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How to grow orchids from seeds – kitchen style

September 10, 2011


These extremely simplified guidelines aims at getting you started. We have home gardeners, amateur biologists and schools in mind when writing these guidelines. Since this blog aims at gardeners in the tropics and in Chiang Mai in particular, there will be some information of local interest, but any keen gardener anywhere will find these guidelines useful. Once you grasp the fundamentals you can always develop, improve and adapt techniques. Please share your experience with us!

Golden rules for an orchid gentleman or gentlewoman:

1. Do not steal orchid fruits (capsules), seeds or any plant material from the national parks. Only purchase orchid species from CITES certified dealers, or use seeds from plants already cultivated in nurseries.

2. If you wish to provide native orchids for forest restoration, always collaborate with the authorities, national parks AND the scientists. Do not mess up the ecosystem by introducing foreign species, garden hybrids or strains from 2000 km away. Always document what you do, publish the details on internet for others to access if necessary.


The purpose of a flower is sex. When male flower pollen is transferred to a flower’s female stigma, you get fertilization almost like when an animal sperm fertilizes an animal egg. The result of the fertilization is a fruit which contains the seeds. The seed contains a plant embryo, equivalent of an animal foetus. The elaborate shape and fragrance (often undetectable to humans) of an orchid flower is aimed at attracting special insects, the pollinators. When the pollinating insect tramples around to investigate the flower, it transfers pollen.

1. Always check if the pollinator is already inside your garden. If so, there will be fruits formed without your assistance. Help science by documenting the pollinator (photographs of visiting insects, or catch it and send it to an entomologist). If we know what insect, we may also know what host plant is used by the insect’s larva. Remember that many pollinators are active at night. Publish your discoveries on internet and please tell us!

 2. If there is no natural pollination, open the lid of the column and transfer the pollinia to the stigma. If the flower is big you can use your fingers, otherwise a toothpick is useful. Cross pollination between different orchid individuals is better than self pollination.

Orchid pollinia.

In this picture the orchid’s lip has been removed, and we look at the orchid flower from below. The uncovered pollinia appear as yellow ‘eye-like’ structures on top of the column. The mouth-like structure below the yellow pollinia is the stigma, the female part. It may have different morphology in different genera. To pollinate the orchid, transfer the pollinia to the stigma.

Harvesting of fruits

An orchid fruit (a capsule) is usually formed quickly but may take many months to mature. Harvest when yellow or brown and almost cracking open. If you live in the orchid’s home country and follow its natural cycle, take a note when the orchid fruit is mature. This is probably the best time for germination (regarding temperature).

Do not discard surplus fruits. If you live in the orchid’s home country, then open the fruits and tie them to a stone and use a sling shot to shoot them up in the tree crowns on a windy day. Select a national park, a botanical garden, a park, your own garden or a friend’s garden. If you live abroad, donate the seeds to a seed swapper:

Terrestrial orchids

Epiphytic orchids

You can also check the Orchid Ark’s species list. If you have a Thai orchid not included in the list, we should be grateful if you shared seeds.

A ripe fruit of Vanda liouvillei, opened by hand.

Storage of seeds

Dry the capsule indoors and then use a pair of forceps to transfer the interior of the orchid capsule to a small container such as an eppendorf tube. Preferably the seeds should be stored in the fridge, but here in the tropics it is so moist a lot of condensation may form in the cold which lead to growth of moulds. The drier the longer they keep. Some may last a year, some may last ten years. For successful seed germination, act quickly, do not postpone transfer to growth media!

Submerge the small seed containers (e.g. eppendorf tubes plugged with cotton plugs) in oven-dried rice kept in a larger containers such as kilner jars.

After drying the capsule the orchid seeds appear as dust on your fingers.

Transfer the content of the orchid capsule to an eppendorf tube or any small container.

Media making

40 g of mashed peeled banana (equivalent to half a small banana).

100 ml of fresh, peeled and crushed tomatoes (equivalent to 2 ordinary tomatoes).

10 g of agar (powder is preferable, strips have to be cut in tiny pieces).

20 g of sugar.

