Orchids are one of the most popular plants, making a delightful addition to the home. So, when something like new growth appears on an orchid, you really want to understand what this means for the plant. Here’s a guide of what to do with orchids that are growing new stems.

All about orchids

Orchids are one of the most searched for plants on the internet. In fact, across the world there are more than 487,000 thousand searches for information about this plant every month. And if you pop the word orchids into Google, you’ll have more than 215 million results to go through.

There are many varieties of orchid. And they come in a variety of shapes and colours. Often, you’ll see the Phalaenopsis (moth orchid). It’s a popular variety with long stems and several flowers on display that look like moths suspended mid-flight.

Then there are dendrobiums, which have flowers all the way up the stem. These varieties are great for flowers over a long period of time.

Another type is Cymbidium, that have strong flower heads with a strong and sturdy structure.


Caring for orchids

Orchids are epiphytes which means they grow on the side of other plants and trees, but are not reliant on that plant for nutrients. Instead, their roots have evolved to contain chlorophyll and they photosynthesise just like leaves. So, if you have ever wondered why orchids are sold in clear plastic pots, this is the reason why.

Ideal for beginners, orchids don’t demand too much. They don’t need a lot of water, just the equivalent of a spoonful of water to keep them moist. In terms of temperature, 19 degrees Celsius or 66 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Position them in spot that gets plenty of bright but indirect sunlight, avoiding too much direct light.

Orchids growing new stems

It may seem confusing when new growth appears on orchids. This is because the aerial roots can look like new stems. It’s best to wait for a while and be patient until you can clearly see whether it’s a root of new flower spike which can be staked to keep it upright.

Growing spikes are greener in colour. With any new roots usually rounded, thicker, and slightly white in colour. As water is absorbed to the roots, they turn green and then return to the grey-white colour afterwards.

If the new growth isn’t an aerial root or a straight-forward flower spike, you may be lucky enough to have a ‘keiki’ growing. Keikis are baby plants that grow on the stem of the parent plant, as you can see here.

You may be wondering why this is happening to your houseplants. In the wild, orchids reproduce by pollination or division much of the time. This is because the plant grows so big that parts of it snap off or are taken by birds, to then land on a tree or rock to carry on the cycle.

Mature orchids grown as houseplants, especially phalaenopsis or dendrobiums, are prone to producing babies in this way. However in some instances, if an orchid is stressed, they can appear.  Particularly, if the plant feels at risk.

Therefore, producing a baby is its natural way of passing on its genes. Then, due to this method of reproduction, the baby will be identical to the parent plant.

If you think that the orchid is stressed, check that the plant is getting a stable and suitable temperature of at least 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit) and that it’s getting sufficient light by positioning in a spot with bright but filtered light.


What to do with new stems on orchids

There are a couple of options if you have a keiki growing on your houseplant. Either cut it off so the moisture, nutrients, and energy can go straight to the parent plant. Alternatively, you can allow the keiki to mature before removing it to grow independently when possible.

If you’re choosing to nurture the baby orchid and eventually plant it up, it’s best to wait until there are roots that are around 3-7cm long. By this point there should also be some leaves and a small shoot too.

Once the keiki has reached this size, use a clean knife to cut 2 to 3cm down the flower spike of the parent plant.

A top tip for this part of the process is to sprinkle some cinnamon powder onto the open wound from the cut on the mother orchid because it acts as a natural fungicide.

The baby plant can then be potted up in suitable well-drained, peat-free orchid potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Peat Free Premium Orchid Compost. Orchid potting mix is made up from bark, perlite, and sometimes charcoal and sphagnum moss.

When planting, direct the flower shoot upwards and anchor it in place with the potting mix. Keep the newly potted up baby in a spot out of directly sunlight and mist it every few days. It’s best to use rainwater or distilled water for the best results.

Whilst they’re younger, the baby plants will need slightly less light but more humidity to get them growing.

From planting it up initially, it may take up to 3 years to bloom. But trust me, it’ll be worth the wait when you have nurtured the orchid from a baby into a plant bursting with flowers.


Now you know what to do if your orchid is growing new stems. Whether you choose to remove the keiki or plant it up individually, these tips will help you to grow the best orchids and keep them happy. For more tips on growing orchids and other houseplants, check out my book My Houseplant Changed My Life.

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