Orchid Life Cycle: What Are the Stages of Their Growth

Orchid life cycle is as interesting as the big show of orchid flowers. Over time, gardeners and homeowners have begun to grow orchids because of the amazing wide varieties and the attractiveness that they bring to the garden.

Orchid Life Cycle

Orchids go through six stages of development before resulting in attractive blooms. Keep reading this article, as it takes you on an orchid life cycle timelapse and explores every other possible aspect related to them.

What Are the Main Stages of an Orchid Life Cycle?

The main stages of orchid life cycle are seed germination, root growth, leaf production, growth of flower spikes, blooming, and dormancy, and then the cycle repeats itself. During blooming, the average orchid blooms from six to almost eight weeks then, they go dormant.

– Seed Germination

It is the stage where the seedlings start to grow and develop, when they are being placed in the right environment and starting to shoot. Orchid seeds are small and need a few food reserves. Surprisingly, a single capsule of seeds contains 1500 to 300,000 seeds, and here, the process of seed germination can take from one to nine months, depending on the type and the condition.

On average, after 30 or 60 days, once germination begins, you must transfer your orchid plant to a new environment to encourage growth. The process can last a few weeks to a few months, depending on the orchid species and the orchid care.

This stage is also called Keiki development, and the Keiki is a Hawaiian word that means ‘baby,’ which fits, as it is an identical version of the parent plant but on a smaller scale. This way, it grows and continues to develop until it reaches maturity and blooms.

– Root Growth

The new root growths are called pseudobulbs, mostly six to eight inches tall. In return, these growths produce leaves approximately 12 inches long. The leaves are slender and leather-like, storing water and other nutrients for the plant, where the plant establishes itself. The plant benefits greatly from fertilizing at this stage as it helps the roots grow strong, resulting in a healthy plant.

Most root growth happens under the soil, but orchids can crawl on neighboring plants or opaque objects. These roots are aerial roots, which means that they cling to plants or objects. What they do is they are responsible for the provision of nutrients and support.

– Production of Leaves

Orchids are mostly slow-growers and can take up to a year to produce their first leaf. The leaves mature depending on the orchid’s species, but normally they develop between four and eight months. But once they mature, they remain stuck to the plant’s stem for their entire life, and in short, they appear on the tips of the stem with the plant’s growth.

Production of Leaves

In this stage, the leaves are dark green and narrow, which helps to minimize water loss, especially during hot climates. A regular feeding and watering schedule at this stage helps optimize the leaf’s growth. The leaves of orchids may be alternate, opposite, and whorled around the stems or may only grow at the base of the plant, but they can be flat or pleated, having parallel lines as well.

Furthermore, producing new leaves occurs in the meristem, a region full of actively dividing cells that help produce leaves on the orchid plant. Meristem has a certain amount of cells that are divided and grown rapidly; this process helps the orchid plant to lengthen in this period.

– Growth of Flower Spikes

The spikes emerge soon after the growth of stems and leaves. Depending on the species, they can take up to three months to grow, but they can also take a little longer or sooner, but of course, this has to be during their growing season as well. Furthermore, they resemble stems and have tiny nodes, indicating that flowers are coming.

Most gardeners use the terms ‘spikes’ and ‘stems’ alternately, as spikes are stems that bear flowers. You know it is time for flowering when the spike has reached its maximum height.

Most gardeners examine the keikis individually by looking at the foliage color, size, and height of the plant to compare with the expected growth. In addition to this, the number of blooms and the leaves, and lastly the susceptibility to diseases, because these are the aspects that make it significant. The spikes, after they are done blooming, can appear dull. In the worst circumstances, you might even have to cut them.

But is there a way to answer the commonly asked question: how to make an orchid grow a new spike? The key is to let the plant rest and take its time to restore the lost energy. The plant will spring the spikes back up, and in parallel to this, you must only make you cut down the spike to the bottom to let the plant know that it needs to grow a new spike.

