Pollinating a Phalaenopsis orchid is something many growers try to do as they gain experience growing healthy plants that flower year after year. Pollination occurs when the pollen, called pollina in orchids, attaches to the stigma and fertilizes the embryo within the seeds. After pollination, the seed pod develops behind the flower. Orchid seed germination is difficult and hobby growers usually remove the pods just before they ripen and send them to mail-order laboratories for professional flasking.
Select a healthy Phalaenopsis orchid that is in bloom. Choose a recently repotted plant that has had time to establish and grow. You will not be able to repot while the seed pod is developing after pollination.
Select a flower that has been fully open for several days and has had time for the color to fully form and for the petals to look waxy.
Locate the column on the central part of the flower. It is the small tubular structure on the front where all of the petals and sepals attach in the center. It sits directly above the lip, which is the fancy petal with the hook-like tendrils.
Locate the anther cap on the tip of the column. It sits directly on the end and has a slight pointed piece that projects away from the column and points down toward the lip of the flower.
Place the end of the toothpick underneath the pointed part of the anther cap and gently pull up. This will pop off the anther cap like a lid. You may end up with two round yellow blobs attached to the end of your toothpick by a thin filament. These are the pollina, where the pollen is stored. Sometimes they do not come out of the anther cap as easily and need to be removed. Position the anther cap on its back so the pollina are exposed. Use the point of the toothpick to press on the thin membrane sticking out of the cap. It is sticky and will attach to the toothpick. Pull up and the pollina will separate from the cap and be attached to the toothpick.
Locate the stigma on the column. It is the shiny pit directly beneath where the anther cap was attached. There will be two small projections that look like fangs where you placed the toothpick to remove the anther cap. These stick out over the top of the stigma.
Push the pollina into the stigma. They will separate from the filament attached to the toothpick and will remain in the stigma.
Place the Phalaenopsis orchid back in its normal growing area. It will take about six to eight months to ripen the seed pod before it can be sent to a processing lab for flasking. During this time, remove any flower spikes that develop so it does not take energy away from the seed pod.