Growing orchids from seeds is a challenging yet rewarding endeavour. It requires creating the right environment and the correct conditions for the seeds to germinate and grow. For starters, orchid seeds are microscopic and lack an endosperm, making them difficult to nurture and grow. Thus, a highly sterile environment is necessary to prevent contamination, commercially this is achieved in a laboratory.
Orchids are one of the most beautiful and captivating plants in the world, and their seeds are no exception. Orchid seeds are unique, as they require a special form of germination to ensure that they have the best chance of becoming strong and healthy adult plants. Unlike other plants, orchids do not store nutrients in their seeds, and therefore rely on external sources of nutrition in order to germinate and survive.
Although orchid seeds will naturally drop to the ground and germinate in nature, the germination process is often slow and unpredictable. As such, many orchid enthusiasts choose to germinate their seeds in an artificial environment where the conditions can be better controlled. There are two main ways to do this: with the help of a fungus, or without.
When germinating orchid seeds with the help of a fungus, the orchid seeds are planted in a medium that contains the mycelium of a specific species of fungus. This fungus acts as a partner to the orchid seed, providing it with the necessary nutrients to germinate and grow. In return, the orchid seed provides the fungus with nutrients and carbon dioxide. This symbiotic relationship helps the orchid seed thrive, and is the most reliable way to germinate an orchid seed.
The asymbiotic way is Flasking, which is a process of germinating orchid seeds in vitro, or in a controlled, sterile environment. This process involves the use of agar – a jelly-like mixture of nutrients and growth hormones – to provide the correct environment for the seeds to germinate.
Flasking is the more popular method of growing orchids from seeds since it is cheaper, easier, quicker, and more reliable than other propagation methods. It is also much more successful, as well as being less prone to disease. This is because the agar provides a much more sterile environment for the orchid seeds.
The flasking process requires the orchid seeds to be carefully separated from their parent pod and placed into flasks or tubes filled with agar. The agar is then heated in an incubator until it liquefies and the orchid seeds are spread evenly across the surface. The flasks or tubes are then sealed and placed in the incubator until the seeds sprout. The entire process normally takes between 4-6 weeks, depending on the species of orchid.
Once the orchid seeds have germinated and grown to certain size, the flask or tube is then opened and the seedlings are carefully removed. The seedlings should then be carefully transplanted into pots or trays filled with potting medium and watered regularly. It is important to monitor the seedlings closely to check for signs of disease and to repot them as needed.