|There is quite a bit of controversy concerning
flasking by amateur growers. The ones opposed to it say that the amateur
hasn't a full understanding on hybridizing, thus making inferior crosses.
These crosses would then lower the overall quality of orchids in general.
The world would be overrun with poor quality plants of questionable
The other side suggests that many of the very popular crosses
were made by such growers, and sometimes purely by accident. Conservationists
also argue that the ones that flask species, are actually helping
to save certain orchids that are in danger of loosing their natural
habitat, or that already have.
Which ever side is correct, flasking is an invaluable learning
process in the culture of orchids.
Case: A flasking case can be as simple, or elaborate as you
wish. One can be constructed out of an ordinary box, or plexiglass.
The later would be more durable if you plan to do a lot of flasking.
Even a fish tank, laid on it's side with some plastic draped over
the front will work. There are ready-made glove boxes that can be
bought from many firms that are nice, but sometimes expensive.
What I use is a fish tank. I have it laid on it's side, then
taken a piece of plexiglass cut to fit the opening, that have arm
holes cut in it. I then secure long rubber gloves with duct tape
(that stuff is wonderful) to the holes. I also fashioned longer
sleeves, so I could reach all the way to the back of the tank. When
flasking, the plexiglass top is taped fully to the tank, making
an airtight seal. This setup cost me about $50, and has worked very
Tools: These are simple tools that are used in the process
of replating, and removing the seedlings from the flask. Thin stainless
steel rod, bent into a small hoop, and pounded flat will aid you in
the tasks of replating, and deflasking. They can also be used if you
need to go into the flask to remove small bits of contaminates. More
on that later. Make at least 3-4 of each, so you can be sterilizing
one set while using the other.
Besides the replating tools, you will need a small spray bottle
for spraying the inside of the box with bleach solution. Two shallow
containers for sterilizing, and rinsing tools, a vile for sterilizing
and rinsing seed, a pipette, a scalpel, tweezers, toothbrush, and
a beaker graduated in milliliters for measuring solutions.
are a number of containers that can be used for sowing, and re-plating.
For sowing, I use baby food jars with either rubber stoppers, or
Magenta B-Caps...non-vented for sowing seed. This is because to
germinate, seeds don't need a gaseous exchange. The media keeps
longer, and doesn't dry out. Therefore, you can make a number of
mother flasks ahead of time that will be ready when you need to
sow seed. I used to use the lids that came with the jars, but found
that after 1-2 uses the lids did not work any more, so I went to
the types listed above.
For re-plating, again any vessel can be used. Glass is preferable,
as it can be sterilized again, and again. Select a container that
is big enough for the growth of seedlings. While the sowing flasks
don't have to be vented, the re-plate flasks should be. After the
protocorms begin to grow, they need a gaseous exchange for photosynthesis
to take place effectively. There are many ways to do this. A drilled
rubber stopper with cotton stuffed in the hole is the most common.
Or, just a simple hole punched in the lid with cotton stuffed in
it. The rubber stopper is a better way to go, because mold spores
and bacteria have further to travel before entering the flask. There
are even specialized tops that can be purchased that have a membrane
to let gases pass through.
I have since discovered that juice jars, such as Snapple work very
well for replating flasks. Simply punch a hole in the lid with a
small nail and then cover both sides with 3M Nexcare™ Active™
circle bandages. These will withstand the heat & moisture
of being sterilized in a pressure cooker, while allowing a gaseous
Pollination: The pollination of
orchids is fairly easy once you know what you are looking for. I won't
go into crosses here, just the basics of pollination. Hybridizing
will be left up to your imagination.
To pollinate a plant, all you need is a pencil, toothpick, or
a piece of bamboo, and of course...the flower! Take the "tool" and
hook it under the anther cap. Pull it towards you. The cap will
fall away, and the pollen will be stuck to the tool. Do the same
process on another flower. Take the pollen from the second flower,
and press it onto the stigmatic surface of the first flower. Pull
away, and the pollen should be stuck in place. If not try again
until it sticks. There! You have a pollinated flower! Now all you
have to do is wait for the capsule to form.
The time that it takes for seed to ripen in the capsule varies from
genera to genera. I have included a table
for the various orchid species.
The medium is what's used to sow the seeds on. It has a number of
ingredients to promote growth, and agar to make it jell, so the seeds
stay on top of the medium.
There are a number of companies that have ready mixed mediums.
All you do is mix in distilled water, and follow the instructions.
My favorite companies are:
G&B; Orchid Labs...Has
a fine general purpose medium. Just add water.
2426 Cherimoya Dr.
Vista, CA 92084
Phyto Technology Labs...Plant
media, biochemicals, equipment, growth regulators.
P.O. Box 13481
Shawnee Mission, KS 62282
Chemical Co....Has everything from media, to equipment.
P.O. Box 14508
St Louis, MO 63178
a very good media. Very high germination rates.
645 Stoddard Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Sterilization: The flasks & media need go be sterilized before
they can be used. A simple pressure cooker works fine for this.
Caution: Using a pressure cooker is
potentially dangerous, so fully read manufacturers instructions
before using. Prepare the flasking media per instructions, and pour
into flasks. How much depends on what type of flask you are preparing.
