While orchids are hugely popular and are grown ornamentally in many parts of the world, not many know much about these enigmatic plants, or the vast number of cultivars any one orchid can fall under.
The orchid family of plants is the biggest plant family classification across the world, and while this fact can be staggering, it’s worth learning a little more about different orchid types, as this can vastly improve the care that you give them.
Vanda orchids are by no means the largest genus within the orchid family, but that doesn’t mean that they are not one of the most important.
Here’s everything you need to know about Vanda orchids.
At A Glance: What You Should Know About Vanda Orchids
What is a Vanda Orchid?
A vanda orchid falls under the orchid genus of the same name. There’s roughly 80 different species which make up this category, and most are grown commercially, all over the world for their beauty.
This particular genus is known for intensely pigmented flowers, which are both very long-lasting and highly fragranced.
The name of the genus comes from the Sanskrit name for Vanda tessellata, which is a specific species of orchid primarily used in medicine.
How to Recognize a Vanda Orchid
Most vanda orchids are epiphytic, which means they live off the surface of other plants. There are a few exceptions which are lithophytic, those that grow on rocks, and terrestrial orchids, which grow in the ground.
These are also orchids which have a monopodial growth habit, which means all the top growth emerges from a single point of the plant.
The appearance of the leaves depends on the habitat the vanda orchid comes from. Some feature cylindrical leaves which help the plant get through dry spells, while others have the classic ovoid or strap leaves that you see on many types of orchid.
When it comes to the flowers, they live about two or three weeks, appearing every few months if the plant is given the right conditions.
These flowers are flat, and they do feature a spur on the lip of the flower.
Most are golden-brown in color with maroon spots, but they also come in shades of white, orange, green, red, and purple.
The height of these gorgeous orchids ranges from species to species, some staying compact, while others can reach an impressive height of 6 feet tall.
Most species that make up the vanda genus are threatened in their natural habitats. Those that are collected from the wild are banned from being exported, as you’ll find them on the CITES list.
They are commonly grown and sold commercially as houseplants and cut flowers, and there have been many new hybrids created.
Types of Vanda Orchids You Should Try Growing Yourself
Vanda bensonii ‘Benson’s Vanda’
The Benson’s vanda orchid produces striking flowers with five petals each, and each bloom can reach 2 inches wide.
The heart of each flower is white and lilac, and the petals themselves are golden, marked with purple speckles. These flowers form clusters of about 20 or so individual blooms.
Vanda coerulea ‘Blue Orchid’
You may have come across blue orchids before, but the vast majority of them are dyed or sprayed to look blue (See also Blue Orchids: Are They Real?).
Vanda coerulea, on the other hand, is a naturally occurring true blue orchid. These flowers can be the palest blue imaginable, but they can also be the darkest shade of indigo, too.
Because of its unique blue flowers, it is also a parent of many hybrids.
Blue vanda orchids tend to reach a maximum height of 75cm, spreading to about 50cm wide.
Each plant can produce a maximum of thirty flower spikes, all of which flower for a prolonged period of time, making it one of the most popular cultivated orchids.
You’ll also see it sold under the name Autumn’s Lady Tresses, or Blue Vanda.
You’ll find it in the wild in parts of Southwest China, Northeast India, as well as in Thailand and Myanmar.
If you’re looking to buy a truly blue orchid, it’s worth buying from a reputable seller and paying a little more.
Not only are you guaranteed to actually get a naturally blue orchid instead of one that has been dyed, you’re also more likely to get one which has been given the right care, resulting in the healthiest orchid possible, while ensuring that the plant hasn’t been illegally poached.
Vanda Denisoniana ‘Denisoniana Vanda’
If you prefer orchids in warm, uplifting tones, you can’t go wrong with the Denisoniana vanda orchid.
It produces bright, sunshine-yellow to clementine-orange flowers, some of which are speckled in another color.
As if these special, treasure-warm tones weren’t enough, once evening comes, these fabulous flowers produce a sweet, vanilla perfume which only adds to their unique beauty.