– Time for Blooming

The plant produces blooms within two or three months following the growth of the flowering spike. According to the species, the plant produces large, attractive blooms that last for many weeks and months.

Orchids bloom once a year, with some species blooming more than once. An average orchid blooms for six to eight weeks, for example, the Phalaenopsis orchid bloom cycle, and you might not see them until next year, with exceptions.

But once the blooms fall off, trim the spike just a few inches above the node where the flower was. This step promotes new plant growth. It is also necessary to get rid of dead or damaged leaves along the way and continue feeding and watering orchids with the same routine to help the plant revive.

– Dormancy

After the plant is done flowering, it enters its dormancy stage, and this is where it starts to go through a phase where it will not bloom till the next period. Now, it will not be as active and strong in establishing as it used to be. Although the plant is going to need its growing requirements, but it won’t be as active.

Do orchids go into dormancy, is a question you may ask, but yes, they do. Orchid dormancy lasts six to nine months, starting after utilizing all its energy to produce striking blooms. At such a stage, it is normal for the plant to show slow growth or even stop growing. You will see more blooms drooping and falling one by one or a few simultaneously.

The stems and leaves also get affected during the dormant period; the vibrant stems will start to dry out and appear wrinkled.  The leaves become more flat and limp, unlike their usual upright shape, and may lose some of their attractive green shades.

Most gardeners confuse this with the death of the plant. Do not worry; the leaves turn yellow, and the stems become thinner as the plant needs to rest and gather the energy it used to bloom. It is still alive, but dormant, which is why it isn’t in an active stage.

What Are the Different Methods Orchids Can Start Their Life Cycle?

The different methods orchids can start their life are by division, back bulbs, aerial cuttings, meristem, or tissue culture. They would also go through growing by seeds or being repotted, air layering, and lastly either by flasking or reflasking protocorms.

Different Methods Orchids Can Start Their Life Cycle

Under average climate conditions, the orchids are grown in open fields and laboratories with the right growing conditions and with the provision of the right orchid care. The common growing methods include division, seeds, aerial cuttings, back bulbs, meristem or tissue culture, etc.

– Division

The division method is a process that involves dividing the plant into two or more parts containing a new shoot. It is the easiest way to have large replicas of the parent plant. It also helps the parent plant develop better-quality sprouting shoots than when left alone.

The reason for the new shoot growth is the response to the threat that the plant feels when it is divided. Placing the divisions in a new potting mix encourages the shoot’s growth. Through this, the plant will grow in a strong matter and start its life in these conditions.

Before dividing the plant, it is important to ensure that each division receives two to three bulbs, as it does not flower and can take up to three years to reach the flowering age. However, you should remember that the process is best carried out in spring when the plants show the most active growth. It gives the divisions a full season to grow, establish, and prepare for the upcoming flowering season.

– Back Bulbs

Back bulbs are the typical plant bulbs that have lost all of the foliage due to aging. They are prepared for propagation by removing any leftover foliage to eliminate the chances of pest infestation in the new plant. This is a keen notion that you must consider when growing because issues shouldn’t come in the way of the full life cycle of the orchid.

This propagation method means producing a new plant from the parent plant that does not have any leaves. The resulting plants may take two to three years to reach flowering size but remember that they will establish well, and that is what is important.

The process involves obtaining the bulbs at the time of repotting; now, the plants obtained as a result look very similar to the parent plant, just in another pot. In addition, one of the common ways of propagating orchids from back bulbs is burying them back to two-thirds of the depth in the original potting medium.

Suppose the pots are approximately four inches in diameter. In that case, the orchid growers leave them there and give them little to no attention except for watering the bulbs regularly, equal to three ice cubes, and adding slow-release fertilizers in spring so that they would bloom.

The back bulbs can take up to three months to show new growth. The orchid growers wait for the new leaf growth to reach a few inches in height so that the roots start to develop. On another note, they also use liquid fertilizer on the foliage at the early stages of growth as the leaves and the roots easily absorb them, this way, they thrive as well, but be carful.