1.2 g of thiamine (vitamin B1 from the pharmacy, 12 tablets 100 mg each, pound in a mortar first).

900 ml of tap water (should be distilled water if your tap water is dirty or above pH 7).

Prepare the ingredients separately.

Mix all ingredients evenly using a household mixer.

Transfer the medium, while stirring, to the clean flasks. 1-2 cm depth is usually enough.

Close the lids softly so that air can go out (or they will explode in the oven).

There are three simple ways to sterilize the flasks:

1. Place the bottles on a tray in a pre-heated oven 150-180°C. Wait until you see bubbles and then sterilize for another 10 minutes. For this technique you can not use plastic lids.

2. Put the bottles with media in a big pan with boiling water just above the agar level. Put on the lid and leave for 30 minutes. Although you only reach about 100°C, this may in many cases be sufficient. Hospital sterility may not be the goal here, and we do not expect tough bacterial spores. The goal is mainly to kill fungal spores and most bacterial cells.

3. Transfer the flasks to a pressure cooker and when steaming, leave for 20 minutes. With a higher pressure the boiling temperature is higher, and so even bacterial spores will die. This is the best option, although maybe not always necessary.

Let the flasks cool down until the next day and then tighten the lids. If you tighten immediately you may have more condensation as you trap hot air which contains more humidity than cool air, and there will be a low pressure inside causing difficulties to open the lid, which in turn may result in contamination when trying to open. Store the bottles in clean plastic bags to avoid contaminating spores covering the surface. If the media start cracking or shrinking, they are too old and you should discard, clean and reuse again.

You could sow the orchid seeds as soon as the medium is not hot any more, but it is better to wait 5-6 days to check that the flasks are not contaminated by fungi which may kill the plants.

Agar at Rimping Supermarket in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Vitamin B1 from Chiang Mai University pharmacy.

A mixer is good for making a smooth medium.

The nutrient medium is sterilised inside the growing flask.

Sterilization and sowing of orchid seeds

Select a clean working place indoors, such as a metal bench (not wood) free of debris and preferably cleaned with 80% alcohol. Use clean hands and clean clothes. Do not bend over the bottles. If the growing flask contains a lot of liquid on top of the medium, pour it out first.

Of course a professional laminar flow bench is preferable. It has walls and the sterilized air flow blowing against you makes it hard for outside spores to enter the growing bottle. A laminar flow bench is a big investment for a home gardener. Some simply use a fish tank (40 cm wide) which can be cleaned with alcohol. Turn it so the opening faces you and the glass wall becomes a barrier against airborne spores. In reality, using many duplicates, Eric has managed transplanting sterile tissue samples while working in hotel rooms on a simple table. The crucial point is those few seconds when the lid is open to add the orchid seeds. The golden role is to minimize the exposure time and to aim at highest cleanliness as possible. Take what you have and try. Surprisingly often you are successful without the expensive equipment.

Mix 9 parts distilled water + 1 part bleach (household, 5-6% NaOCl depending on brand, I used Rimping ‘Haiter’ Bleach) + 1 drop detergent as many seeds repel water. We call this the sterilization liquid.

Prepare 80 ml of sterile water per orchid fruit (boil water in containers like when you make the medium). Let the water cool down to room temperature.

Prepare a disposal vessel for excess liquids.

If you have a syringe go to A1. If you have no syringe go to B1.

A1. Add the contents of one fruit into any vessel that will fit your 20 ml syringe.  Eric uses 50 ml plastic Falcon tubes. They do not need to be sterile, as the sterilization liquid will take care of that.

A2. Add 10 ml of the sterilization liquid and mix gently. Wait 5-10 minutes.

A3. If the seeds are heavy they will sink to the bottom and using the syringe you suck out and dispose the majority of the sterilization liquid before adding 20 ml sterile water. Suck up the seeds and the sterile water in a 20 ml syringe. Let the syringe stand up with the tip upwards for 15 minutes while the seeds sediment.

A4. Press out excess fluid with one move without stirring the seed sediment, and fill the syringe with new sterile water. Repeat 3 times.

