Choose the Right Vanda Species for Your Environment
There are over 80 individual species of vanda orchids ranging in size, color, and climate preferences. The most commonly cultivated vandas include V. sanderiana, V. coerulea, and V. tricolor.Some species, like V. coerulea, prefer cooler temperatures, while others, such as V. sanderiana, thrive in hot, humid environments. Always research the specific requirements of the vanda species you choose to ensure you can provide adequate conditions.
Vandas produce some of the most impressive blooms in the orchid world. Flowers can be up to six inches in diameter and come in vibrant colors like hot pink, red, yellow and orange. The blooming season and duration can also vary significantly between vanda species. Some vandas bloom once per year, while others may bloom on and off throughout the year. Choose a vanda species with a blooming habit and color that fits your preferences.
The size and shape of vanda orchids can also differ greatly between species. Some vandas remain compact, under a foot in height, while other species can grow to over six feet tall with massive foliage. Consider how much space you have and your ability to properly support a large vanda species before choosing one. Always opt for a vanda that you can comfortably grow and display. With so many diverse species, you can find a vanda orchid to suit any environment or gardening skill level.
Prepare Your Growing Environment for Vanda
Providing the proper environment is key to successfully growing vanda orchids. Vandas originate in tropical areas of Asia, so they require very warm temperatures, bright light, and high humidity. Never expose a vanda to freezing temperatures.
Vandas need very bright light, such as an east- or west-facing window that provides lots of indirect sunlight during the day. Direct southern exposure may sunburn the leaves, especially in the summer. If natural light is insufficient, use artificial plant lights to supplement. Vandas should receive 12-16 hours of light per day.
The ideal temperature range for most vanda orchids is 75-95 F during the day and 65-75 F at night. Higher temperatures may cause dehydration, while lower temperatures can damage growth. Consider using a thermometer to monitor temperatures, especially in an indoor environment.
Vandas require 50-70% relative humidity to thrive. Use a humidifier or humidity tray filled with pebbles and water to increase the humidity around your vanda orchid. Never mist a vanda directly, as this can lead to disease issues.
Strong air circulation discourages disease and also mimics the breezy conditions of the vanda’s native habitat. Use an electric fan to keep the air moving around your vanda, but avoid direct drafts. Air circulation is especially important if you are relying on artificial light, heating, or cooling for your vanda.
Vanda orchids are epiphyticorchids, so they grow on tree branches in nature. They should be potted in a porous, fast-draining medium like bark chips, charcoal, perlite, or sphagnum moss. Only repot if roots emerge from drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Repotting in the middle of the growing season can stress the plant.
Water vanda orchids frequently while potting media is slightly damp. Water thoroughly until it flows from the drainage holes, then allow to dry out about halfway or slightly more before watering again. Always use rainwater or distilled water at room temperature. Reduce watering frequency in the winter when growth is slower. Never leave a vanda sitting in water, as root rot can develop quickly.
Potting and Watering Your Vanda Orchids
Vanda orchids are epiphytic orchids, so in nature they attach to tree branches. They should be potted in a porous, fast-draining medium that mimics the airy conditions they prefer. Suitable potting media include:
- Bark chips: Vanda orchids grow attached to tree bark in nature, so orchid bark chips are an ideal potting medium. Use medium to large bark chips.
- Charcoal: Activated charcoal is highly porous and airy. It is sterile and will not decompose. Charcoal alone may dry out too quickly, so mix with bark chips.
- Perlite: Lightweight, porous perlite helps mimic the airy conditions vandas prefer. However, perlite provides little nutrition and dries out quickly. Mix with bark chips or charcoal.
- Sphagnum moss: Long-fibered sphagnum moss retains moisture while still allowing for air circulation. It will eventually decompose, so avoid packing it too tightly. Mix with bark chips or charcoal for the best results.
Only repot if roots emerge from the base of the pot or every 2-3 years. Repotting more often can stress the plant. When repotting, choose a pot with ample drainage holes and insert a layer of packing peanuts or Styrofoam in the base for extra drainage and aeration. Select a pot that is 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot.
Water vanda orchids frequently, while allowing for some drying out between waterings. Water when the surface potting medium is nearly dry and fertilizer no longer drains freely from the pot base. Pour water through the potting medium until it flows freely from the drainage holes. Never leave stagnant water in the pot or else root rot can develop quickly. Water less in the winter when growth is slowed. Always use rainwater or distilled water and water in the morning so the foliage dries completely.
