The Vanda Alliance Orchids

The Vanda Alliance orchids are large monopodial orchids that are found growing naturally over a vast region extending from India to China and downwards to the Philippines and Australia. Although you may grow these orchids in pots, nearly all the roots of the plant would prefer to drift outside the pot.

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Ideally, they can be cultured in baskets, but the baskets should be suspended. This is because the roots of these orchids have a tendency to dangle downwards. The best potting medium to grow vanda alliance orchids is large chunks of bark possibly added with chunks of pumice, charcoal or you may also include polystyrene.

When the weather conditions are bright, warm and sunny, vanda alliance orchids will require lots of water as well as misting the exposed roots at frequent intervals. On the other hand, when the weather condition is cool or it is a dull winter, you need to water the plants sparingly.

However, you may mist the exposed roots. It is worth mentioning here that vandas require healthy feeding and you may provide them with the strong fertilizers that you use for growing cymbidium orchids. If you wish to cultivate vanda alliance orchids, you may select either one of their groups - terete vandas and strap-leafed vandas.

Terete vandas, which comprise the typical Vanda teres species, bear leaves that are doubled into a cylindrical shape making them appear like slender pencils. One of the well-known terete vandas, which is considered to be a main hybrid, is V. Miss Joaquim.

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This orchid derived its name from the missionary from whose Singapore garden was found towards the latter part of the 19th century. In order to grow properly as well as bear flowers, terete vandas require strong light. People in tropical regions grow many orchids under the full sun for the purpose of obtaining cut flowers.

Since terete vandas may prove to be difficult to cultivate, you may often want to restrict your vandas collection to the strap-leafed varieties. Alternatively, you may also try cultivating semi-terete variety of orchids, which are actually hybrids between the Terete vanda orchids and strap-leafed vanda orchids.

Like the terete vanda orchids, strap-leaf vandas also require strong light for growth and flowering. However, they also require some shade during the summer months. Ideally, the temperatures should not fall below 55°F (12ºC). If the temperature drops below 38°F (4°C), it may cause harm to the flower buds as well as the root tips.

Compared to all other species of vanda alliance orchids, Vanda coerula is a relatively cool growing orchid. Moreover, the best cultivars of this vanda species bear deep sky-blue blossoms, which is a very unusual color among orchids. Vanda coerula as well a V. sanderiana (also known as Euanthe sanderiana) are considered to be the ancestors of several modern day hybrid orchids.

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On various occasions, these hybrid orchids produce a stem of 10 or even more flowers from a node in the upper leaves. The individual flowers measure no less than 4 inches (10 cm) across and appear in a wide range of hues. Vanda orchids have a rapid growth and they reach a tall height in a very short time.

When these orchids grow too tall, you need to trim the plant from the top at such a point that has some roots. Planting the cut off part along with the roots will give rise to new plants. When the top of the plant is cut the plant will usually respond by giving rise to one or more shoots.

On many occasions, the aerial growths appear on a vanda orchid and they can be potted as soon as they develop roots. In this way, you may grow several inter-generic vanda hybrid orchids. On such inter-generic hybrid which is extremely popular is named Ascocenda (Vanda x Ascocentrum).

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Phalaenopsis

Also commonly known as moth orchids, Phalaenopsis is perhaps the first as far as importance of the different species and hybrids of this genus is concerned. This orchid genus comprises about 75 plants in the family Orchidaceae.

These orchids are not only popular owing to their beauty, but also because they are willing to grow as well as blossom indoors under the conditions that their owners also prefer - for instance night temperatures ranging from 60°F to 65°F (16°C to 18°C), warmer day conditions and a moderate or tolerable level of sunlight.

Orchids belonging to this genus grow up to a convenient size and they are attractive even when they are not in bloom. The leaves of Phalaenopsis orchids are plump, wide, glossy have a deep green or mottled color. The flowers of these orchids last for a long time compared to the blossoms of other orchids and some plants may continue to bloom more or less continuously.

While the plants are not large, they are one of the most rapidly growing orchids and reach flowering stage early. You need to repot Phalaenopsis orchids once in 12 to 18 months as they need to be fed as well as water frequently and these results in the decomposition of the potting medium.

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While these orchids are capable of adapting to the usual indoor light and temperature, Phalaenopsis require additional humidity compared to what you are able to provide in home care. Here is a word of caution: you should never mist or spray the plants later in the day.

This is because any water that may accumulate in the center of the plant will help to promote rot, particularly when the temperature indoors is low. The leaves of moth orchids or Phalaenopsis appear opposite to each other and they live for a long time. The dense roots of these orchids usually grow within and outside the growing medium.

Their flower stems emerge from the leaf base and they may either be erect or arching. The stems may be simple or may bear branches with several or only a few flowers. On some plants all the flowers unfurl simultaneously, while in others they unfurl slowly starting from the base to the top.