A5. Before transfer to the growing vessel, concentrate the seed solution by minimizing the amount of sterile water. 4 ml remaining liquid is fine, and then you shake the syringe to stir up and mix seeds. Add a preferred amount (Eric uses five droplets) to each flask with nutrient medium.

B1. Add the contents of one fruit to any tall thin vessel like a perfume bottle.

B2. Add 10 ml of the sterilization liquid and mix gently. Wait 5-10 minutes.

B3. If the seeds are heavy they will sink to the bottom and you pour or suck out the majority of the sterilization liquid. If the seeds are light they float, and then you pour the top layer into a new sterile bottle. Add 25 ml of sterile water and repeat 3 times.

B4. Remove most of the sterile water and shake the seeds with the remaining water, and transfer a small amount of liquid (5 droplets to 1 ml) to a flask with nutrient medium.


The sterilized seeds must be sown immediately.

Remember that some orchid seeds are light, som are dark. There is usually some unimportant sterile tissues from the capsule floating at the top. To see the actual seeds you look into the liquid after mixing. It is important to ascertain if they sediment or float upwards. In the rare case they do neither (same density as water) you need to start all over and change the density of the sterile water by adding some sugar before boiling.

Inside the 20 ml syringe you can see the  sedimenting orchid seeds (Vanda liouvillei).


Some seeds germinate after a few days, some germinate after many months. Keep the bottles in the light shade outdoors if you live in the tropics, or in a ventilated room with light ramps and a temperature set for the species (default is 25°C). The ventilation may be needed to lower the temperature in the room.


If the plants grow slowly the agar may eventually start looking cracked due to water losses. The gas exchange is also poor and may stunt plant growth. If you observe this, simply transplant the plants to new flasks with fresh medium (use the same aseptic environment as when you inoculated the seeds). Before opening the old flask, surface sterilize it by wiping it with clean paper soaked in 80% alcohol or bleach.

Transplanting to a dry and unsterile environment (deflasking)

When the plants are large enough to handle and with several visible roots then it is time to adjust them to the outer world. Remove as much agar as you can mechanically and swirl for some while in water to remove sugars which may attract moulds and bacteria. To make sure your precious orchids do not dry out immediately after leaving the flask, transfer them to a plastic box with household paper or sphagnum moss in the bottom. Put the box in a moist environment such as a shaded nursery. Spray water on the paper and the orchids but do not cover the box (plants need light!). Check on your orchid babies frequently and make sure rain can not drown them. After one week you can mount them to any substrate you prefer (plastic net, concrete, hardwood, hanging basket, sphagnum moss or coconut husks) and let them gain size in the shaded and moist nursery.

Final position in the garden or forest

Pots are fine in a nursery, but a natural look is more appealing in your garden, or maybe you wish to contribute to the national park? Then you need to attach the orchids to a tree. This should be done in the rainy season only, as a gradual adaptation to the new environment is essential. Use a string made of natural fiber (which will break without strangling the branch) and tie the orchid to the tree, facing east or north. Do not attach it below eye height as standing moist air near the ground may cause a rot in the rainy season, or they may burn due to fires in the dry season. Select deciduous trees for sun loving species and evergreen trees for shade lovers.


Why can’t I just throw the seeds in a pot of soil like with ordinary seeds?

Orchid seeds are very special. They are tiny to enable long-distance dispersal and to get high up into trees with the help of the wind. Most orchid seeds are between 0.3 and 0.8 mm, but including the exceptions the range is 0.15-6 mm. To become tiny the orchid seeds hardly carry any extra nutrients, in contrast to larger seeds which have picnic bags of either protein (soy bean), oil (canola) or carbohydrates (rice). In larger seeds of other plants there is a large multicellular plant embryo for quick growth, while in the orchid seed the embryo is minuscule. Depending on species and growing conditions an orchid fruit (a dry capsule) may contain between 1500 to 3 million seeds. To compensate for the small size and lack of nutrients, the orchids parasitize on fungi. Orchid seeds landing on a tree trunk are attacked by fungi, and in some cases the seeds are killed, in some cases the seeds kill the fungus and then the orchid starves to death, in some cases the orchid does not allow the fungus entrance and it will die too, but in a small fraction of cases, the fungus repeatedly attacks the orchid while the orchid repeatedly degrades and consumes the tissues of the fungus. This parasitic symbiosis is called orchid mycorrhiza. A seed which dies in one situation, may survive in another situation. That is why genetic diversity and large numbers of seeds are crucial. When we grow the orchid seeds on the nutrient medium, we offer the nutrients otherwise provided by the fungus, and we have a greater rate of germination and development since there is no battle between organisms.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

