Indoor Vanda Orchid Care Culture and Tips for Growing in Dryer Climates

In Vandas
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This is a general overview based on my experience growing vandas indoors in Canada. I initially had troubles getting them to flower, but after putting them under LED grow light…I finally got my first vanda to bloom about a year and a half after I purchased it. I’ve also included a couple videos that were instrumental in changing my understanding of vanda care. So with that, let’s get into it…

Vanda Light Requirements

You’ll read this pretty consistently, “Vandas need bright light”; but that literally doesn’t have a 1-to-1 correlation—like what hell does ‘bright light’ actually mean, right?! In some places they grow Vandas outside in full-sun apparently, but I wouldn’t dare do that in Canada or the interior United States, as we literally have no cloud coverage on hot summer days (which makes the sun’s rays extra harsh). This is especially true if the humidity is low (60% or lower). High temperatures from the sun puts your plants at risk of leaf burn.

So how much light is enough? General information says that around 3,500 footcandles to 4,000 footcandles is adequate to grow and bloom Vandas—direct unfiltered sunlight is about 10,000 footcandles so that means you need about 1/2-strength filtered sun. If you don’t have a light meter, you can sometimes find apps for Apple iPhones, but if you don’t want to mess around with light measurements, your best option is to put your plant at an East or West facing window and supplement with additional LED grow lights in the times of the day that the plant isn’t getting direct sun. Typically you’ll want to target about 12-30w of LED light per square foot and try to use a “full spectrum” LED; however, if you want to get into the technicalities of light, check out this other post I wrote on the topic.

In addition to intensity, light duration is equally important – these plants need to capture a lot of energy from photos to flower well, so try to give them high-intensity continuous light for about 12-14 hours per day. 8 hours of intense light likely wont be enough to get your plant to flower and speaking from experience, I have some of my Vanda’s at a South-facing window, in full sun. I can’t get them to bloom at this location; the intensity just isn’t consistent enough (especially in the shorter days of winter).

Vanda Leaf Color – It’s how you can tell if your orchid is getting enough light

Vanda leaves should be a bright green like a granny smith apple. Freckling is common as well and will show up as purple spots and ridges along the leaf edges. If a Vanda is yellow, it’s either getting too much light, not enough water, or not enough fertilizer. If it’s a dark green, it’s not getting enough light.

Watering Vanda Orchids

Vandas are a funny orchid in that they don’t tolerate constantly-wet roots at all. I once tried a water-culture method (roots go into pure water) with a new vanda that had gigantic and long roots. I let a couple of them dangle into a bowl of water, but within 4 days the roots that were wet had died and changed to an unhealthy green-brown color. Through trial and error I’ve found that the best way to water Vandas in my dry climate is to pot them in a very chunky potting media of wine corks, and completely drench the plant one or twice times per week.

Orchids (including Vandas) can absorb water and nutrients both through both their roots and through their leaves. So, I make sure that when I’m watering my plants I drench the entire plant a few times per watering to allow the plant to sop up as much water as possible. I’ve heard of people leaving their Vandas to sit in water over night – but I wouldn’t do this often and if you’re going to do this, make sure that the plant is healthy as you could lose some roots.

Vanda Orchid Videos

Indoor Vanda Care – Complete Guide According to Bumblebee’s Orchids

Watering Vandas – by Bumblebee’s Orchids

*This is a very informative video on Vanda watering by a fellow vlogger (Bumblebee) on YouTube. This single video helped change my perspective on Vanda care and is why I’m able to keep them now.

Tips from an Outdoor Vanda Grower – Motes Orchids in Florida

*This is my second favourite Vanda video; it’s long, but it’s packed with lots of valuable general Orchid-care information like parasites, watering and fertilizing.

Potting Vandas

I know…everything online says potting Vandas is NOT OKAY and that they’re ONLY supposed to be grown bare root. It’s hotly debated in the orchid groups I follow as well, but I don’t care what other people say, my climate is simply too dry to grow any orchid bare root. Instead, I rely on the water-retentive nature of bark (or cork in the case of my vandas) & sphagnum to create a ‘micro climate’ around the roots. I have found that when the plants are fully exposed like that in a low-humidity climate like mine, they desiccate and are dead within 6 weeks. I’ve had the most success potting my Vandas in wine corks which is then topped off with sphagnum moss to hold the humidity in.

Vandas in Full Water Culture (FWC) – or Semi Water Culture

I’ve heard of people claiming they have had success with vandas in FWC (which is when you pot a Vanda in a vase and let it’s roots sit in water), but I have yet to see this done well. Here’s a good forum discussion on Vandas in full water culture. And a video from a vlogger who’s had some success.

I have seen others do modified water culture – ‘semi water culture’ where the plant is soaked once a week for a few hours and then drained. It makes sense why this works, but I haven’t tried it (b/c my humidity is too low).

Photos of my Vandas

My New Vandas Arrived – May 3, 2018 (saddly I lost both the one on the left and right b/c I couldn’t get them to acclimate). Pachara Delight is in the middle

Vanda tessellata roots potted in wine corks