Vanda orchids are fragrant and they are best known for being one of the only orchids that produce blue flowers, though they also produce many other colors. The flowers have flat petals, but what distinguishes them from other orchids with similar appearing blooms is the rambling roots that grab on to trees and other objects. These orchids are best planted in the early spring as they're coming out of their winter dormancy, and they will grow fairly quickly under optimal conditions.
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|Common Name||Vanda orchid|
|Botanical Name||Vanda spp.|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Part bright sunlight, part shade|
|Soil Type||Soilless growing medium, such as peat moss or bark|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Bloom Time||Cyclical, every few months|
|Flower Color||Pink, red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 (USDA)|
Vanda Orchid Care
Vanda orchids are not the best choice for beginners to grow. Even among more experienced growers, the plants require certain elements that can be hard to deliver at home: high humidity, high temperatures, bright light, and good airflow, as well as periods of drenching "rain" followed by a dry period. Additionally, these specimens can easily grow to 5 or 6 feet in length when including their curtain of aerial roots. For these reasons, vandas are better suited for a greenhouse, where they can flourish under overhead irrigation and sunlight.
Vandas are monopodial orchids, meaning they grow from a single stem with roots emerging from the bottom. The leaves are alternating, climbing the stem in a ladder-like progression. Older vandas frequently branch, and if left undivided the plants can grow into very large specimens. Vandas flower from spikes that emerge from the central stem and poke out between the leaves.
Vanda orchids are known for large, robust roots that are difficult to contain in any sort of pot. Vandas are primarily epiphytic, meaning they attach their roots to the surface of a nearby plant or debris to obtain moisture and nutrients, rather than growing in soil.
Vandas require bright light, but they generally don't thrive in full sunlight. They can acclimate to full sun, though plants grown in those conditions are generally washed out and not as healthy as those grown under a shade cloth to take the edge off strong sunlight. Be aware of the species of vanda you have, as some require more sunlight than others.
These orchids naturally grow in rocky areas with little soil. Their large roots meander through the air and grasp onto nearby trees and other objects. Growing them in a typical potting soil can kill the plants. Instead, opt for a basket that allows good airflow for the roots. To keep the plant in place, add bark, peat moss, or another soilless medium to the basket. You also can use a potting medium specifically made for orchids. Eventually, the roots will attach to the basket to hold the plant upright.
Vandas require a great deal of water. In periods of high temperatures they might need to be watered twice a day. Water roughly once a week during winter dormancy. Keep the container's medium consistently moist but not soggy during the growing season.
Temperature and Humidity
Vandas prefer temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate lower temperatures, but prolonged exposure to cold can have a profound effect on a plant's growth and flowering. Exposure to any temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can cause delayed flowering for up to a year.
Likewise, vandas require high humidity to thrive. They need a humidity level of at least 60 percent, and preferably around 80 percent. To raise the humidity, place your plant on a tray of gravel filled with water, and don't let the roots sit directly in the water.
Vandas are heavy feeders, and well-fed plants bloom better. Fertilize weekly with a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer throughout the growing season. You can switch to a high-phosphorus fertilizer on every third application to promote better blooms. During cool weather, cut back the fertilizer to every two to four weeks.
Types of Vanda Orchids
There are around 80 species and many more hybrids and subspecies in the Vanda genus of orchids. Here are a few of the many beautiful species of Vanda:
- Vanda coerulea: Known as the blue orchid, this compact species features attractive, long-lasting, blue-purple flowers.
- Vanda sanderiana: This orchid, also known as waling-waling or Sander’s vanda, comes in pink and white varieties.
- Vanda tessellata: Commonly referred to as the lattice-like patterned flower vanda or checkered vanda, this plant has yellow petals with brown lines and white margins.
Propagating Vanda Orchids
Vanda orchids are only rarely propagated from seeds, as the seedlings are very delicate and the process can take a long time. Instead, these orchids are usually propagated from cuttings.
Vanda orchids develop small offshoots with leaves, usually found just above the main root structure. When one of these offshoots has two or three leaves and aerial roots, you are ready to propagate the cuttings. Follow these simple steps to propagate cuttings:
- When the offshoot is 2 to 3 inches long, use a sterilized garden cutting tool to carefully cut it away from the main stem—offshoot leaves and roots in one section.