This vitamin is important in all cells for carbohydrate metabolism. It is probably present in the orchid mycorrhiza in nature, but due to heat sterilization we lose so much thiamine there is no native source rich enough. 100 g of whole-wheat flour contains 0.55 mg of thiamine. 100 g yeast extract=0.9 mg thiamine. Mushrooms 0 g. We need 1200 mg/litre medium. That is why it is better to use a pressure boiler than the oven, due to the lower temperature.

Temperature during media making

If you put the flasks on a stand in a pan with boiling water you reach 100°C if you boil at sea level. At higher altitude the water boils at a lower temperature. Boiling is normally sufficient to kill the fungal spores, the main enemy of orchid growers. If this results in sterile flasks and eventually orchid seedlings, fine, but in some environments there are bacteria which do not die unless you reach 120°C. The pressure boiler allows a higher boiling temperature. If you put the flasks in the oven at 150-180 °C you may experience more destruction of vitamin B1 resulting in stunted growth.

Costs for making 1 litre of medium in Chiang Mai, Thailand (August 2011):

Two tomatoes 0-12 Baht (39 Baht for one package with 7 tomatoes. Big Rimping).

Half a banana: 0-2,5 Baht (29 Baht for one package with six bananas. Big Rimping).

Agar 20 Baht (48 Baht for a package of 25 g. Big Rimping).

Sugar 0.5 Baht (27 Baht for a package of 1000. Big Rimping.).

Thiamine 12 Baht (1 Baht for each tablet of 100 mg. University pharmacy).

Water 0-1.3 Baht (29 Baht for one crate of 20 1-litre bottles. Home delivery).

Total cost 32.5-48.30 Baht/litre. The lower cost applies if you use your own water and garden fruits.

As to flasks, you can use an old marmalade bottle made of glass with a metal screw cap. New empty bottles can be bought at Rimping for 80 Baht each. Professional Schott Duran glass bottles with blue plastic caps (which can stand a pressure cooker but not the oven) can be bought from Union Science. There is one store almost opposite to the Chiang Mai University pharmacy, just west of Wat Suan Dok temple. Cross the street from the pharmacy and walk back almost to the canal road and you will see it on your left hand. A 100 ml bottle cost 108 Baht. They have chemicals, syringes, pipettes, gloves and other things too (phone 053-808858). On the same side of the street there is a peculiar shop with second hand bottles, a cheap alternative.

Other useful websites

The Hardy Orchid Society Seed Bank

Ionopsis ‘Propagation from seed’

Olivia’s Spanish orchid seed germination:

Plant tissue culture & Orchid seed sowing for hobbyists

Seed swaps – epiphytic orchids

Seed swaps – terrestrial orchids

Seed sterilization (Spanish)

Seed sterilization (SIGMA ALDRICH)

YouTube Orchid Seed Flasking – Part 3 (2011)

About the authors

Eric Danell has a PhD in plant physiology from Uppsala University, Sweden. He is a co-founder of the Orchid Ark and is the senior scientist at Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Brett Maloney from Australia is an experienced orchid seed grower who co-founded the Facebook orchid seed swap. He is currently located in Thailand.

Martin Shim is a Malaysian horticulturist with a BSc From University of Guelph, Canada. He lives and works in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. He is an experienced orchidologist and engaged in orchid conservation.

Ketsanee Seehamongkol is the president of Dokmai Garden and a co-founder of the Orchid Ark in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her practical approach is important to small scale cultivation.

Olivia Vila from Spain has a lot of experience from home cultivation of orchids and her practical approach is important to adapt a lab environment. She has published a lot of her invaluable experience on internet.

