It’s time to tackle another new term: keiki (pronounced Kay-kee). In a previous post I briefly mentioned keikis but did not go into too much detail about them.
From the Hawaiian for ‘baby’, a keiki is a way for some orchids to create a copy of themselves. Keikis are normally produced by Dendrobium or Phalaenopsis orchids as a way for them to ensure their survival. These tiny plants develop from a node (an area from which leaves, or flowers grow) on the parent plant. A keiki is an exact copy of the parent plant when it reaches maturity.
Dendrobium orchids can produce a number of keikis if there are problems with their environment. From experience, if these orchids are not provided a suitable drop in temperature during the winter months, there is a tendency for them to produce keikis. Last year I was asked to help with a repot of a family members’ Dendrobium. The orchid itself was well looked after, however it had produced two keikis. These small plants were formed from a node on a cane of the orchid. Eventually they establish their own root system, which will help to sustain them.
The keiki is provided with water and nutrients by the parent orchid. I prefer to remove the keiki when it establishes a good enough root system (as shown above) and repot it, as it will continue to drain the parent orchid of some energy. On a strong and healthy parent orchid, this is not normally an issue because it will replenish itself when we provide water and fertiliser. With an parent orchid that is sick or very stressed, a keiki is not always welcome. It can be an indicator that the orchid itself is struggling and so it invests its energy into creating a replica of itself. In this instance, it can be extremely detrimental to the orchid’s recovery. It is a personal preference whether or not to remove the keiki to try and help the parent plant, or to allow the keiki to remain attached and help both by providing extra care.
My own Dendrobium keiki has established himself very well on his own, creating many additional roots that I can see through the plastic pot. I am unsure whether he will flower for me this year, though I think it may be unlikely because he is so young still.
I am lucky with this keiki – I water him once a week and he does not dehydrate between each watering. When he focuses on growing over the summer months, I will be provide growth fertiliser to give him a boost, and bright light (but not direct sunlight). Hopefully, this time next year he will produce flowers…fingers crossed!
On Phalaenopsis orchids, keikis can behave slightly differently. Phalaenopsis orchids can produce keikis from a node on their flower spike, but they can also create keikis from their stem (the point of the orchid where leaves grow from). These are known ‘basal keikis’. From a node on the stem of the Phalaenopsis, a keiki can start to develop, which makes it look as though your orchid is starting to spread out in the pot. You can remove the basal keiki when it has established its own root system, or you can choose to leave it on the parent plant. As with a Dendrobium, I would be inclined to remove it and pot it up, but it is a personal preference.
Sometimes keikis are a good thing on an orchid, sometimes they are not. It depends on the situation really. By potting a keiki on its own when it is strong enough, you can add to your own collection, or help someone else start theirs.
If you have any questions about keikis, please feel free to leave a comment.