Purple vanda orchids are one of the most popular orchid varieties because of their fragrance, their many flowers, and their striking color. They may be slightly tricky to care for in the beginning, but the longer you care for the plant, the easier you will find it to grow them.
These orchids are native to countries in Asia and the Pacific. They are epiphytes, which means that they grow on the sides of trees or other plants and absorb a lot of their required moisture and nutrients from the air, via their roots.
In this article, we will discuss the proper cultural care of purple vanda orchids, and how to correctly propagate them. If you are thinking about adding this plant to your collection and you wish to learn more, then keep reading.
Purple vanda orchid care
The purple vanda orchid likes bright, indirect light, and will suffer sun damage almost immediately if left under direct sunlight. If the plant is kept outdoors, place it under a garden net or under the shade of a large tree. Remember that these plants are epiphytes that grow on the trunks of trees in the rainforest where they are protected from the sun by the tree canopy. Stippled sunlight is what these plants get in the wild, so it only makes sense for you to provide as close as possible to this in your home or garden.
If you keep the plant indoors, choose a north- or east-facing window because these windows let in the right kind of light during most hours of the day. If the only window available lets in light that is too harsh, you can place a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the intensity of the light coming in.
In the winter, when sunlight is scarce, help your vanda orchid by putting it under a grow light. Remember to turn the light off after 12 hours, because anything more than that can cause sun damage.
There is no set schedule to follow when watering your vanda orchid. The frequency of watering will depend on how fast the potting medium dries out, which in turn depends on the climate where you live, the season of the year, and the current weather. This means that a purple vanda orchid in a cold climate, in the winter, with lots of snow and rainfall, will not need to be watered as often as one being grown in a warm climate, in the summer, with little to no rainfall.
The best way to determine whether the plant needs to be watered is by touching the potting medium. If the top two inches of potting medium are dry, water the plant, but if the top two inches are still damp, wait one or two days before checking again.
When the plant is in its growing phase in the spring and summer, it will need more water than during the winter.
One of the biggest mistakes a plant owner can make is to overwater their purple vanda orchid. Overwatering can be due to giving too much water each time, or watering the plant more often than it needs. It can also be caused by a pot that has no drainage holes, or if the potting medium is not well-draining and holds moisture too well. These factors can all contribute to the orchid’s roots standing in potting medium that is too wet. When the roots stand for too long in stagnant water, they will drown and die. The dead roots will then rot and become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens which exacerbate the rot, and before you know it the entire plant can be affected. By the time the stems and the leaves become soft, mushy and brown, the plant may be too far gone with rot and will have almost no chance of recovering.
If you suspect that your vanda orchid is overwatered, remove it from the pot and wash off as much of the old potting medium as possible without damaging the roots. Inspect the roots and remove those that have turned brown or black, using sterilized scissors to do so.
Let the roots dry out a little bit before repotting the plant in a pot that has drainage holes, using a well-draining potting medium.
The purple vanda orchid is an epiphyte, so it should not be planted in traditional potting soil. In the wild, these plants will latch onto trees and rocks and rely on their roots to absorb water and nutrients from the surface they are latching onto, or from the air. Use potting materials that will allow the roots to meander and will let air flow freely around them. You can even put orchid bark and peat moss in a basket and the vanda orchid will be perfectly happy in that.
As mentioned above, use a pot or container that is breathable and has sufficient drainage holes at the bottom, so that any excess water will simply flow out, reducing the chances of overwatering.
Temperature and humidity requirements
The purple vanda orchid is happy in temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but not for long periods of time because that can be fatal. Make sure you take the plant indoors during the winter to protect it from the frost, and do not place it where warm or cold drafts pass through, such as near heating vents or air conditioners. Both warm and cold air will quickly dry out the plant, which is very damaging in the long run.
In terms of humidity, keep it around 60 percent or higher. Remember that these plants are from Asia and they appreciate a good degree of humidity. The humidity inside most homes is probably sufficient, but if you live in a particularly dry place, you can take some measures to increase the humidity around your plant.
You can do this using a pebble tray filled with water. Place the plant’s pot on top of the pebble tray and, as the water evaporates, the potting medium and the plant’s foliage will be moistened. You can also place the plant next to other plants that like higher humidity so that together they can create a microclimate around themselves.
If you have the means, you could also buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity levels in your home without you having to worry about it.
Purple vanda orchids need to be fertilized after blooming, to replenish the nutrients used to produce flowers.
In the spring and summer, when the orchid is actively growing, feed it once a week. Use a fertilizer high in phosphorus to help the plant produce plenty of beautiful flowers.
In the winter, when the plant is dormant, feed it once a month at most.
Purple vanda orchid propagation
Propagate your purple vanda by cutting a stem with aerial roots on it. Use sterilized pruning shears to cut the branch between sets of leaves, and make sure that you have included some aerial roots. This will be the cutting you will be planting.
In a pot, place orchid-friendly substrate as a potting medium, filling up to an inch below the rim of the pot. Use materials such as bark, perlite, charcoal or volcanic stone, and refrain from using regular potting soil because it is much too dense and will retain too much moisture for the plant’s liking.
Place the cutting in the middle of the potting medium, making sure the aerial roots are also inserted into the hole. Make sure that the pot you are using has drainage holes at the bottom.
You can give the cutting some fertilizer to encourage growth.
After a few weeks, you will see new growth on the cutting, and after several months to a year you will have a mature purple vanda orchid.
How to grow purple vanda orchids
Growing purple vanda orchids is not that difficult, relative to other orchid species. A beginner orchid owner can easily learn how to do it.
Prepare a special orchid potting mix and make sure it is moist. Prepare pots or containers that have drainage holes at the bottom and place the containers in a spot where they get plenty of bright, indirect light. Place the plant in the middle of the potting medium and water the roots of the plant until you can see the excess water flowing out of the holes at the bottom. You can add half-strength fertilizer to this water.
If you take proper care of the orchid, it will grow strong, fleshy roots. If they seem rootbound in the container, repot the plant in a container one size larger than the current one.
After a few months, the plant should bloom, to reward you for your great care.
Purple vanda orchids have beautiful, fragrant, purple flowers that attract plenty of orchid collectors. The plant is relatively low-maintenance, especially when compared with other orchids.
This plant needs bright, indirect light, water when the top two inches of potting medium are dry, regular room temperature, slightly high humidity, and fertilizing once weekly in spring and summer and once a month in fall and winter.
The purple vanda is propagated by cutting off the top of the stem, including some aerial roots. Plant the cutting in a fresh potting medium and place it where it can get bright, indirect light. After a couple of weeks, you should see new growth on the cutting.
Image: istockphoto.com / lion95