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Photograph: Cleisostoma fuerstenbergianum is native to Thailand.

81 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    September 11, 2011 7:41 AM

    Great article – content nicely organised and clearly presented and I think a beginner would be encouraged to try. I have significant experience with Coelogynes and will be publishing a website soon ( which will have details of pod pollination times, etc.
    Keep up the good work.

    • September 11, 2011 7:47 AM

      Dear Kevin,

      Your Coelogyne site sounds very exciting. The pedagogic aspect of the Orchid Ark is essential, we need to engage many people in the orchid preservation. Eventually we shall come up with a list of important links to manage the Thai orchids.

      Kind regards,

      Eric & Ketsanee

  2. January 27, 2012 4:58 AM

    Thank you. Good Information

  3. March 3, 2012 2:02 PM

    very interesting facts on orchids. didn’t know about the vitamin b1 tips thou… will try it out on my plants….hope it works here in KL

  4. April 15, 2012 8:37 PM

    Very useful site, Learned a lot of new things from this site and the links.
    Thanks a lot

  5. June 23, 2012 3:25 AM

    muy buen blog acerca de las orquideas es por eso que me anima atener mi propia produccion de orquideas de laboratorio.

  6. August 7, 2012 4:11 PM

    I enjoy looking through an article that can make people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

  7. aloa permalink
    September 1, 2012 4:11 PM

    Very good post. I will be facing some of these issues as well..

    November 14, 2012 12:13 AM

    I’m very glad to read your article as I didn’t know anything about growing orchids although I’ve planted 30 different kinds of orchids indoors for 2 years in my house.

  9. Devapratim Mohanty permalink
    December 7, 2012 11:59 AM

    HI thanks for the information,

    Just want to know you are talking about ripe or green banana?
    Please clarify.

    • December 7, 2012 2:10 PM

      Dear Devapratim,

      We use mature bananas which are easy to mix with the other ingredients.

      Good luck!

      Eric & Kate

  10. Devapratim Mohanty permalink
    December 7, 2012 2:18 PM

    Do you add 1.Fertilizer 2.rooting hormone and standardize the ph of the mix.If it works without doing all these then nothing like it,

    • December 7, 2012 2:28 PM

      Dear Devapratim,

      The recipe is complete – no additional nutrients nor rooting hormones. The medium as it stands replaces the nutrients the young orchid would find when degrading a fungus in a natural situation. Water and fruits contain micro and macro elements too, in addition to carbohydrates.

      Rooting hormones are not necessary because this is seed germination, not rooting of a cutting or morphogenesis of cells within a callus.

      We do not set the pH but use neutral tap water to begin with. The recipe will probably not suit the seeds of all 23000 orchid species, but is good enough for many and is so easy any home gardener could give it a try.

      We welcome reports on success and failures, and suggested improvements.

      Kind regards, Ketsanee and Eric

      • Devapratim Mohanty permalink
        December 8, 2012 12:36 PM

        HI I have one more doubt, whether the media can be used for replating. And can I use it for phalaenopsis? Thanking you

      • kili permalink
        August 24, 2013 6:03 PM

        HI I have one doubt, can i add charcoal (steam activated)
        if so how many gram for that ratio?
        what is the main purpose for this charcoal just wan to add some knowledge

      • August 26, 2013 11:32 PM

        Dear Kili,

        Activated charcoal in powder form is sometimes added to absorb germination inhibitors formed due to the heating of agar. It is sometimes a trick to induce spore germination in some mushrooms that otherwise refuse to germinate. The amount is small, 0.2% or 2 g per liter.


      • kili permalink
        August 27, 2013 4:21 PM

        Tq so much for that reply i will give u an update for my success
        anyway this is my Media making ingredient in GENERAL
        = charcoal 2g
        = bm1 basal salt 3g
        = chitosan 1g
        = (B1 1000mg ,B6 250mg ,B12 5mg) i can fine spacific B1 only in my place
        = (Coconut water200 mL or sugar 15g – 20g)
        = Fresh tomato extract 10mL
        = mashed peeled banana 40 g
        = Distilled water800 ml if sugar 1000ml

        = Agar 10 g
        is that to much or over power ^_^
        mine to give me a advise I’m still new in sowing and culturing orchids

  11. Devapratim Mohanty permalink
    December 7, 2012 5:02 PM

    Thanks for the reply, I really look forward to try it out.