For sowing, 1/2 inch (~12.7 mm) of medium will do. For replate flasks,
1 inch (~25.4 mm) would be better, as the plants will be in these
flasks for a longer period and use more of the medium for growth.
Prepare pressure cooker. Pour 1-2 inches (25.4-50.8mm) of water
into the bottom of the cooker. Lightly place the lids on the flasks,
and set them into the cooker. Secure the lid of the cooker and place
on high heat until the pressure relief valve activates. Lower the
heat and sterilize for 15 minutes @ 15 psi. Let the cooker cool,
or carefully release the pressure and carefully remove the lid. If
any of the lids have fallen off the flasks, carefully put them back
on and secure them. Remove the flasks from the cooker and let cool.
After cooling, they are ready for use.
Once the pod has split or opened, the seed must be assumed to be
contaminated. Before it can be sown, it has to be sterilized. To
do this, take the seed and place it in a vile, or test tube inside
the flasking case. To this add a 5% bleach solution with a drop
of dish soap as a wetting agent and agitate continuously for 10
min. Just before the end of this time, decant off the bleach solution
and add some sterilized distilled water. Agitate for about 1 min,
and then decant once more. Repeat this step one more time. If you
don't use a pipette, pour off all but a small amount of water, so
you can pour the remaining water and seed into the flask. If a pipette
is used, then just leave the water in the vile, and let the seed
settle to the bottom. I prefer to use a pipette, as it offers more
Sowing: There are two procedures for seed sowing. One is the
green-pod method. This is the easiest, as you don't have to sterilize
he seed. The second is the dry-pod method, done with the above procedure.
First you must prepare the case for your work. Place all the tools,
flasks, and other equipment you will be using during the flasking
process inside the case. Spray a fine mist of 10% bleach solution
all over the inside of the case, including the flask tops. Let set
for 5 min for it to take effect. Using the pipettete, suck up a small
amount of seed and some water. Crack open a flask, insert the pipet
into the flask without touching the sides. Eject the seed, and water
into the flask. Re-stop the flask, and swirl the mixture to spread
the seed around. Do the remaining flasks.
Green-pod sowing involves taking a seed capsule that hasn't opened
up yet for the sowing process. Put the pod in the glove box, and
soak it in the 5% bleach solution for about 5-10 min. Scrub the
outside with a toothbrush during this time. Rinse in sterilized
distilled water. Slice open the pod, and scrape the seed into the
flask. Or you can scrape the seed into a vile of sterilized distilled
water, and use a pipette to put the seeds into the flask. This will
eliminate much of the fibrous material that's in the pod getting
into the flask.
Flask Care: After the flasks have
been sown, place them under fluorescent lights for 8 hours per day.
Do not try to simulate daylight hours. This creates problems with
the growing seed. Seeds should start to green in about 4-6 weeks.
Some seed may take longer.
If mold, or other contaminates start to grow, it's best to just
throw the contents out. But if the seeds are of particular value,
you can go back in and remove the contaminates. Remove the spot,
plus 1-2mm surrounding it. Place a drop or two of 5% bleach in the
hole that's left. Keep in mind, that every time you go back into
the flask, you increase the chance of contamination.
After the protocorms have reached a workable size, it's time to replate
them onto the final medium.
Place inside the case both the mother flasks, and the replate
flasks, replating tools, a container of 10% bleach solution, and
one of sterilized distilled water, a spray bottle of 10% bleach
solution. Place the re-plating tools in the bleach solution, and
let soak for 5-10 minutes, then rince them in the distilled water.
Remove the stopper from the mother flask, and the flask to receive
the replate. Scoop out a small amount of protocorms with one of
the clean tools, and place them in the replate flask. Don't spread
them too heavy, as the young plants do not do well competing for
the same space. Sterilize the tools often to prevent contaminating
the replate flasks. I use a new tool for each flask I re-plate.
After you are done, replace the stoppers tightly. Place them back
under the light, and watch them grow up!
When the plants have grown to 5-6cm, and have 3 or more roots, they
can be set out. Once your plants are ready to be removed from the
flasks, open them and let them become acclimatized for 24 hours
before removing them. The easiest way to remove them may be to break
the flasks. This will reduce the chance of damage by being pulled
through the neck of the flask. Wrap the flask in a towel, and gently
break it open. Gently pull the plants apart and place in a bowl
of luke warm water to wash off any bits of glass, and medium. Place
the seedlings in a mixture of sphagnum and perlite. Spray with a
fungicide/bactericide, such as Physan 20 or RD-20. The seedlings
do better if grouped together, so put 5-10 per 3" pot. It's best
to not fertilize them right away, but give them a solution of Superthrive
for the first week, or two.
Care: The young plants will take from 3-5 years before their
first flowering. To get them to that point, requires special care.
To start out, put them in 70% shade for 2-3 weeks, then move to 50%
shade for the same time. At this point, they may still need a little
more shade than a mature plant, and need to watered more often, as
they don't tolerate drought as well as mature plants. You'll just
have to experiment with them. I have several Cattleya seedlings that
I put in very bright light, and they're doing fine. Fertilize every
two weeks with a balanced fertilizer, and repeat spray with a fungicide/bactericide
every 3-4 weeks.