At the same time, new buds appear while the older flowers start fading. After the last flower of the plant has dropped, you should cut the stem just under the place where the first flower bloomed. In case the plant is healthy as well as vigorous, it may give rise to a new stem from a lower node.

Ideally, you should grow moth orchids in pots and baskets. You may also grow them on rafts. In case you are growing Phalaenopsis orchids in a greenhouse or even outdoors where the climatic conditions are warmest, make sure that moisture draws off from the orchid's heart.

If you are growing the orchids in pots, you need to use coarse bark as potting medium and also incorporate charcoal and perlite into it. You should take care to ensure that the potting medium never becomes dry. Instead, the growing medium needs to drain without restraint and never should the plants sit in water.

Usually sphagnum moss is used as the growing medium when the plants grown in baskets and rafts. These plants will survive well even when grown outdoors provided the temperatures are constantly warm. They will also do well when placed in greenhouses. It is worth mentioning here that Phalaenopsis grow well in clay pots and plastic pots filled with sphagnum moss.

However, you need to ensure that the moss remains damp and never allow it to become dry. You need to repot the plants when the growing medium starts decomposing and the medium begins to lose it coarse texture.

Potting may also be necessary when the orchid loses several of its lower leaves and the lower stem becomes visible. Ideally, repotting activities should be undertaken immediately after the blooming ends. When you are repotting the plant, first lift the plant and take it out of the growing medium and the pot.

Next, remove the dead roots, if any, and also trim the lower healthy roots so that they fit properly inside the new pot. However, do not disturb or cut the upper long roots. Unless they are very long or too brittle, you will be able to push them into the new pot. If there is any visible stem below the lowest live roots, break them off.

Subsequently, position the orchid in the center of the pot and stuff the spaces with new potting mix. You should firm the potting mix in the region of the roots, but never stuff it as firmly as you would do when growing cattleyas. Water the plants carefully till they resume growth. At the same time, ensure that the humidity level is high.

Phalaenopsis or moth orchids are propagated both from their seeds and keikis. Simply speaking, keikis are plantlets that emerge at the joints of a flowering stem of the orchid. People who propagate orchids commercially also undertake production of mericlones, which are actually stem propagations.

Plants propagated via mericlones can be recognized easily as their names have three parts - for instance, P. Maraldee 'Soroa Brilliance'. It is worth mentioning here that the single quotation marks are used to denote a particular merit of the plant.

Generally, the orchids you purchase are likely to be seedlings and, hence, they will cost comparatively less at that stage. On the other hand, buying such unflowered plants may be similar to purchasing pigs in a poke. However, they will certainly be attractive pigs, unless they are not blue-ribbon material.

Among the 75-odd species in genus Phalaenopsis, only a few are offered regularly. In fact, most orchids that are available for purchase are hybrids. Below is a list of Phalaenopsis species that have contributed greatly in enhancing the race. You may purchase these species from some growers.

White and different shades of purple and pink flowering orchids are very common. However, these days availability of orchids bearing red, yellow and green flowers is increasing. Frequently, the flowers of these orchids are barred, dotted or suffused with deeper hues.

Phalaenopsis amabilis (P. grandiflora)

Phalaenopsis amabilis (also known as P. grandiflora) produces arching flowering stems that are about a yard in length and bear numerous white flowers with white lips that are marked with red and yellow.

The individual flowers measure anything between 3 inches and 5 inches wide. The leaves of this species have a dark green color and are glossy. Each leaf is about 1 foot in length. The plants are in bloom during fall and the beginning of winter.

Phalaenopsis amboinensis

The flower stems of Phalaenopsis amboinensis are usually 6 inches to 9 inches long and each bear one or a few yellow flowers that are marked with reddish brown concentric circles. The individual flowers measure anything between 2 inches and 3 inches across. This species of orchid is in bloom almost all through the year.

Phalaenopsis aphrodite

Phalaenopsis aphrodite bears close resemblance to the species P. amabilis. However, the flowers of Phalaenopsis Aphrodite are rather smaller. Moreover, the plants are in bloom during spring and summer.

Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi

The leaves of Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi species grow up to a length of 10 inches and are comparatively narrow, measuring only 1 ½ inches wide. The flower spike of this orchid is uncommonly branched as well as flattened, and produces opposing rows of bracts (the word denotes deer horned).

The flowers of this species are also small and appear in yellow to yellowish green hues, marked with brown. The spike keeps on producing flowers for a long period and you should not remove it till its color starts changing to brown. Compared to other species in genus Phalaenopsis, Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi has a preference for more light.

Phalaenopsis equestris

This Phalaenopsis species produces more than a few stems every year and they may be simple or branching. Each flowering stem of Phalaenopsis equestris bears numerous pinkish purple blossoms.

The individual flowers are relatively small, measuring just 1 inch across. The flowering season of this orchid is long, provided the conditions are favourable. If the conditions are favourable, it flowers all through the year.

