How Are Orchids Pollinated In Nature and at Home For Seeds?

The pinnacle of the art of keeping orchids in indoor culture is the successful cultivation of tropical beauties from seeds.

Experienced flower growers, with the help of the latest advances in biology, have learned to do what, until recently, was considered almost impossible.

Scientists have learned how to extract and grow orchid seeds.

But the first step in this process is to obtain the seeds themselves, which requires extensive knowledge of the botanical features of orchids, experience in conducting the pollination process, scrupulousness, and tremendous patience. how are orchids pollinated in home and in nature?

how are orchids pollinated

How orchids pollinated In nature?

The unusual flower structure of most orchid species, due to which pollen cannot be spread by mechanical means (wind, water, passing animals), makes plants dependent on insects and hummingbirds.

Often, only one specific type of insect can act as the pollinator of a certain species of tropical beauty. Therefore, over a long time of the evolutionary process, the “daughters of the air” have developed a variety of tricks for successful pollination in conditions of natural growth:

  1. The main adaptation is the flowering duration . The lifespan of an individual flower can be about six months (on average, 1-2 months). Orchid pollen is collected in several sticky pollinia, which adhere to the body of an insect – pollinator at the slightest touch. On another flower, pollinia enters the sticky fossa of the stigma, pollination occurs. After contact with the pollinator, the flower withers within 24 hours;
  2. A bright color or strong aroma (from the smell of rotting meat to the scent of perfume) also helps to attract pollinators.
    White orchids have been proven to be pollinated by nocturnal insects, birds fly in reddish tones, and flies prefer brownish tones. And the more ordinary-looking the flower, the stronger it smells;
  3. Nectar-free orchids lure pollinators with an unusual flower shape , depicting a large amount of pollen or a sexual partner. Sometimes the flower turns into a trap. The phenomenon of resupination also helps – turning the ovary by 180 degrees, while the lip serves as an insect “step”;
  4. There are species that provide insects with sweet nectar , and receive cross-pollination for this. There are also self-pollinated orchids.

How orchid reproduce in nature?

Despite the different methods of reproduction inherent in orchids, the main one in natural conditions is sexual, that is, the formation of seeds by pollination.

INTERESTING! One short visit by an insect is enough for an orchid flower to form almost 5 million seeds.

Such a huge number of ripening seeds guarantees the continuation of the genus.

type of pollination occurs in orchids naturally

One of the stages of sexual reproduction of orchids is pollination the transfer of pollen (pollinia) from the anther of the stamen to the stigma of the pistil (the only stamen and pistil in orchids grow together into a column) with the subsequent formation of a seed.

Orchids are usually cross-pollinated.

Like all angiosperms, orchids have basic types of pollination :

  • Self-pollination;
  • And cross, represented by two varieties :
    • Geitonogamy;
    • And xenogamy.


Nature is arranged in such a way that autogamy or self-pollination in orchids is almost impossible. The defense mechanism prevents pollen from entering the stigma of its own flower. In addition, with artificial pollination on one flower, the seeds are:

  • Or not viable;
  • Or not formed at all.

IMPORTANT! For the formation of healthy seeds during pollination, it is necessary to have two flowers of the same or different orchid specimens.

An exception may be Holcoglossum amesianum the only self-pollinating orchid. Without smell and nectar, the plant does not need the help of pollinators. The anther of the flower, opening, unfolds in such a way as to penetrate the stigma of the pistil.

A unique orchid grows in the Chinese province of Yunnan, where it was studied by scientists at Tsinghua University, who did not record a single case of pollination of the plant by insects.

Self-pollination for any plant is not the main method of reproduction. This is a kind of insurance in case of unfavorable conditions or the impossibility of cross-pollination at a particular point in time. Therefore, the almost complete absence of autogamy in orchids has no evolutionary consequences.


One of the varieties of cross-pollination can be called adjacent pollination or geitonogamy. In this case, pollinia is transferred from flower to flower within one copy. This produces viable seeds.

But geitonogamy cannot guarantee a sufficiently complete genetic exchange, therefore geneticists can rightfully correlate this method of pollination with autogamy.

Geitonogamy of orchids occurs with the participation of intermediaries :

  • Insects (entomophilia);
  • Hummingbird (ornithophilia);
  • Or a person (artificial pollination).


The main form of cross-pollination of orchids can be considered xenogamy – the transfer of pollinas between the flowers of two different plants. This pollination has become predominant in most plant species through natural selection.

One of the types of pollination of orchids is xenogamy.

Xenogamy through the prism of genetics is the most progressive pollination, as it combines various genetic materials, giving the most stable, diverse and viable seed pool.

For the implementation of xenogamy, the same biotic intermediaries are required as for geitonogamy:

  • Insects;
  • Or birds.

In the process of artificial pollination of orchids, flower growers also prefer xenogamy.

Here is another guide on how to pollinate orchids to get seeds?

how are orchids pollinated in home?

To obtain seeds of tropical beauties at home, flower growers should be patient, in detail:

  • Study the structure of a flower;
  • The stages of the pollination process;
  • And possible surprises when working.
how are orchids pollinated in home

How to pollinate orchids at home?

Here is a step-by-step guide with explanation to obtain orchid seeds by pollination of orchids.


The main role in the process of pollination of orchids is played by miniature formations in the form of grains of various consistencies pollinia, which are essentially glued pollen (that is, male gametophyte).