  12. vanessa permalink
    December 30, 2012 1:17 PM

    hi, I have a fruit of a vanda here in our garden, almost ripe. i’ll give it a try with your recipe. thank you so much for this info.

    • December 31, 2012 7:25 AM

      Dear Vanessa,

      Please go ahead, and let us know of your results.

      Cheers, Eric

  13. December 31, 2012 12:03 PM

    Thank you for a very informative post. I am motivated to try and start orchids from seed. My original goal was to not kill the plants I bought! They are two years in my posession, and thriving.

  14. January 11, 2013 8:46 AM

    Thank you for composing “How to grow orchids from
    seeds – kitchen style Dokmai Dogma”. I reallymay definitely be coming back
    for more reading and commenting here soon. Thank you,

  15. Ralph Emerson permalink
    May 2, 2013 10:28 AM

    Very informative article, thanks. I do have one question. I grow species and primary species Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids. You discussed the time of 6-12 months from pollination to mature seed pod and the few days to many months for germination but how long does it take to get from germination to roots that are ready for a community pot.

    Since I grow species and primary species Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids I’d be particularly interested in their growth cycle if they grow differently from other genus.


    • May 2, 2013 8:31 PM

      You should grow the young seedlings until ‘large enough to handle’ after which you open the jars, discard the agar, hand wash all roots and then put the seedlings on paper in otherwise empty jars with a lid only slightly closed. During the following days you open the lid more and more, mist the orchids. The purpose is to allow the seedlings to adjust to a drier environment than inside the original jar with nutrient agar. Eventually you can mount them on their final substrate, although some allow them a series of small pots with sphagnum moss first.

      Good luck!

  16. Keith Vieira permalink
    May 8, 2013 2:46 PM

    There have been advances in sterilizing techniques made recently which might be of interest to your readers, instead of using bleach or harmful chemicals, they are now using Ultra Violet light. you can pick up a cheap neon (preferably handheld) and shine it on the surfaces you wish to sterilize, both cheaper and safer?

    • May 9, 2013 8:07 AM


      Indeed bleach should be avoided if other means exist.


      • Linda Moore permalink
        May 1, 2015 7:47 PM

        Keith, is there a specific method to using the Ultra Violet light ou suggest instead of bleach?

  17. pranta p banerjee permalink
    May 24, 2013 2:17 PM

    what if i don’t use any galling agent? (pranta)

  18. kili permalink
    August 27, 2013 4:51 PM

    yet due for my STERILIZATION media I’m using a microwave can i use this matted instead of autoclave ? and what is the time ratio for microwave sterilization?

    • August 30, 2013 10:40 AM

      Yes, you can use a microwave oven too as a kitchen alternative, although an autoclave will be more efficient. As stated in the text above, orchid growers do not have the same goal of purity as hospitals where sterility may be a matter of life and death. Simply use the microwave oven until the agar is dissolved. Remember to keep the lid of the container very losely tightened or the container will explode. You will need to open the autoclave now and then to swirl the container, thoroughly mixing agar and other contents. Use gloves! When the solution is homogenous it is ready.

  19. November 20, 2013 3:00 AM

    Great information about orchids.-

  20. Sven permalink
    January 20, 2014 3:08 PM

    Hi, I try desperately to find Brett Maloney’s orchid seed swap in Facebook (the one you mentioned). Can you give an URL? Thanks a lot!

    • January 27, 2014 12:57 PM

      Dear Sven,

      I could not find him either. I need to see what has happened. Cheers, Eric

  21. Yean permalink
    January 31, 2014 10:00 PM

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your very informative essay. I am collecting as much information as I can before I start any attempts to germinate seeds and I found it very useful.

    How do you decide when you need to re-plate your plants? And when you do, do you use the same media recipe or do the plants’ requirements change as they mature?