- Replant the shoot in an orchid growing mix. Be sure to use the right container with plenty of air circulation and drainage, such as a basket or clay pot.
- Keep it constantly moist as the roots anchor themselves in the growing medium.
- Water and feed the plant as you would an established plant.
Potting and Repotting Vanda Orchids
Vandas don't need repotting often, maybe every 2 to 3 years as the plant outgrows the space, but the aerial roots don't mind hanging out of the basket. If they need more space and you like to keep them contained, you can simply place the plant with its old basket into a new, larger basket. Work fresh growing media around the roots, but avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible, as this can seriously stress the plant. If you prefer to completely repot your orchid, take these steps:
- Choose a basket or clay pot that's about 1 inch larger in diameter than the old container.
- Firmly and gently pull the plant by its base from the old container. If you are pulling your orchid from a clay pot, sometimes it helps to simply break the pot with the tap of a hammer and release the plant that way.
- Rinse the roots in clear, fresh water. Trim off any dead or rotted root matter.
- If you are using a clay pot, fill it about a third of the way up with pebbles for drainage. Baskets have better drainage so there's no need for this step.
- Put the plant in its new container and spread out the roots.
- If you are using a basket, weave the roots through the basket slots and wire the stem base in place with plant wire. Use soilless growing media to further hold the plant in place.
- Add the soilless potting medium to both a basket or clay pot to further anchor the plant.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Mealybugs will be the biggest problem with this orchid and you'll have to search for them as they often hide inside the plant where the leaf and stem meet. Scale and aphids can also all be problems for vanda orchids. A carefully applied insecticidal soap or oil applied is the best remedy.
How to Get Vanda Orchids to Bloom
If you are wondering why your temperamental vanda isn't blooming, you aren't alone. Healthy vandas reward their diligent owners with profuse blooms in vibrant colors throughout the year. So, how do you persuade your vanda to bloom? If you are fertilizing your plant enough, there are two main reasons a vanda that is old enough to bloom won't produce flowers: lighting problems and dehydration.
Move your vanda away from a super bright light to a spot with slightly more subdued light. Yes, vandas love very bright light, but you may need to adjust the timing of when the plant gets its light. Try moving your plant to a spot where there's intensely bright morning light, but more subdued sunlight the rest of the day.
Make sure the roots are healthy and hydrated. They should be plump, green, and not dried out. A dehydrated orchid won't have enough energy to bloom. This may require more watering. Or, soak the roots in a bucket of fresh, room temperature water for 15 minutes once a day.
Common Problems With Vanda Orchids
Vanda orchids are sensitive plants that can be plagued with problems if they don't receive just the right amount of light and water. The most common cause of plant death is too much or too little water. Here are some signs of common problems with vanda orchids:
Vandas love their water, but overwatering will cause the plant to grow slowly and develop root rot, indicated by leaves that begin to shrivel. Under-watered plants will also result in shriveled leaves.
Overwatering a vanda orchid may cause the flowers to swell and develop blisters.
Sticky Substance on Buds and Leaves
You may think you have a pest infestation that's producing "honeydew," but this sticky substance on your buds is actually a natural sap the orchid produces. The sap may also drip onto the leaves and make them sticky. Simply dissolve the sap by misting the buds and leaves with water.
Leaves Turning Yellowish Green
Too much light is rare for these orchids, but if they get too much direct sun, vandas will turn yellowish-green or red.
Too little light causes the plant to produce deep green leaves, spindly growth, and weak flowers.
Can vanda orchids grow in an outdoor garden?
Like most orchids, these are almost always grown as indoor houseplants. While it's possible to grow them in the garden in tropical climates (zones 10 and 11), the environmental needs are so demanding that it is rarely done.
Where should I put my vanda orchid in my house?
Vandas are large plants with meandering and draping roots that take up lots of room, so greenhouses are best for most varieties. If you prefer growing one on a windowsill with bright light, opt for compact vandas such as Vanda tricolor or Vanda coerulea.
What are alternatives to vanda orchids?
There are plenty of orchids that are easier to grow that are just as pretty as the vanda. Consider the Lady of the Night (Brassavola nodosa) orchid, which is also an epiphytic orchid, but usually grown with success. Or try a non-epiphytic orchid, such as the phalaenopsis (or moth orchid), which is ideal for beginners.