ATTENTION! When pollinia enter the stigma of the pistil, the plant is pollinated, followed by the formation of a seed.

Pollinium is present in the largest number of orchid species. Due to the presence of these specific formations in the flower, the “daughters of the air” cannot spread pollen with the help of the wind, they definitely need an intermediary.

Each flower usually contains an even number of pollinia, taking on a variety of configurations. The pollen grains that makeup they lose their own shell during gluing and are protected only by a general cover.

Pollinium, with the help of a leg (caudicula), is connected to a sticky disc (a sticky disk for attaching to a pollinator), is a pollinarium.

Required tools

The most important “tools” required when carrying out pollination of orchids at home are the accuracy and patience of the grower since the operation is too scrupulous. There are enough mechanical assistants:

  • Tweezers;
  • Toothpicks;
  • And maybe magnifiers.

These instruments must be disinfected without fail .

Anther caps their location and separation

At the edge of the flower column, there is an anther covered with a cap (translucent film) with a small tail. The cap protects the polylines in the boot.

The orchid cap is designed to protect pollinia.

Very carefully, using tweezers or a toothpick, you need to separate the cap by pulling the tail to get to the pollinies. Usually, after this procedure, the pylines do not remain on the flower – they are separated along with the cap .

Extraction of polylines

Pollinium is a small yellow ball on a leg. They are carefully peeled from the cap film, being careful not to touch the sticky appendage, which serves to attach to pollinating insects.

Entering polylines into a column niche

On the other flower, at the base of the column, you can see a small depression – the niche of the column. It is there that the ovary is located, and it is there that it is necessary to introduce polliniums with extreme caution, without touching the walls of the column with the tools.

These walls have a sticky surface due to a special substance (stigma) that will help anchor the polylines. All polylines can be used, but one is enough for success.

Nuances and risks at work

The work should be carried out very carefully, taking into account some of the nuances :

  • If the pollinium is carelessly detached from the cap, you can accidentally touch the sticking stick – in this case, it will not be possible to introduce the pollinium to the column, since it will stick to the instruments, and its integrity may be violated;
  • When polliniums are introduced into a niche, even a slight pressure threatens that the column may fall off seed formation will not occur. The column wall should only touch the polylines.

Read out Do Orchids Have Pollen Allergy?

what happens after orchid pollination?

After the procedure, the appearance of the flowers changes literally every other day: both flowers participating in the operation will certainly wither. The flower that has become a donor will simply dry out and fall off due to mechanical damage. The fertilized specimen will wait for the results of the procedure.

Early stages of seed capsule development

If fertilization has taken place, then in a day the flower will begin to fade. The successful completion of the procedure will be indicated by the closure of the hole into which the pollinium was injected.

After fertilization, the orchid flower withers.

After that, the place in the area of ​​the ovary (at the base of the flower) will gradually increase in size due to the forming and growing seed pod.

what happens after orchids flower pollinated

Withering of the flower after the procedure

The flower itself, which has undergone the operation, will gradually wither, but will not fall off, since its base (the place of attachment to the peduncle) will serve as a container for the seedbox.

Box appearance

The process of enlarging the capsule lasts about 5 months – then it will reach its largest size (up to 10 cm). It will take some more time for the seeds to ripen. The full cycle from the separation of pollinia to obtaining seeds takes 6 – 8 months, depending on the species.

Inadmissibility of cracking the seed box

The process of seed ripening must be closely monitored.

ADVICE! As soon as the capsule begins to turn brown, the seeds are ready for planting.

If cracking of the capsule is allowed, then this will greatly complicate the process of planting seeds with their minimum size, it is difficult to disinfect before sowing. And without disinfection, the seeds will not survive germination.

Can we pollinate Several flowers on one plant?

It is not forbidden to pollinate several flowers of the same specimen at the same time this will somewhat increase the chances of successful completion of the procedure and obtaining viable seeds. In addition, flowers on a disturbed inflorescence will not be able to bloom for a long time, even if only one flower was involved.

But to prevent the weakening of the orchid after the formation of the ovary, do not leave too many bolls on the plant:

  • It is better to keep the largest ones;
  • And delete the rest.

Can we use different type of orchid flower for pollination?

Tropical beauties are distinguished by a rather easy formation of hybrids in domestic culture and in the natural growing environment. Hybrids can be obtained by crossing different species or even different genera of orchids. Therefore, the pollination of various specimens is expedient from a scientific point of view or simply for the purpose of the experiment.

YOu must check out Vietnam Orchids varieties care etc.


Orchids give in to pollination quite easily – the process itself, with sufficient knowledge and skill, will not be significant difficulties. By following a few rules, you can achieve the desired result and get a seedbox.

But there is no guarantee that the seeds are ripe and viable. When starting the process, you should stock up on:

  • Knowledge;
  • Colossal patience;
  • And the desire to carry out their experiments over and over again.

As a result, you can get a new hybrid form, which requires proper care.

I am an avid plant enthusiast and horticulture aficionado with a deep passion for houseplants. With years of nurturing green companions, my expertise in caring for indoor foliage is well-rooted. Through my journey, I've cultivated insights into optimal plant care, propagation techniques, and creating vibrant indoor ecosystems. Join me as we explore the verdant world of houseplants together. Let's turn your living space into a thriving oasis of botanical beauty. Connect with me on and Facebook and explore more at Houseplantspro. 🌿🪴