Fertilizing Your Vanda for Optimal Growth
Vanda orchids are heavy feeders that require regular fertilizer during the growing season to produce vibrant blooms and healthy growth. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium such as 10-10-10. The nitrogen promotes foliage growth, phosphorus supports flower formation, and potassium aids in root growth and plant vitality.
Feed vanda orchids once a week or every other week at one half the recommended strength. Use a low dose to avoid burning the roots. Always water your vanda thoroughly before fertilizing. Allow some of the water to drain from the pot before adding fertilizer. This will ensure the fertilizer is properly diluted which prevents burning of tender roots and foliage. Increase the frequency and dosage during the peak growing season in spring and summer.
Reduce or stop feeding in the fall and winter when growth slows down. Do not fertilize vandas at all during the short days of late December and January unless day temperatures are above 70 F. Resume regular fertilizing in late winter or early spring as soon as new growth starts to form.
It is critical to provide vandas with properly balanced nutrition for optimal growth and flowering. Both too little and too much fertilizer can negatively impact your vanda’s health and performance. Observe your vanda regularly to monitor how it is responding to the fertilizer. Adjust the type, dosage and frequency based on its specific needs.
Some signs of problems due to improper fertilizing include:
- Dark green, curly leaves: Indicates too much nitrogen. Reduce dosage and frequency of feeding.
- Spindly, weak growth: Usually means not enough fertilizer. Increase dosage and feeding frequency.
- Failure to flower: Can be caused by lack of phosphorus. Use a balanced fertilizer and follow recommended strength and schedule.
- Root burn: Shows up as brown, dehydrated roots. Flush pots thoroughly to remove built up fertilizer salts. Reduce feeding strength and increase frequency of irrigation.
- Thin, yellowed foliage: Suggests lack of potassium or other nutrients. Have indoor plant soil tested to determine deficiencies and supplement as directed.
Providing balanced and consistent nutrition is key to fostering health and vigor in vanda orchids. Carefully monitor your vanda’s response to fertilizer to determine the optimal schedule and strength for your conditions. Never overfeed, as too much fertilizer can easily burn roots and damage your vanda. With the proper regimen, fertilizer will support lush green foliage, abundant blooms, and strong root growth in vanda orchids.
Managing Common Vanda Pests and Diseases
Even with the best care, vanda orchids can be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. It is important to inspect your vandas regularly for any signs of infestation or infection and treat issues promptly to avoid damage. Some potential concerns for vanda orchids include:
- Scale, mealybugs and aphids: Inspect leaf undersides for white cottony masses (mealybugs/aphids) or brown bumpy scale. Remove with alcohol-soaked cotton swab or neem oil.
- Spider mites: Look for fine webbing and tiny red spiders on leaf undersides. Increase humidity and spray with insecticidal soap or predatory mites.
- Root mealybugs: Check roots for white cottony masses. Remove visible bugs and repot with fresh medium. Apply systemic insecticide if needed.
- Fungal leaf spot: Shows up as brown spots with yellow halos on leaves. Improve air circulation, reduce moisture on leaves. Treat with fungicide and remove badly infected leaves.
- Bacterial soft rot: Causes dark, mushy spots on leaves, petals or roots. Remove infected tissue and spray with bacteriacide. Repot if roots are affected.
- Root and crown rot: Roots and base of plant turn dark and mushy. Repot immediately and treat plant with fungicide.
Early detection of any problems is critical to protecting vanda orchids. Inspect plants thoroughly at least once a week for signs of pests or disease and treat immediately if found. Sterilize tools and pots before pruning or repotting to avoid spreading disease. Remove and dispose of severely infected foliage. Provide adequate air circulation and avoid excess moisture for disease prevention.
Chemical sprays should only be used when natural options are ineffective. Apply insecticides, miticides, fungicides, etc. precisely according to directions and never treat vandas when blooming. Use rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Soak roots as directed for certain problems. Always do test sprays on a few leaves first to check for phytotoxicity before treating the entire plant.
Vigilance and prompt action are key to managing problems in vanda orchids. Provide the proper cultural conditions to promote health and monitor plants regularly for any signs of pests or disease. When issues arise, treat them quickly using the least toxic method and make any needed improvements to conditions to prevent recurrence. With close attention, common vanda pests and diseases can be avoided for the most part and corrected when found.