– Aerial Cuttings

It is the most common way of growing orchids commercially. As the term ‘aerial’ indicates, the roots are above ground, making it much easier to take the cuttings. But this method has a drawback; it is only good when aiming for flower-less plants. It is a sure way of increasing your orchid stock, and strong ability.

Most orchids sprout aerial shoots or bulbs on the old back bulbs. The shoots are left to develop on the upper part of the back bulbs and grow slowly. They can take 90 to 120 days to develop roots.

You should remember that as soon as they show signs of root development, they are separated along with the back build and potted as an independent orchid in orchid compost. Some orchid species, like Goodyera, have a unique growth habit, produce branches from rhizomes, and develop aerial roots.

– Meristem or Tissue Culture

Such an attempt is carried laboratories where there is complete control of the cleanliness and sterility, without which you cannot have the desired outcome. The process requires great skill and controlled growing conditions as the center of the growing growth bud needs to be extracted.

The same techniques and results cannot be achieved at home because of the lack of sterility; only some have the required skill. The market is full of flasks containing the tissue culture, but it can take three to five years for the culture to develop into a flowering plant.

– Seeds

Another best laboratory-suited technique which shows optimum results when carried out in absolute sterility. As we mentioned before, orchid seeds are even smaller than dust particles.

Since they cannot store food in them, they require special techniques to sustain them in the early stages of development. They will germinate and they will prosper with the right conditions, especially with the optimal humidity.

The seeds can take nine months to germinate, but if you grow them in a controlled environment, like a laboratory, it can take eight to 24 months for orchids to grow from seeds. Similar is the case for growing orchids outdoors; the orchids take two to three years to grow from seeds.

– Repotting

It is a common technique used in both households and commercially. The process involves removing the entire plant from the pot and removing any damaged leaves or stems to help the plant grow better. The flower-bearing spikes are removed as close to the stem as possible to minimize the chances of rotting.

Repotting the orchids is a good way to inspect the roots’ health and ensure the plant is pest-free. The plant is shaken to remove excess soil or tilted to a flat surface, pushed down to loosen the compost, and then repotted in a new mixing soil for better growth. Usually, the new pots have bark pieces at the bottom.

– Air Layering

In this growing method, a cut is made on the stems approximately eight to 11 inches below the node, and the cut portion is covered with sphagnum moss. Typically, the growing medium is kept moist, and once the roots develop, the layer is separated from the parent plant and repotted in small pots. For this method of growing, Vandas and other monopodial orchids are easily multiplied through air layering.

– Flasking and reflasking Protocorms

The method involves growing numerous seedlings in a culture bottle through orchid seeds or embryos. As a result, the seedlings have very limited space to grow and very less food available.

The orchid growers know the method is successful when the seeds swell and turn green. With the development of seedlings, the embryos increase in size and develop a flat-top called ‘protocorms.’

Flasking and Reflasking Protocorms

A tiny seed is capable of producing numerous protocorms. At this stage, they are transferred to a potting medium for development and growth, in addition, the different orchid species take different times to develop. For instance, Dendrobium seedlings take four to six months to develop; this is how it would be a unique choice.

In contrast, Vandas, Phalaenopsis orchids, and Cattleyas take six to eight months to develop before re-flasking before the seedlings are developed to be transferred to their new home. The potting medium comprises tree fern, charcoal, or leaf mold to help the seedlings develop.


Whether it’s a small lawn or a big-scale event, orchids are the first choice. Through our article, you have understood why people adore mesmerizing flowers. Let’s sum up the main points that we discussed:

  • The growing cycle of orchids depends on the species.
  • If well-rested, the plant can rebloom and produce new spikes, and you feed and water orchids at the right time.
  • Not all propagation methods are meant to be carried out at home; only laboratories have the required cleanliness, sterility, and precision.
  • Use tree bark, fern, or charcoal when repotting your orchids to produce maximum blooms.

Even with so much information, there is so much more to explore. New findings are flooding the market, and each is unique. The orchids have an interesting way of growing, making them all the more valuable.

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