You can propagate orchids by cloning the plants using keiki paste. This synthetic hormonal paste stimulates the growth of new baby orchids complete with roots and shoots. The new plants are genetic clones of the mother plant.
Propagating Orchids With Hormone Paste
If you follow online discussions about growing houseplants, you may have heard keiki paste mentioned in recent years. It’s a hormone paste used to propagate orchids and other tropical plants.
The name comes from the Hawaiian word keiki (pronounced KAY-KEE) meaning “child” or “little one.”
Used on epiphytic (air plant) orchids like Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, and Neofinetias, this synthetic hormone has the potential to trigger the growth of a baby orchid complete with shoots and roots—a rare but exciting event for any avid grower.
Results tend to be very hit and miss but when it works, it’s very cool.
Once the baby orchid (“keiki”) has roots a few inches long, it can be cut from the mother plant and grown as a whole new plant. Because it grows vegetatively from the mother, the new plant is a genetic clone.
This paste also has uses for other tropical plants.
Before propagating plants, it is important to know that some plants are patented. This explains when propagation is prohibited and how long patents last.
Let’s look at what keiki paste is and how to use it.
Rooting Hormone Versus Keiki Paste
Most gardeners are familiar with rooting hormones (powders, liquids, gels) that we apply to plant cuttings to stimulate root growth. Most of the time the active ingredient is a synthetic version of a plant hormone called auxin.
Keiki paste (see it here on Amazon) uses another class of plant hormone with a different function.
While the specific formulation of these products is not always listed, we know the primary active ingredient is a synthetic form of cytokinin.
The cytokinin in keiki paste is most likely 6-Benzylaminopurine or BAP, also known as 6-Benzyladenine or BA. The product may also include some B vitamins, auxin, and lanolin.
Cytokinin occurs naturally in plants, helping to break bud dormancy and promote growth. But, there is a lot more to bud activation than just cytokinin levels, so the hormone alone does not ensure this happens. And that’s why using keiki paste does not guarantee success.
How to Use Keiki Paste
These instructions are for Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) but the steps are similar for other epiphytic orchids as well.
Keiki paste is available in stores or online.
It comes in very small amounts but you just need a tiny dab at a time. You could also buy the ingredients separately and mix your own.
Tips For Success
There are several important things to get right to increase your chance of growing a keiki.
- Choose a mature orchid that is healthy and actively growing and has flowered previously, not a really young or old plant.
- For timing, wait until the plant has finished flowering and is in a vegetative growth state, producing new leaves. This is generally when temperatures are warmer (spring, summer). It’s during the cooler seasons that regular flowering occurs.
- On the plant, the paste is applied to a dormant bud (node) on a flower branch (known as the “spike” or “inflorescence”).
- Counting from the base of the flower stalk, apply the paste to bud number 2 or 3 or 4. We do this because the first bud is least likely to produce babies and the fifth bud is most likely to produce a new branch—if anything.
- Before applying the paste, peel off the leafy sheath that protects the dormant bud. The bud may be tiny but, if it’s there, it has potential to grow.
Some growers cut off the remainder of the spike, about an inch beyond the chosen bud.
- For quantity, use a scant amount of paste and treat just one bud to avoid overwhelming the plant. If the keiki grows, it will demand a lot of resources from the mother plant until it is ready to be separated.
As mentioned, it’s impossible to predict what you’ll get, if anything. It may be a new branch, flower stalk, or a keiki—a complete baby orchid.
If it is a keiki, within a few weeks you should see the bud swell, then leaves and roots gradually develop.
The time until it’s ready for transplanting can be months or longer.
This video by MissOrchidGirl on YouTube shows the application of keiki paste and the transplanting of babies from the mother plant.
Using Keiki Paste on Other Tropical Plants
If you want to try keiki paste for propagating other plants, suggestions include African violet, monstera, philodendrons, hibiscus, and roses.
We don’t know how keiki paste can affect all these houseplants but, if you have some to spare, it could be fun to try some experimenting.
More About Orchids
- The American Orchid Society | Education. Conservation. Research.
- The Orchid Whisperer: Expert Secrets for Growing Beautiful Orchids | Bruce Rogers (book)
If you notice tiny mosquito-like insects flying around your houseplant, it may be fungus gnats.
You can trap the adults using these sticky yellow cards which will in turn prevent females from laying eggs.
More Houseplant Propagation Tips
- How to Propagate Aloe Vera Pups
- How to Grow Christmas Cactus From Cuttings
- How to Propagate African Violets
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How to Clone Orchids With Keiki Paste
Supplies & Materials
- 1 Orchid plant mature, not in flower
- Choose a dormant bud on a flower branch of your orchid to propagate. Counting from the base, this should be the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th bud on the (not-in-flower) stem.1 Orchid plant
- Gently remove/peel off any leafy sheath covering the bud.
- Use a chopstick to apply a scant amount of keiki paste directly onto the bud. Discard any excess.
- Continue routine care of the plant. If a keiki (baby orchid) is going to form, you should notice the bud swelling and beginning to grow within a month.