All you need to know about keikis (KAY-kee)
I must be honest, keikis excite me. When I see one of my orchids pushing out a keiki or two, my brain immediately goes into overdrive. It would naturally start with my inventory of experimental ideas that I've conjured up over time. Then move on to how I would be able to achieve the one I end up picking… Empty mounts, different medium experiments, or perhaps trying to cultivate it in a different environment would be high on that list.
For me, It's either experimenting or gifting time as many orchid societies have raffles at their monthly meetings and they are reliant on members to donate plants or perhaps you have a friend you could introduce to the hobby and gift it to them once it is big enough.
Ok, enough about what I would do with them. Let's start digging into the subject as a whole and talk about why keikis occur with some genera, how to care for them, and so on.
The first thing you should know is that what you are seeing is asexual reproduction. This means the new plant(s) are genetically identical clones of the parent. Keikis don't appear on many orchids, but have a tendency to develop on the following genera:
What is the difference between a keiki and new growth?
Before we get into the thick of things I'll first need to explain the following two terms monopodial and sympodial, which relate to the structure of the orchid.
Monopodial orchids do not have pseudobulbs.
Sympodial orchids have pseudobulbs.
Sympodial orchids mostly get new growth. Unlike a keiki, new growth is an extension of the existing plant and not a new plant as a whole. These new growths are pseudobulbs which are connected via a rhizome.. Whereas keikis can survive on their own, new growths contribute to the overall survival of the plant and can be seen as extra storage for food and water.
The correct way to propagate or split sympodial orchids is by cutting the rhizome. Keep in mind, to do so; each piece needs to consist of several pseudobulbs. As mentioned before, pseudobulbs store valuable nutrients critical to the plants' survival.
There are exceptions, though, Dendrobiums can grow both new growth and keikis. The new growth would develop from the base of the cane whereas keikis grow from an "eye" (where the flower nodes should start developing) higher up on the cane.
Tolumnia orchids can also grow keikis, but unlike Dendrobiums they follow the same route as Phalaenopsis and get them on the flower stem.
Monopodial orchids continuously grow upward from the base of its crown with one leaf forming at a time on opposite sides. Vandas or Phalaenopsis are excellent examples of this structure.
Ok, so how do I look after my keiki?
Besides one or two crucial checkpoints, for the most part, you'll look after them the same way as the parent.
- You'll have to wait until the keiki's roots are about 5cm. Like most new roots on orchids, they don't start with the ability to absorb water. A great way to test this is by spraying the orchid/keiki's roots with some water, and if it darkens ever so slightly then it can take up nutrients. In the meantime the parent plant will supply the keiki with the necessary supply of water and nutrients to grow.
- Don't just break the keiki off. A great way to test if the keiki is ready to part ways with the parent is by holding it with both your thumb and index finger. Then gently move your index finger closer to the inside/palm of your hand while still "pinching" the keiki. In essence you'll be "rolling" the keiki between your fingers. If it breaks off, you are ready to go else you can try again in about a week. This method ensures that you won't harm either of the plants and is one with which I have had 100% success.
- Once you have successfully removed the keiki, you can pot it in a small pot and use the same medium in which the parent is planted. Keep in mind that this keiki will take 2-3 years to mature and flower although flowering after just 1 year is not unheard of.