Easy epidendrums to grow and share

Crucifix orchids are probably the easiest and most rewarding orchid for non-specialist growers. If you grow crucifix orchids – or if you want to grow them – now is the time to look out for developing propagation material.

Epidendrum ibaguense is the species name for the common crucifix orchids or ‘epis’. Another tough word to remember is ‘keiki’. This is what orchid growers call the side-shoots most of us know as ‘pups’.

Check out your orchids now for these developing shoots. They grow out from old, previously-flowered stems and are quite tender and sappy to start with. You will need to wait until the new shoots develop aerial roots about 5cm long before you act. When they are ready, break or cut the new plant away from the parent stem (carefully!) and pot them up in a coarse orchid mix, then nurture them in a protected, semi-shaded position until well established. They will be identical to the parent plant.

Hybrid epis are propagated from seed. If you check your plants now you might find developing pods. They won’t ripen for some time, but eventually you’ll see the pods lighten in colour and then you should check frequently for signs of splitting along the seam. Tie a paper bag over the pod then and sow the seed as soon as it sheds.

Hygiene is very important. Commercially, orchid seed is sterilised and sown into nutrient gel, but you could do a rough approximation of the procedure by mixing the fine seeds with liquid that is one part bleach to 20 parts water, then sowing them into moist peat moss which you have previously zapped in the microwave in a sealed bag for a couple of minutes, then cooled. Keep the propagating tray inside a plastic bag in a warm place until you see signs of life – good luck!


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