First stages after deflask

I’ve deflasked a number of times since my last post, just to get more experience and really find out what happens after deflasking. I’m sure if you’re new to this process or even contemplating of embarking on this journey, hold on tight, its going to be a wild ride.

Right at the beginning, the process is exhausting and laborious. It is also a very trying process. For this reason, I will go into details what will happen the moment you open the flask, up till the first root or leaf growth. What I can say from experience is: Don’t be easily discouraged or even give up at the first sign of failure. So here we go!

Potting medium

Different blooming size orchids have different requirements. Just like their adult versions, seedlings have their own individual needs as well. The only difference here is that seedlings require more attention and care, compared to their adult versions. This is because they are smaller, younger and have just been exposed to a ‘whole new world’.

Up till today, I have three types of orchid seedlings varieties, which I will break down:

Phals: I would recommend sphagnam moss with peanuts at the bottom of the pots. A lot of the phal seedlings have positive response to the water retentive media.

Sedirea japonica
Seedling with root and leaf growth
Phal hybrid seedlings
Phal hybrid seedlings growing well in sphagnam moss; deflasked on 20.03.20

Bulbophyllum: Mixture of leca, peat moss, bark and top layer with sphagnam moss. The seedling lay on top of a layer of sphagnam moss or I surround them with the moss. Bulbophyllum loves moisture but do not like being wet.

Bulbophyllum seedlings
Bulbophyllum seedlings thriving in potting mix; deflasked on 08.09.20

Cattleya: Mixture of leca, bark, sphagnam and peat moss. Cattleya seedlings love both moisture and dryness. It’d be best to have a watering routine, the drying out period between watering is crucial here.

Cattleya seedling with root growth; deflasked on 08.02.20


Seedlings are very fragile and small. This means that they do not have the capacity or space for excess water or nutrients. Especially because they are so small, care has to be taken to avoid crown rot. Hence, do not water with just a watering can.  

Solution: What I found worked best for me is to spray them with water. This way they can take in water from their leaves or just soak in a relatively moist medium. Please keep in mind here to provide enough ventilation and air flow. You can choose to use a spray bottle here or just a simple plastic bottle and poke a few holes in the bottle cap.

Spraying may not keep the potting medium wet or moist enough, therefore, you will need to observe daily if the media is sufficiently moist for the seedlings. Alternatively, as mentioned before, you may come up with a watering plan and soak the pots in water.

Crown rot because they got too much water from a sprinkler system

Root loss

Having not only a change in environment, but also a change in potting medium will result in seedlings losing their roots. Those of you who have repotted a blooming size phals, you know what I’m talking about. It is part of the deflasking process that seedlings lose their old roots, so with the help of the right potting medium, seedlings can regenerate roots to take in water and nutrients. This is the other part of deflasking that requires attention and care.

Why are the seedlings turning black and dying? 

You may have followed everything in the book but still notice that some of your seedlings are fading away with time.

Don’t panic.

Seedlings are just like any living organisms, there are weaker and stronger ones. As unfortunate and sad as it is to lose just one seedlings, be prepared to lose quite a few. This is why orchid seedpods have millions of seeds. Over the course of my learning journey, I’ve lost countless of seedlings and am just left with maybe one from a variety or none. At my highest successrate, I still have all of the seedlings from the same flask, and that’s four of them. I never understood why seedlings just fade and die, but came to realize that it is just part of nature.

In addition, being in a flask provides seedlings with 100% humidity levels. This is unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve at a home environment, unless you have a greenhouse or winter garden, where conditions can be adjusted the way seedlings need. Stronger seedlings will survive this transition, but weaker ones will not. So keep your head held high and move on! It’s better to focus your energy on those that are surviving and need more of your attention.

Same pot, same flask but one is thriving better than the other
Cattleya seedling did not survive


Most ideal growing environment for seedlings? 

I do not have it but I should think a greenhouse or winter garden would be most ideal. If you’re like me and live in a humble apartment, what I offer to my seedlings is an orchidarium or a terrarium meant for orchids. It is somewhat like a terrarium for reptiles and I control air flow and humidity. These are the two important controlled variables that you have to keep in mind. Your seedlings will thank you in return.

My orchidarium, which includes a few other blooming size orchids


Published by jillsorchidarium

Sharing some of my personal experiences with orchids because the amount of information about orchid care is too limited or focused on particular areas. In addition, I'd like to share some of my photos of my pets, bonsais and orchids of course!

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