I've been really curious about using orchid keiki paste to activate dormant nodes on Nepenthes. The paste is mainly used on orchids to create a "keiki", or baby orchid, on a dormant node on a spent flower stalk. I've read about other Nepenthes growers using it to stimulate basal shoots on Nepenthes, the most well documented instance on an old FlyTrapCare forum post. Another old forum post shows great efficacy on Heliamphora tatei. After searching FaceBook for keiki paste on Nepenthes, I found several individuals that reported success when gently cutting away the woody stem and coating the exposed green tissue with keiki paste. Emboldened, I decided to try it out myself!
My procedure of all of the following experiments was basically the same - sterilize a sharp razor blade with rubbing alcohol and dry with clean paper towel, then carefully shave off the woody exterior off the stem until some green tissue was exposed. Then I carefully applied a pea-sized ball of keiki paste using a Q-tip, being very careful not to get any on my skin. In general I tried to cut above where I thought a dormant node might be (juncture of leaf joint).
All plants were initially treated on November 14 2020 and were observed closely for 2 years - October 2022!
Experiment 1: Failed stem cutting
This stem cutting hasn't done anything for months! I believe it has rooted since it resists a gentle tug, but there has been no activation in either node. I think it would be really awesome if I could use keiki paste to reliably activate the lowest node on stem cuttings! I added a small ball of paste to the lowest node and crossed my fingers!
RESULTS - Many months later, the lower node never activated - upper node was the only successful growth from this cutting.
Experiment 2: Nepenthes maxima x jacquelineae
I struggled with my Nepenthes maxima x jacquelineae for over a year on the windowsill before finally moving it to my terrarium, where it exploded in growth! It struggled for such a long time that it has this ugly bare stem coiled on the surface of the media. It would be really nice to have a basal down there! It is also in danger of quickly outgrowing my terrarium at the rate it is going. Hopefully some of that vigor will be transferred to a basal shoot!
RESULTS: This plant did produce additional basals, but none of them were located at the original cut site. Whether or not this was directly related to the addition of keiki paste or not is difficult to determine.
Experiment 3: Nepenthes robcantleyi
My robcantleyi is basically leaning out of control to one side! I'm hoping a basal shoot will balance it back out. I also struggled with this plant for a while before I could figure it out, so there is a lot of ugly bare stem.
RESULTS - My robcantleyi continues to lean out of its pot at a crazy angle, with no basal production. I eventually suspended this pot so it could grow at an angle. The stem has since completely healed since the application of the keiki paste.
Experiment 4: Nepenthes maxima
I just recently removed the top half of the climbing stem on my Nepenthes maxima. The apical growth point was starting etiolate from lack of light up near the ceiling, so I made the difficult decision to cut it off (even though I do hope that it flowers again soon!) The applies keiki paste to the main stem in hopes of a new basal to replace the recently cut climbing stem. This particular plant also has a mature second growing point, but I really love the look of multiple growing points on the same plant (double the pitchers!) as long as the plant is vigorous enough to support multiple growth points. This climbing stem basically grew 6 feet in a couple of months, so I don't think this plant is lacking for anything hahaha.
RESULTS - Nepenthes maxima has since produced many basals, but none of them at the original cut site. Whether or not basal production was encouraged by keiki paste or just a result of vigorous growth is impossible to determine.
Experiment 5: Nepenthes x Dyeriana - lowers or uppers?
This one I am very curious about! Almost all of the pictures I have seen of N. x Dyeriana pitchers have been of the iconic uppers - very large in size, reduced wings, and tendril exiting out the back. Just recently I saw some pictures of N. x Dyeriana lowers! They have much larger wings and the tendril exits to the side. I am very curious to see if this basal ends up with lowers or uppers because I deliberately chose a node at ground level. We will see!
RESULTS - Dyeriana did NOT activate a lower node until MUCH later (over two years after application of the keiki paste) and is likely a result of topping the main growth point and not because of the applied hormones. The original cut site was completely healed over after application and before basal production. However, the lower basal does appear to be producing lower pitchers!
Experiment 6: Stalled basal on Nepenthes x tiveyi "Red Queen"
Now this is an interesting one! I received my Nepenthes x tiveyi "Red Queen" as a rooted cutting back in June 2020. At the base of it was this tiny basal. I thought perhaps the tiny basal would start growing again once the plant acclimated... but no! It has remained exactly the same for nearly 5 months! I hope that the keiki paste jumpstarts the basal to grow again. I have no idea what will happen here!
RESULTS - The stalled growth actually DIED after application of keiki paste! Whether death of the node was hastened by the keiki paste or it was already on its way out before the paste was applied is impossible to determine.
Experiment 7: Nepenthes sanguinea "Orange"
This sanguinea is growing very vigorously, but it also has a case of the leans! It would be really nice to have a second growing point on the opposite side to balance it out. This sanguinea also holds on to its pitchers for a very long time - it would be great to have double the pitchers on this plant!
RESULTS - The original cut site was completely healed over by the time this plant produced a basal, which was likely the result of cutting the main growth point rather than a direct consequence of keiki paste application.
WELL... at least the results here are succinct. NONE of these experiments resulted in an activated node. Although many plants did eventually produce basals, all original cut sites were completely healed over by the time the basals grew and were likely the result of removing the main growth point and/or vigorous growth instead of the keiki paste. I did not observe any negative implications from the keiki paste, but I also did not observe any benefits. I did not have a handy Phaelonopsis orchid bloom stalk to use a my positive control, so it is possible the keiki paste itself was inactive. At least for my growing practices, keiki paste has not beneficial or negative consequences, so I will not be using it again.
If you would like to see how the plants are doing, I have been posting updates to my Instagram, @Nepenthes_Diary every couple of days or so! Happy growing!
Took a break the other day to maintain some of my leggy Stapeliads and prop them in a reused carry-out container! Going to try rooting in 50% potting soil and 50% perlite. This mix is very light, airy, and fast-draining, but still holds some moisture and nutrients, so it should be perfect for getting these to strike. I used bent paper clips to hold some of the wobbly cuttings in place. Can't wait to share these with my friends!