Vanda miniata ‘Miniature Vanda’
If you prefer your orchid plants to be on the petite side, the miniature vanda is the perfect choice.
Fully mature miniature vanda orchids can fit into the palm of your hand, giving you an idea of just how small these gorgeous orchids are.
As some vanda orchids can get up to six feet tall, this is the perfect species for smaller indoor spaces.
Miniature vanda orchids have bright green leaves, as well as fully upright flowering stems which produce flowers in an array of color, including brilliant yellow, sunset-orange, to a crimson-orange.
Vanda tricolor ‘Tricolor Vanda’
Also known as the soft vanda, or the three-color vanda, the tricolor, as its name suggests, boasts flowers with three different colors.
These incredible flowers reach between two and three inches wide, consisting of a warm white tone, speckled with red to purple spots, turning a bright pink at the heart of the flower.
These blooms are heavily scented, which some people compare their fragrance to grapes.
The foliage is also a sight to see in itself, as they almost resemble the leaves of a palm.
It’s worth noting that the tricolor vanda orchid grows at a much slower rate than others. If you grow it from seed, it will be years before you see the first flowers forming.
How to Grow Vanda Orchids
Orchids have a reputation for being extremely difficult to grow, but all you need to do is to put aside those assumptions of what you think an orchid might need, and look at what the plant itself tells you.
It can be tricky to know whether you’re doing the right things for a plant, providing them with the right care, but plants always have a way of letting you know.
The first indicator is the leaves. If they start to look shrivelled or unhealthy, you are probably overwatering it, or underwatering it.
Flowers that drop from the plant before they have reached the end of their life can also indicate the conditions are wrong.
But what are the ideal conditions for vanda orchids? Let’s take a look.
Sunlight and Soil Requirements
The amount of sunlight which a vanda orchid requires depends on the species. The good news is that you can tell from the shape of the leaves as to what level of light the plant needs.
Strap leaf orchids, which have ovate leaves, require partial shade at all times, and some form of protection against direct sunlight, as this will burn the leaves.
Terente vanda orchids, which have thick, cylindrical foliage, require bright indirect light. Do not put them in sunlight, or they will wither.
Semi-terente vanda orchids have leaves which resemble a mixture of the above types. Keep them in indirect light.
Temperature and Humidity
Vanda species of orchid are used to warmer climates, so ideally, you need to keep them somewhere warm that gets no lower than 55°F (12°C), but no higher than 95°F (35°C).
Make sure the temperature doesn’t drop lower than 55°F at night, as vanda orchids are not hardy. While they will withstand some cold for a very short amount of time, it can damage the plant.
Ideally, you also need to keep vanda orchids somewhere with high levels of humidity, at about 80%. This will ensure healthy growth.
To improve the humidity, you can either use a plant humidifier, or you can sit the pot in a tray of wet gravel, making sure that this water cannot touch the roots.
When to Water a Vanda Orchid
Most orchids like the tricky balance of being constantly moist, but not completely wet. This is also true of the orchids that fall under the vanda genus.
Don’t let vanda orchids dry out completely, but keep the growing media damp. If the surrounding area is very warm, you can water the orchid up to twice a day.
Make sure to reduce watering when it gets to the autumn and winter months, but don’t allow the plant to dry out completely.
When Should You Feed a Vanda Orchid?
Many orchids are fertilizer-hungry plants, and those that fall under the vanda genus are no exception. Don’t be tempted to fertilize them with just any fertilizer.
Choose a fertilizer that’s been specifically designed for orchids, as this will have the right level of nutrients that the vanda orchid needs in order to thrive.
During the growing season, apply fertilizer weekly, making sure that you never apply it on dry soil, otherwise this will burn the roots.
When to Repot a Vanda Orchid
Vanda orchids, like most orchids, require very well-draining potting media in order to thrive. I hesitate to say soil, because it’s not – you grow vanda orchids in sphagnum moss, bark, or fern fibers.
If you’re using sphagnum moss, make sure it is responsibly sourced, as it can have a detrimental impact on the environment.
You should only need to repot a vanda orchid every five years or so, and only attempt this in the spring.