Some forms of orchid propagation are significantly easier than others. Growing orchids from seed is somewhat complex, divisions are straightforward, and propagation from keikis is easy! Advanced techniques such as meristem propagation are mostly for commercial growers.
I'll start with keikis. A "keiki" is a small plantlet that sometimes develops on an orchid's flower stem or at the nodes of pseudobulbs. Some orchids, such as many Dendrobium, Epidendrum, and Phalaenopsis species, form keikis spontaneously. These and other orchids can be "tricked" into forming keikis using keiki paste which has hormones to induce a plantlet to form. Once a keiki has developed a strong root system, and at least a few leaves or (for orchids with canes, such as Dendrobium, Epidendrum, and the Bamboo Orchid, Arundina graminifolia) reasonably long canes, it can be carefully cut off of the parent plant and potted up! If the keiki formed on a flower stem, I sometimes like to keep it attached to the parent plant while it gets established in its own pot, then separate it later. This is unnecessary, however. The keiki, like a small orchid seedling, doesn't need particularly special care while it matures, but it will be more vulnerable to poor care than blooming-size orchids. For example, if you go on vacation for a couple weeks it will succumb to drought more easily than a mature plant.
Divisions are also a fairly straightforward means of orchid propagation. For sympodial orchids, while repotting you can cut the rhizome into pieces, leaving at least three or four growths per piece, and pot the pieces up separately. You want each division to have at least one of the plant's leads (growths from the current year.) If the division consists entirely of old growth such as backbulbs, it is less likely to be successful. If you do pot up a group of backbulbs, you can nurse the division back to health and it should start to grow.
If a monopodial orchid, such as a Vanda, has developed a branched stem, it can be carefully cut apart at the fork and both halves planted, though this is a more advanced orchid division technique, and some care will be required to make sure the half with few roots gets established successfully. (Extra humidity helps.) Though dividing monopodial orchids is a bit risky, it can be quite rewarding, since you now have two mature plants!
Orchids produce millions of very tiny seeds which lack stored nutrients. In nature, they rely on having a few of these seeds land where they encounter a symbiotic mycorrhizal fungus, which provides the nutrients the seeds need to germinate. Orchid propagation from seed is difficul because of this lack of stored nutrients in orchid seeds.
While it is possible to sow orchid seeds at the base of the parent plant and occasionally have a few germinate, most orchids are grown from seed in sterile laboratory flasks on agar, which provides enough nutrients for germination. It's possible to do this yourself, if you're very careful to keep the agar and flasks sterile, and take precautions to sterilize the seeds, such as briefly soaking them in a dilute bleach solution. However, it's much easier and more reliable to look up a good "orchid flasking service." They'll germinate the seeds for you. Then they'll transfer a small number (about 30) of protocorms (germinated seedlings that don't have leaves yet) into a new flask where they will have enough room to develop. Once they reach a size where they are mature enough to grow without the agar solution, the orchid flasking service will ship you the flask! When it arrives, plant the seedlings close together in a community pot until they grow large enough to be potted individually. It will then be a few more years before they reach blooming size, for most types of orchids. Learn more in the orchid seed propagation section.
Awarded orchid cultivars are sometimes cloned and mass-produced by a commercial technique called meristem propagation, which involves cutting out the plant's growth tip. This is not a technique often used by hobbyists! A few other mass orchid propagation techniques exist as well, but most are out of hobbyists' reach.
To learn more about propagating orchids, browse the sections below:
Return from Orchid Propagation to Orchid Care Tips Home