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The Cattleya "Cut-Divide-and-Conquer" Multiplier Method
By Slipperhead at 2007-01-31 00:14
"Chat" Chatfield was 96-years old when my wife and I met him at a small orchid show in southern California in 1990. He told us all about his orchids and invited me over to see his greenhouse and help with some repotting. I stopped by his place that following weekend and went home that evening with sore fingers after helping to divide and repot about 50 specimen-sized orchids! I also took home three healthy, newly-potted Cattleya divisions for my efforts! That was the beginning of my orchid indoctrination and addiction!!! Over the next few years, Mr. Chatfield taught me everything I would need to know about growing orchids. Orchid-growing fads come and go, but the basics he taught me have never changed!
One of his many lessons involved a handy method of dividing plants when your Cattleya has 7 or more pseudobulbs or is nearing the edge of its pot. This can be especially helpful for those plants that seem to prefer to grow in a straight line and only have one blooming lead at a time. Also, this method gives your back bulb divisions a head start with a new lead prior to repotting instead of repotting the back bulbs with NO leads and lots of stress!
Here’s what you do...
Start with a plant that has at least 7 growths of any size. Count 3 or 4 growths from the lead growth and make a cut all the way through the rhizome with a clean cutting tool. Do not disturb the plant in any other way!
Write the current date on an old plant stick from one of your dead plants and place the stick all the way through the cut as shown. The purpose of the stick is to simply identify the location and date of the cut, not to keep the cut from healing itself.
Return the plant back to its shelf and continue loving care; nothing different than before.
With luck, you'll get an extra growth or TWO fairly quickly from dormant eyes located on the back bulbs. If the plant is not in active growth, you probably won’t see results until it returns to life so BE PATIENT!!! This method works almost every time on a healthy plant!
When the new growths are a few inches high, the plant is ready to repot! Gently pull the two pieces of the plant apart and pot in appropriately sized pots. Make up an extra tag and share the plant with a friend!
You can see from the photo that I got good results with this plant in about 6 weeks. This plant, the venerable Blc. Toshie Aoki "Pizzaz" AM/AOS, was growing in a straight line and had been since conception. Not only did I successfully induce the back division to initiate a new growth but it appears the front division has gotten a boost as well with two new growths and a third just beginning!!! The plant stick shown on the left is pointing at the new back division growth. The vertical tag has the “bulb cut date” and is still inserted completely through the rhizome cut.
Divide before you repot using this method and your plants will get a good head start almost every time!!!

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