    • February 7, 2014 5:36 PM

      Dear Yean,

      Replanting depends on size and numbers. If it looks too crowded then replanting can be necessary. You can use the same medium, but as the epiphytic plant grows and develops chlorophyll, it becomes less dependent on external carbohydrates.

      Good luck!


  22. February 1, 2014 5:42 PM

    Who prepares this medium for the seeds in the wild? No one. So how then are orchids still able to multiply in the wild? How are orchid seeds able to germinate and yield a mature plant in the wild?

    • February 7, 2014 5:32 PM

      This is a most relevant question. In nature, the orchid seedlings survive by parasitizing different fungi. This phenomenon is called ‘orchid mycorrhiza’. The man-made nutrient medium is simply in exchange of the fungus.


      • February 7, 2014 5:50 PM

        I have artificially pollinated my orchids and recently, after a few months, the seed pods have dried and opened. I have taken soil from the mother orchid and placed it in a small plastic container over which I disseminated the tiny seeds. I then sprayed the soil with tea and honey (yeah, I thought that maybe the honey-sweetened tea I drink will help the orchid seeds too). A fungus developed in and all over the soil. Seeing this, I thought to myself that the fungus will destroy the seeds, but maybe that’s not the case and maybe the seeds will manage to parasitize the fungus and grow into mature plants.

      • February 7, 2014 6:03 PM

        No, by adding sugar in the form of honey you invite rapidly growing moulds such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mucor and Rhizopus. They will destroy everything. Orchid seedlings are attacked by e.g. Rhizoctonia to which some succumb, but other seedlings may devour repeatedly. The mass of genetically different seedlings allows for finding a balanced symbiosis in the mass of genetically different fungi of suitable species.

        Most simple techniques have already been tried and rejected by enthusiastic amateurs. The technique we describe is a good start, but adaptations to the local situation and species needed.

        Good luck!


  23. February 12, 2014 11:23 PM

    Thank you for the very informative and detailed write-up. I would like to try this method to grow orchids from seeds. However, I am having difficulties finding pure vitamin B1 tablets. Are there any substitutes to vitamin B1 or can general vitamin B complex tablets be used? Does the amount have to be 1200mg?

    • February 26, 2014 2:12 PM

      You could try multivitamins including vitamin B1. The large amount is needed due to the degradation in making the medium.

      Good luck!


  24. elie khairallah permalink
    May 23, 2014 6:31 PM

    I’m so new to the world of orchids and your notice encourage me to go ahead and try to grow orchids from seeds hope well be easy and I well tell all all the news about it

  25. May 30, 2014 3:09 PM

    i love orchids,
    beautiful flowers, lot of color and species
    🙂 .

  26. Nwe permalink
    June 7, 2014 9:35 AM

    Can you tell me how to orchid stem propagation, or tissue culture at home? Can use same recipe?

  27. June 12, 2014 6:55 PM

    Hi I find this article very interesting. My aim is to make orchid seed culture easy for hobbyist. I am a dentist into orchids since last 6 years. Will like to link this page from my site. I will also be giving information on how to do seed culture with preformed media. Hope to listen from you soon. Regards Devapratim

    • July 1, 2014 7:27 PM

      Sure – go ahead and make a link – orchidologists worldwide should help each other.

      Cheers, Eric

    • November 6, 2014 12:25 AM

      This is a fantastic protocol!! I would also like to add a link to my website. One of my customers showed me this today and I am very impressed. I sell hobby tissue culture kits using premixed dry media. This is even better. Thanks so much. Carol Stiff, Kitchen Culture Kits.

  28. Nik Ammar permalink
    June 14, 2014 6:37 AM

    Orchid is soooo cool!!! im not an orchid enthuatist, but my mom do.. i always bought her orchids, and at one point i asked her “why dont you breed the seed yourself?”..she dont know, thus that makes me initially im just doing some reading just to eliminate these thing that been through my head, and found that orchid is so cool..i think im in love with the orchids now.. thanks for the informations..:)

  29. Dean permalink
    February 13, 2015 10:59 PM

    I would just like to double check something. I assume that I would need to remove all the tomato seeds from the tomatoes for this procedure, correct?

