. 

b. Temperature should be warm-at least 20 degrees C (70 degrees F). 

c. Avoid stress from improper water supply. The pH should be around 5.5 to 6.5. 

d. Fertilizer. In conjunction with a) above, feed high nitrogen during the period of KeikiGrow application at about 200 ppm. 

e. KeikiRoot can be applied to stimulate root production.

Is relative humidity important?

Yes, cell differentiation and root development work best in a fairly high humidity. If you are growing on a windowsill you should provide extra humidity for keiki development by misting, plastic curtains, plastic bag, etc. It is true that severe stress on a plant will cause it to produce keikis on its own, without the addition of hormones, but our purpose is to provide keikis without causing undue stress on the mother plant.

If the products were optimized for Phalaenopsis treatment, will they work on other orchids?

Yes, we have many reports of successful application to plants other than Phalaenopsis. Many of these suggestions are covered in a sheet of "cultural instructions" supplied with each order, but among the most successful are:

  a. development of multiple leads on cattleyas where one breaking bud is the norm;

  b. encouragement roots on newly imported or damaged orchids of many genera;

  c. breaking of dormancy of such plants as Cycnoches or Catesetums when they have apparently failed to come back into growth (this has also been successful with other plants such as caudex succulents); and

  d. producing multiple flowers on papilio spikes, equitants, and dendrobiums.

We are quite aware that many of these phenomena occur without the use of plant regulators, but this merely emphasizes the facts that we are really only giving an extra boost to what is a perfectly natural occurrence.

What about non-orchidaceous plants?

KeikiRoot has been successfully applied to such plants as Mahonia, Ilex, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Crotons, roses, and medicinal plants for the production of stem props. Since the hormones are common to most plants, there may be application to virtually any plant with adventitious or dormant buds.

Can cytokinins and auxins be applied together?

Absolutely not. Cytokinins are anti-auxins and auxins are anti-cytokinins. One company with extreme bravado is offering rooting concoctions with free-for-all mixtures of auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, etc as a cure-all for plant growth. This could kill your plant-no matter what it is. Growing roots generally requires the appropriate strength of indole-butric acid. Don't be fooled by glib concoctions. Our experience and experimentation over many years assures you proper use of these chemicals in our products. You will not dammage your plants using KeikiGrow and KeikiRoot as instructed. The hormones in KeikiGrow Plus (cytokinins) are root inhibitors and if excess has been applied, root development may be restricted. If roots do not appear after healthy leaves have developed, warm up the plant (over 70 degrees F.) and remove the excess keiki paste carefully with a tissue. Be careful not to damage the partially formed keiki. After 24 hours, apply KeikiRoot to the area where roots should be developing. Again, be careful not to damage any emerging roots. 

How should KeikiGrow products be stored?

Normal room temperature is adequate. In warmer climates the products should be kept in a refrigerator (not a freezer). Application will be easier and less likely to physically damage a tender meristematic bud if the product is allowed to come to room temperature before application.

What is the shelf-life of KeikiGrow products?

We guarantee the viability of the product for a period of one year. However, we have successfully applied KeikiGrow that was manufactured 8 years ago.

I know that KeikiGrow Plus was developed originally for Phalaenopsis. Does it have other uses?

Many reports have been received about the use of KeikiGrow Plus on other genera. Everyone knows that African Violets are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings inserted into a rooting media. This is not true, however, for CHIMERAS. In other words, certain very valuable kinds of African Violets do not respond to normal propagation by placing cuttings in vermiculite, perlite, etc. African violet chimeras, however, will reproduce precisely (clone) by rooting cuttings produced by axillary buds (those buds at the base of the leaf). These cuttings are usually produced in a meristem lab and as a result are very expensive compared to most African Violets.Any African Violet grower, or any horticulturalist who has difficult plants to propagate should try KeikiGrow Plus as a substitute for elaborate laboratory procedures. The hormone, cytokinin, shared by all plants, produces axillary shoots which may be removed from the mother plant and layered as any other cutting. In the case of phalaenopsis, a bud on the flower stem may be jarred into growth and produce a keiki or clone of the mother plant; on an African Violet the bud will frequently produce a growth that may be removed and layered to produce a clone of the mother plant. 

Should I apply KeikiGrow Plus several times in order to initiate keikis?

Although one re-application may be beneficial, especially if it is very warm in your growing area, you would be better advised to wait until the next flower spike has appeared and is waning. Of course if you have applied the KeikiGrow Plus to only one or two nodes, the other nodes are still available for treatment. Since the purpose of the hormone application is to increase and enhance the natural hormone production of the plant, continually adding the hormone will serve litte purpose. Moreover, since the cytokinin/hormone is a potential root inhibitor you would gain very little by continuing applications.

What happens when a large marble-sized growth appears instead of a keiki or flower spike?

In about 5% of applications, before cell differentiation into leaves, roots and stems occurs, the cells of the meristematic tissue divide and multiply. The result is a green bumpy growth, which is rather unpleasant-looking. Patience will generally result in a mass of small keikis being produced. Since there are numerous keikis, many may be lost while separating them from the stem of the Phalaenopsis. (This multiplying has not been reported from other orchid species) The more care taken during the separation, the more keikis will survive.The multiplication of cells is the same process which occurs during the multiplication of cells in the meristematic process. Feed the plant a balanced fertilizer and enjoy.

I have heard that KeikiGrow Plus can cure crown rot. Really?

Well the answer is yes and no! Once the crown is damaged to the extent that the upper leaf has rotted, a Phalaenopsis or any other monopodial plant will not continue to grow. It may not die immediately, but the ability to produce new leaves and the accompanying flower spike is virtually impossible. That is the bad news.The good news is that when the crown is damaged the adventitious buds at the base of the plant begin to enlarge and in their native habitat may even grow into a new plant. By the careful use of KeikiGrow Plus this process can be enhanced and in over 90% of the applications a new plant will develop.

Directions: When crown rot has damaged the plant, apply a thin layer of KeikiGrow Plus to the base of the plant where the bottom leaves fell off as the plant was growing. At the base of every leaf is an adventitious bud-ready to replace the crown. Do not water the plant, but keep it warm (70 degrees F) and in high humidity (80-90%). Use a plastic bag if necessary. A new growth and perhaps three or four growths will establish on the old roots and then grow their own roots so that they can be removed and potted up safely. The new "clone" should bloom within one or two years.

This procedure is useful for Angraecums, Doritis or any similar plants and of course the relevant hybrids are especially easy to rescue. 

Is there any plant that will not respond to cloning?

Probably not and it is always a good idea to try, especially to save valuable plants. Plant Hormones Canada has put a priority on propagation and conservation of species and hybrid orchids, but its methods are applicable to many species and hybrids of many genera. For example, Jim Brasch reports that even cactus and other ornamental plants can be propagated and conserved by the application of plant regulators. Be sure to let us know about your adventures into this new development in imaginative gardening!

I do not have facilities for sterile laboratory procedures. Can I still use KeikiGrow Plus for propagation?

Absolutely. One of the chief purposes of KeikiGrow Plus is to provide amateur growers with a non-sterile technique for orchid propagation. So long as general cleanliness and conditions for normal culture are maintained, no special equipment or conditions are necessary. Generally speaking a warmer (about 70 degrees F., 22 degrees C.) growing climate is conducive to keiki or adventitious bud growth.You can do this in your own home. Simply follow the easily-read instructions (in English, French, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish and apply the keiki paste to your own plant right in your growing area. Development generally appears within a week to ten days and the keiki (Hawaiian for "baby plant") will be large enough to remove in about three months.

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