When growing ornamental plants, gardeners often take the natural route by growing plants from cuttings or seeds. All it takes is combining science with horticulture, and you’ve got the tissue culture method. Dominic Albis Galimba, a plant tissue culture expert, uses this method to grow the Philippine endemic orchid, waling-waling. “Through plant tissue culture, we can grow and conserve without taking the whole plant out of its natural habitat,” Galimba said. Galimba learned this method through his mentor, Raymundo Go Ong, an agricultural chemist who worked on the tissue culture of different orchids and ornamental plants for years.
“He told me that most plant tissue culture techniques cannot be read or obtained from research articles and books.”
Using the plant tissue culture method
With the plant tissue culture method, the plant doesn’t have to be extracted from its natural habitat for propagation. According to Galimba, the first step is to self-pollinate the waling-waling flowers and successfully gather their pods after four to four and a half months of harvesting time.
Caring for plant tissue culture grown waling-waling
Growing waling-waling through the plant tissue culture takes about four years according to Galimba. Galimba notes that the plants need to be transferred to a different sterile container every 10 to 12 weeks, and the containers should be stored on a shelf with natural or artificial light.
The pros and cons of the plant tissue culture method
As per Galimba, there are many benefits to using the plant tissue culture method. “Plant tissue culture is the best way to handle plants not only through conservation but also through new plant research,” Galimba said. It requires aseptic culture training or skills to avoid cross-contaminating the specimens, is labor-intensive because of the laboratory maintenance and subculturing of plants, and requires long-term investments since the plants take years to fully develop. Despite all these, Galimba is helping raise awareness about the tissue culture method by providing cheaper alternatives to home gardeners.