Have you ever walked by something so pretty you just couldn’t resist? Or maybe a piece of food that just smelled so good that you had to have a bite? Well, that is me and my love for Vanda orchids. I neeeed them.
Vanda orchids come in the most amazing colors and have huge flowers that will stop you in your tracks. A single flower can be nearly 3″ across. Vanda orchids are distinctively different from other types of orchids in that they do not need to be in any type of orchid bark or moss, and prefer to grow simply hanging in the air. The name ‘epiphyte’ comes from the Greek word ‘epi’ meaning ‘upon’ and ‘phyton’ meaning ‘plant’. You may find these along a tree trunk or even grown in a basket. A vanda orchid is an epiphyte in its truest form!
You can see here how the vanda orchid roots look kind of like small stems or maybe even a branch. The new health roots have a swollen appearance and a green tip to show their health and vigor. I have older vandas that have a few dried up, kind of withered looking roots that are no longer alive. The ones on this vanda are beautiful and healthy.
Unlike many orchids, vanda orchids actually prefer to grow in almost full sun. I was shocked when I first learned of this requirement! After attending an orchid culture class where this was explained I went home and rearranged all of my hanging vanda orchids so that they were getting more sun. Wouldn’t you know that in a few weeks they started to bloom!
Luckily, the wire hangers that mine are growing on make rearranging very easy and allows to move plants according to the season or shifting sun. It is one of the easiest plants that you can move around and makes adjusting very simple. It also allows you to move plants to more prominent locations when they are in full bloom and then tuck away to a good growing location when they are finished flowering.
I once purchased a stunning vanda orchid at a roadside stand to take home to my dad in Iowa. This gorgeous, and huge, specimen was my carry-on. It was a pain in the ass! We both made it to Iowa in good shape and while the plant did great in the summer it really languished in the winter months when the extremely dry air made it almost impossible to keep the roots moist. This is the key to caring for vanda orchids.
Vanda Orchid Culture
Because their roots are so exposed, it is important to mist or spray vanda orchids once a day. In Florida summers, the daily rains usually take care of this, not to mention the 90% humidity that keeps them happy. During the rest of the year, and now as we head into November, it is more important than ever to start spraying them with a hose each day (for me this is a perfect task to do along with watering the chickens!).
Vanda orchids do need to be fertilized and will flower much more so when this is done. Without any growing medium, how do you apply fertilizer? I like to have a little 1-gallon pump sprayer with a weak solution of water soluble fertilizer, like MiracleGrow, sitting in my shed. After I get done watering on Sundays I take my little sprayer outside, pump it up, and give all of the orchids a little spray of fertilizer water. I spray both the leaves and the roots since each are able to absorb this diluted fertilizer solution.
I’ve been purchasing vanda orchids lately all over central Florida. It is almost to addiction status! The flowers are enormous and I’ve found some really lovely color combinations, such as this beautiful white and lavender flower. Make sure to keep your eyes open for these beauties and think about trying at least one.
Not sure how Vanda Orchids fit in to the other orchids with which you are more familiar? My friends at FTD.com have created this really cool graphic below that shows the relationships of many of our orchids. If you scroll almost all the way to the bottom you will find vanda orchids in the tribe Vandeae. Surprisingly, the common phalenopsis orchids are also in this tribe. I feel a shopping list developing in my head as I look at this! Are there others on here that you have tried and had success growing? Are there some that were definitely not successful? I would love to hear about your gardening experiences in the comment field!