Botanical Name: Vanda spp.
Let's face it, unless you live in the tropics, Vanda orchid is a challenge to grow.
Why? It needs ample light year-round to make it grow and bloom. And that's not all. High humidity and good air circulation are essential.
Vandas are BIG plants with fanned-out foliage and long, draping roots...not your typical windowsill dwellers. Smaller hybrids, such as Vanda tricolor and compact Vanda coerulea are better suited for indoor growing.
Vanda orchids are monopodials (they grow from a single, upright stem) with long, strappy leaves fanning outward.
You can expect flower spikes along the top part of the stem on mature plants. Vanda orchids can bloom any time of year, with the heaviest flowering in spring and summer. They may bloom 2 or 3 times a year, as long as their needs are met. Bright light and cool nights will spark blooming.
Flower spikes grow from the stem, appearing from between every third leaf or so.
Both the petals and sepals are rounded and sport lines, splotches and dots in a contrasting color. The lip of many Vanda species are small and a solid color.
Most Vandas are epiphytes in their native habitats (they grow on tree branches). To immitate their native aerial lifestyle, Vandas are often grown in slatted baskets, suspended so that the roots hang through the slats below.
Fill the basket with big chunks of fir bark, coconut husks or even wine corks to anchor a new plant. If you prefer, you can skip the medium entirely by holding the plant in place with wire, just until its roots take hold of the basket.
Of course, this type of planting is only practical if you're growing them in a warm, humid greenhouse, where you can water or mist frequently and allow the excess water to drain freely.
For growing in the home, clay orchid pots work best. Vandas prefer clay pots to plastic because clay breathes, allowing air to get to the orchid's roots. Use coarse fir bark as the medium to hold moisture around the roots while allowing air circulation.
Vanda orchid likes free-flowing air as in its native tree-dwelling habitat. Put it where it'll get plenty of air circulation. Fans are fine, but keep it away from heat/AC vents.
Vandas love humidity. Oh, boy...do they love humidity! Check the relative humidity with an indoor humidity gauge. If it drops below 50%, use a humidity tray or a cool room humidifier. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the moisture in the air around them.
Wondering whether to repot? Repot your orchid every couple years because the medium will become compact. The best time to repot is when new growth begins, probably late winter or early spring.
Problems with Vanda orchid are usually related to insufficient light and humidity or improper watering.
Limp or yellow leaves are often a symptom of overwatering. Remember Vanda's epiphytic nature: its roots are bathed in humidity and washed with rainwater, hanging in the open air. Aim to keep roots moist at all times, but not soggy which leads to root rot.
Brown spots on foliage can be scorch marks from direct sunlight or, more likely, leaf spot disease.
Origin: Tropical Asia, India and Australia
Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm)
Light: Bright light year-round. Put your Vanda orchid where it'll get plenty of bright light, but out of direct sun. If you don't have a spot near a window, indoor plant lights will keep them from sulking, even through the winter months. Place orchids about 8 inches (20 cm) beneath the light for 14-16 hours a day. That allows several hours of darkness at night. Orchids need a rest, too.
Water: Vanda orchids need lots of moisture. How to water depends on how you're growing them. Large plants suspended from baskets have roots exposed to the air and will need watered daily. Mist or soak the roots in room-temperature water for about 20 minutes. Orchids grown in bark medium will stay moist longer. Water the medium thoroughly, then allow it to dry out a bit before watering again. Never allow the roots to dry out completely. Use rainwater or distilled water because tap water may contain fluoride and chlorine.
Humidity: Moderate to high, preferably 50-80% relative humidity. It's a good idea to use a humidity tray or room humidifier. Get tips for raising indoor humidity.
Temperature: 70-85°F/21-29°C during the day, with a 15° drop in temperature at night to trigger flower buds.
Soil: Use coarse fir bark to hold moisture, while allowing air around the roots.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with an orchid fertilizer all year round.
If you don't have a greenhouse, you'll find the miniature and compact hybrids easier to accommodate. Vanda cristata, Vanda coerulea and Vanda denisoniana are ideal for growing indoors.
The Vanda Alliance includes more than 40 species and countless hybrids.