The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Isolde the self propogating Dendrobium orchid

Isolde and Keikei 1Isolde, our Dendrobium orchid has had five babies this year. The quintuplets didn’t come all at once. They have developed gradually. Initially I noticed that she was developing a cluster of leaves on a stalk, with very fine roots, about ten months ago. The roots thickened up. I decided to leave the baby orchid on the plant and wait to see what would happen. Gradually more babies appeared. Isolde continued to throw up flowering shoots. Just as one would expect from an orchid named after a Wagnarian heroine.

About a month ago I found the eldest baby lying beside Isolde, upside down in the toothbrush mug. It had inadvertently been knocked off when Danny opened the bathroom window. When I retrieved the baby, I spotted that it had a flowering stem.

We have an orchid bible languishing somewhere in the cottage. A quick foray upstairs drew a blank on the orchid book front so I took the future of my precious orchid baby into my own hands. I searched for the orchid compost in the garden and found it beside the compost heap.

So I quickly potted it up in a discarded orchid pot (these have clever plastic sills at the bottom to keep the pot above any extraneous water that might be lapping about). The roots were quite short and stubby so it was a tricky manoeuvre. It still is a bit wobbly in its pot but the flowering stem is growing and maturing. I have since ventured onto the Internet and discovered from this site that this floppiness is normal and it should be supported by a stick.

I have also learnt that this ‘aerial growth’ has a name. Keikei. In our case it is
Keikei 1. I have some more pots and loads of orchid compost so I will be potting up Keikei 2-5 over the next few days.

If you just want to try one orchid ignore the Phalaenopsis and buy a self propogating Dendrobium. Ours lives in the bathroom and clearly loves the steam. Every couple of weeks or so the pot is plunged into a solution of orchid fertiliser and water for a few minutes and carefully drained. It has flowered constantly for years and produced babies with no help from D or me. A bargain orchid and a great investment.

Update: I’ve just discovered that you can buy tubers to grow orchid outdoors. Thompson and Morgan has a beautiful one – Habenaria radiata (White Egret Orchid). It looks like a flock of little white birds.

Amazon stocks two good orchid fertilisers.

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  1. Stubby Holders

    My mom loves gardening and it beautifies our surroundings. Orchids is her best to plant. Thanks for sharing. Let’s save the earth through planting.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Chris

    The orchids are evergreen. Yes mine has been flowering for about four years now. About a year ago one of the babies throw out a flowering shoot so I potted it in orchid compost as a present for my mum. Since then only one baby has thrown out a flowering shoot. Perhaps if I’d potted them on earlier they would have all flowered by now!

    The secret to extending the flowering period is to buy orchid fertiliser. I fill the cache pot od each orchid and submerge the pots in water and fertiliser for five minutes. I also spray the leaves (not) the flowers. Then I let them drain all day in the empty bathtub. They are in the diffused light of the bathroom window and clearly enjoy a steam bath when we shower.

    Hi Pamela

    I don’t move mine apart from when I water them.

  3. Apparently orchids do not like to be moved at all, so my mother has discovered. She has a growing collection of orchids and was also given a book about caring for them for Christmas.

  4. Chris Lye

    I just recently bought a similar dendrobium. It already had one baby fully mature halfway up the larger cane, as well as two smaller ones. i wonder what the timeline is for this growth-the sequence. Is it cane growth, flower, then keikei?
    Also, are these evergreen, or do they lose their leaves? You say yours has been blooming for years?
    I’m green with envy!!!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Celia,

    There is something extremely satisfying about caring for orchids. I can understand how people become obsessed with them.

    Our bathroom is completely white so the Dendrobium looks stunning.

    Hi Kathyann,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    My orchids are on the windowsill so they get some diffused light. When I have tried them away from there they have not flourished. Quite a few people that I know keep them on a kitchen windowsill, behind the sink.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll try rainwater next time. The bathroom windowsill is south west facing and although the window is not double glazed there must be enough warmth as the orchid loves the spot.

  6. My neighbour and I are both fans of orchids as house plants- flowers for months on end and very easy once you find the spot they like. Warm and not too light seems to be the answer- we both grow them on the West side of the house, mine are inside a patio door that leads into the shadier end of the conservatory, so very dilute light; my neighbour goes one better, hers grow on a windowsill behind a net curtain the window being opaque glass. Her first orchid hasn’t stopped blooming since she was given it five years ago. We water with warm water, try to use rain water and keep them warm in winter- seems to work- we now both look out for reduced price ones as we are addicted.

  7. Thanks for the information ,I’ve just bought 2 orchids ,don’t know what they’re called ones pink the other is yellow ,they are so beautiful but I was unsure how to look after them ,I’ll put them in the bathroom and see how they go on ! Kathyann (meg’s mum’s muffins )

  8. How good to have a pot plant that likes it’s home! I’m completely ignorant about orchids but this summer I rescued a little tuft of tatty leaves in a pot filled mainly with polystyrene chips, when we packed up the plant stall after the Village Fete. The man who’d given it to the stall had said it was on orchid – a sim-something with pink or maybe green flowers and we ought to charge £4 for it. Of course no-one bought it.

    It’s on our kitchen window sill and has been identified as a Cymbidium. It now has a new tuft of narrow leaves and looks healthy and my Malaysian friend is teaching me how to be kind to orchids.

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