  30. Giuseppe permalink
    August 29, 2015 4:22 AM


    I read your article on the part “Media making” ingredients needed.
    Question: what chances this medium agar applies to which type of Orchid species, few, most, or all?

  31. Mark Angelo Pagdatp permalink
    October 8, 2015 9:12 PM

    Hi, it had been proven that Vitamin B1 had been found out to have nothing to do with the root stimulation, so can we remove it from the basic component. I believe Banana, Tomato, and Coconut water could be used as a substitute.

  32. April 27, 2016 12:07 AM

    if you have time, pls do a write up for Stem propagation

  33. May 13, 2016 12:45 PM

    Hi Eric, thanks for a nice article.

    I’ve already received Phalenopsis seeds(+ agar powder) from Amazon last week. I’m not satisfied with their instruction(soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours prior to sowing, use healthy seeds which settle down in water for sowing).

    Tomorrow I’m gonna try the ‘kitchen style’ hoping for the best results. Wish me luck 😉

  34. Danish Haziq permalink
    July 31, 2016 2:44 PM

    hey….can i use it with bulbophyllum because im gonna flask one really soon…tq so much..pls answer as fast as possible 🙂 🙂

  35. September 25, 2016 6:54 AM

    Eric thanks for the wonderful articile. I will surely use this method to germinate orchids seeds that I have recently got it from aliexpress. I hope it works. I will keep your posted on this

  36. Harsha permalink
    December 9, 2016 12:59 PM

    Thank you Very Important Article! I will try it!

  37. Michael permalink
    February 19, 2017 1:14 AM


    I am a biochemist. Making the starting growth media. I noticed that the pH of the solution before autoclave is around 4.5. That’s pretty acidic, so I brought it up to 6.0 (using 5 M KOH) as I have found elsewhere that most orchid sources (I will be seeding phalaenopsis) prefer pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
    – Can you please comment.

    Regards to thiamine (also known as B1):
    It is one of the most unstable B vitamins. Boiling of the media with B1 can reduce its content by up to 50 percent. If possible, I would dissolve the 1.2 g B1 in 10 mL water and then sterile filtrate (0.22 um filter) in the the autoclaved/boiled growth media once the temperature has lowered enough (e.g. 50 C / 120 F).
    However, I do see one of your comments that 1.2 g B1 is used due to high degradation.

    Best, Michael.

  38. Michael permalink
    February 19, 2017 2:04 AM

    After more searching it appears I was wrong about the pH. According to following link the pH of the ‘starting’ orchid media should be around 5.2 to 5.4. Apparently recommended for most orchid media.

    Anyway, I will these how it goes using this media having pH of 6.0.

  39. Sai Athaluri permalink
    February 20, 2017 2:59 PM

    Dear Eric,

    I followed the same instructions for the media as mentioned above-the only difference being I used a different tablet, as thiamine wasn’t available. The one I used is a vitamin b complex with vitamin c and biotin 260 mcg. Each pill contains 10mg thiamine. I used 12. But the colour of my mixture was red like yours, but when I added the distilled water it became yellow. I used the pressure cooker method. Now my newly made media looks yellow with a yeast like precipitate on the surface. Have I done anything wrong? I am a 15 year old orchid enthusiast and new to orchid flasking, so pleeeease help!!

  40. Preetam permalink
    March 10, 2017 4:07 PM

    900 ml of tap water (should be distilled water if your tap water is dirty or above pH 7). is to be added in the

  41. Preetam permalink
    March 10, 2017 4:10 PM

    900 ml of tap water is to be added in the mixture?

  42. Preetam permalink
    March 10, 2017 4:15 PM

    Can any one explain how to sterilize phalaenopsis orchids seeds before sowing and how to sow same in the Agar medium…thks

  43. October 25, 2018 10:00 PM

    can i use white gelatin instead of agar? pls reply

  44. October 25, 2018 10:14 PM

    i can’t find agar or agar-agar in our place. only plain gelatin is available

  45. October 25, 2018 10:44 PM

    Gelatin is a protein product which may promote bacterial growth. Agar is difficult to degrade.


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