Vanda (van-dah) Culture

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The Vanda originates from tropical Asia and is comprised of many different sub-families which are all considered and commonly called Vanda types. The Vanda family produces flowers in many colors, with the purple to blue varieties being the favorite among growers here in the Midwest. Mature plants can bloom 2-3 times a year and hold their blooms for up to 2 months. When the flowers expire simply cut the stem off at the point where it had emerged from the leaf. The following care instructions cover the many related inter-generic varieties and relatives of the Vanda.

LIGHT
To ensure good growth and profuse frequent flowering, the Vanda requires bright light year-round. While growing indoors, a bright east or west exposure that receives ample direct sun is recommended, or a south exposure where the plant is receiving a few hours of direct sunlight daily.

Vanda does best when grown outdoors here in Wisconsin during the months of June through October. Hang them from a tree or the overhang of your house, or place in a screened porch where they can receive some dappled sunlight. Vanda can benefit from higher intensities of light as the day length decreases towards fall and into winter, and vice-versa for the spring and summer. Try to provide as much light as possible for your plant throughout the year without causing sun burn on the leaves. Once your Vanda is in the flowering stage it is best to shade it from hot direct sun to prolong the life of the blooms.

TEMPERATURE
An important cultural element for flowering the purple and blue Vanda is that they require cool night temperatures of near 58 degrees. It is the cool night temperature that helps induce the flower spikes of this type of Vanda and it is for that reason we recommend to grow these outdoors from June through September.

While growing outdoors these plants do not mind periodic temperature dips into the 40’s at night, as long as the temperature rises at least 15 degrees or more during the day. It would be time to bring your Vanda indoors once the temperature differential between day and night becomes narrow; for example when the October day time temperature is consistently 50 degrees and the nights are 45 degrees. Do not ever allow your Vanda to freeze.

Once you have brought your Vanda indoors for the growing season of October through May, it is best to place them in a sunny area that experiences a nighttime temperature of 55 to 60 degrees. In the home this can be best achieved by using a basement area or a spare room that you are able to reduce the nighttime heat source. For the day time, it is still important that the plant experiences a rise in temperature of at least 10 degrees or more. On cloudy winter days an artificial heat source may be needed to achieve the proper daytime temperature differential, while the sunny days should generate enough warmth for an adequate temperature differential.

WATER
The Vanda has a very thick water retentive covering on their roots called velamen. This covering holds enough moisture to supply the plant between watering cycles and is why most Vanda are grown without a typical potting medium. Most frequently Vanda are seen grown with large pieces of charcoal or broken clay pot pieces as the potting medium. Basically this material is for anchoring the plant in the pot and not for water retention. When growing in a material such as that, we recommend watering the Vanda every day, to every other day.

Don’t let this frequency of watering prevent you from growing one of these beautiful plants because where there is a will, there is a way. Some of our wonderful customers report using a moist bath towel placed among the roots and then trailed to lie in a nearby container with water. Being away for several weeks has been successfully accomplished using this method.

The proper method of watering your Vanda is to run water across the roots slowly for a period of time to allow the velamen to soak up the water like a sponge. In some cases it is more convenient to soak the pot in water for several minutes. When the roots of the Vanda are dry they tend to appear somewhat white in color. As the water begins to saturate the velamen it begins to turn slightly green in color. This is your indication that you are watering the Vanda thoroughly and properly. If the Vanda leaves begin to fold into a tight “V” shape, then that is an indication the plant is starting to dehydrate and would need more frequent watering. Never allow your pot to stand in any water as this will cause root rot. Never use softened water on any of your orchids.

FERTILIZER
Vanda and their inter-generic relatives are fairly active growing plants, and therefore fertilizer is essential for good growth and profuse flowering. We recommend applying a 20-20-20 or similar balanced type fertilizer once a week throughout the entire year. A safe dilution ratio is one level teaspoon of fertilizer mixed in one gallon of water. Do not over-fertilize as this will cause permanent root damage.

HUMIDITY
Like most orchids, the Vanda enjoys a moderately humid climate of 50% or greater. While growing outdoors this is not an issue since we generally have adequate humidity in our Wisconsin summer climate. While growing indoors it is recommended to increase humidity around the plant simply by placing your plants on a humidity tray, misting them adequately in the morning, or grouping your plants all together in one area.

REPOTTING
We recommend repotting Vanda every year to every year and a half. If you are not experienced or comfortable doing this yourself we offer the repotting service at our greenhouse for a small fee. Your recently purchased Vanda may be ready for a repotting job as soon as it has finished flowering. Inquire with us as to when your individual plant was last repotted. Good indicators for a repot candidate are: when the plant has many air roots or roots outside the pot; when the pot is completely root bound or, when in some cases the roots may have rotted.

Since most Vanda are growing in an inert substance such as charcoal or clay pot pieces, the repotting is not done for the sake of replacing the potting medium but rather for the accommodation of the ever expanding root system.

To properly repot your Vanda simply remove it form the pot and allow all the existing material around the roots to fall away. Once you have all the material away from the roots you will be able to distinguish the healthy roots from the not-so-healthy, rotted roots. Trim away any rotted or dead roots using a scissors or pruning tool.

A note about orchid viruses: most commonly the transmission of orchid viruses is caused by using the same cutting tool on multiple plants. The most effective method to reduce virus transmission from plant to plant is to briefly flame sterilize all your cutting tools between use on each plant. A simple Butane torch or a gas stove are handy items for this purpose. This practice should be implemented when repotting as well as when cutting off expired flowering stems.

Once your Vanda is properly prepared it is time to select the appropriate size pot. Selecting the proper size pot is the next most important aspect in repotting a Vanda. Select a pot that is only large enough to accommodate the roots comfortably. If you need to force the root mass into the pot then it is not quite large enough and you may need one size larger. The rule of thumb is not to use any pot larger than what comfortably accommodates the roots. It is always recommended to use a new pot and be sure it has adequate drain holes in the bottom and/or side. The Vanda prefers to be potted into clay pots for the benefit of the porosity offered by the clay.

Next, place the roots in the pot and begin adding either the large charcoal pieces or the broken clay pot pieces. We highly recommend using broken clay pot pieces (about the size of your palm) from new clay pots as this material seems to work best for our cultural techniques. Generally less than ten pieces adequately secure the average 6-7 inch Vanda pot. Press these pieces in among the roots to give the plant some form of stabilization. This will make certain the plant will remain stable while developing new roots which in turn will ultimately secure the plant in the future. Water the roots thoroughly after the potting process is competed.

For more assistance with your Vanda or any other Orchid, please call us at 608-831-4700, send an email, or visit our store.

Happy growing, from Orchids Garden Centre & Nursery!