Rooting for Vandas

Karen Kimmerle of Island Sun Orchids in Kapoho demonstrates how to repot vandas at the KDOC monthly meeting on August 14.Vanda orchids are highly prized in horticulture for their showy, fragrant, long-lasting and intensely colorful flowers.

So it’s no wonder that vandas caught the eye of Karen Kimmerle of Island Sun Orchids in Kapoho, who gave a vanda presentation at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club monthly meeting on August 14.
“Vandas are a love of mine,” Kimmerle said. “Colors are just fabulous, but I also love the patterns.”

The vanda genus has a monopodial growth habit, with its leaves varying in size depending on habitat. Almost all vandas go straight up or in a line, and most are very hard-leaved, which means they can take a lot of sunlight. Vandas are made to be in a bright climate.

“One of main things are the roots,” Kimmerle said.  “Roots are the lifeline of the plant. Most healthy vanda roots are very white with bright green tips. The roots have a coating around them, so when you water you shouldn’t just sprinkle them, they need to be drenched. Let the roots soak up the water until the white part begins to turn green and the roots will soften.”

Kimmerle said the thicker the roots, the chunkier the media needs to be. Coarse gravel or lava rocks are often ideal; even wine corks will work.

Start the vandas in a 4” pot. They grow and will often even bloom in this size pot. When it’s time to repot, remove the orchid from the pot and cut off any old or dead roots. Be sure to sterilize your tools with a torch to kill viruses (alcohol won’t kill viruses, only bacteria).  Find the best roots and new growth, stuff in new pot, and fill 2/3 full with coarse medium. Then all you need to do is attach a hanger and start searching for a sunny place.

“If you are going to plant the vanda in your yard, you may have to move it a few times to find just the right spot,” Kimmerle said. “If you are going to plant it near a tree, use something like a palm or plumeria which doesn’t make a lot of shade, and the shade you do get at midday is dappled.”

Kimmerle said that when an orchid throws up a spike, keep it in the same position. Don’t turn the pot around if it’s hanging or sitting in a window or on a ledge, because then the spike will twist back toward the sunlight. If you keep the orchid in place, it will grow straighter.

Another helpful tip Kimmerle shared was with labels – use pencils because pens fade quickly (unless you use a paint pen).

a deep red vanda blooms at the august kdoc meeting

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