Phalaenopsis gigantea

Phalaenopsis gigantea produces heavy, plump, drooping leaves that are about 20 inches in length and 8 inches wide. The large leaves of the orchid give it its name. The flowering spikes grow up to 16 inches long and they bear rounded creamy or yellow flowers. The flowers of this orchid species are heavily spotted with maroon and brown.

Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica

The plants of Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica orchid produce more than a few branching flowering stems that grow up to a height of 1 foot. These flowering stems produce a succession of creamy flowers, each measuring about 2 inches across. The flowers of this orchid have prominent markings that bear resemblance to some form of script. The plants are in bloom towards the end of summer.

Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana

The branching flowering stems as well as the flowers of Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana bear resemblance to those of P. hieroglyphica. However, the color of the flowers of this species of Phalaenopsis varies from white with prominent markings of purplish brown to a dense pinkish purple. The plants are in bloom all through the year.

Phalaenopsis sanderiana

The plants of this Phalaenopsis orchid may be simple or branching with flower spikes growing up to a height of 2 ½ feet. Usually the flowers of this orchid have a pink hue, but some plants may also produce white blossoms. The plants are in bloom twice a year - in spring and again in summer.

Phalaenopsis schilleriana

Phalaenopsis schilleriana produces mottled greyish green leaves, while its flowering stem is branching as well drooping. Each flowering stem carries as many as 100 pinkish lavender flowers, each measuring about 3 inches wide. The branching flower stems of this orchid species as well as the copious blooms make Phalaenopsis schilleriana a very useful parent. The plants are in bloom during spring.

Phalaenopsis stuartiana

This orchid species bears resemblance to a smaller version of P. schilleriana. However, the flowers of Phalaenopsis stuartiana are white having yellow and red spots at their centers. Each flower measures about 2 ½ inches across. This orchid species is in bloom during winter.

Phalaenopsis violacea

Phalaenopsis violacea orchids produce medium to large leaves having a glossy green color. The flowering stems of this orchid species is small - just about 5 inches in length, but they bear exceptionally fragrant flowers that unfurl one at a time from the base to the top of the stem.

The individual flowers measure anything between 2 inches and 3 inches wide. One form of this orchid species bears purple flowers, while the color of the flowers of another form varies from green to greenish white having a purple center. This orchid is in bloom twice a year - once in spring and again in fall.

Hybrid phalaenopsis

Numerous hybrid orchids have come into existence from the different species that have been discussed above. There was a time when an orchid with long and arching stems and bearing numerous large white flowers was considered to a perfect plant.

While such plants still continue to be popular, many newer hybrid orchids, though they are relatively smaller and having branching flowering stems bearing clusters of white, deep purple or pale pink flowers, are gradually being more accepted by orchid lovers. Sometimes the lighter hued flowers are spotted, striped or stippled with contrasting hues.

Currently, yellow-flowering phalaenopsis hybrids that bear plain or spotted or barred blossoms are in vogue. In addition, you may also come across hybrids bearing red or green flowers and they are available for purchase. Doritis pulcherrima is another orchid that has close relation with Phalaenopsis.

In fact, this plant readily crosses with Phalaenopsis and the offspring produced is known as x Doritaenopsis. The leaves of this hybrid are relatively small, but they are numerous compared to those of Phalaenopsis. The stem of x Doritaenopsis is short and upright.

Similarly, the flowering stem of this hybrid is also straight growing up to a height of anything between 6 inches and 2 feet and it is branching. This plant bears reddish purple flowers in the upper section and each flower measures about an inch across.

The color of the flowers of x Doritaenopsis ranges from white and pink to deep purple, while the flowers with paler hues often have deep-colored stripes. This orchid is in bloom in the fall. In addition, each and every D. pulcherrima hybrids bear close resemblance to Phalaenopsis and sometimes they are marketed as Phalaenopsis orchids. These hybrid orchids are in bloom in summer and in the fall.

Aerides

Sometimes Aerides are also known as foxtail orchids owing to their arching as well as floppy flower clusters with closely arranged flowers - resembling the furry tail of a fox. The stems of these orchids may be erect or like vines and they are covered with compact leaves arranged in two opposite ranks. These leaves give rise to more than a few aerial roots.

The individual flowers are small, but in a mass they are impressive. Moreover, the flowers of Aerides are exceptionally fragrant. Ideally, you should grow these hybrid orchids in pots or baskets filled with coarse bark as growing medium. They perform well in conditions in which cattleyas also thrive well.

Aerides odorata

Aerides odorata orchids produce branching and drooping stems and the plants may grow up to a height of about 3 feet. The flowers appear in clusters of about a foot in length and each may comprise 20 or even more blossoms. The individual flowers measure about an inch in width.

The color of the flowers range from white to purple and white flowers with purple tips are very common among these orchid hybrids. Aerides lawrenceae bear close resemblance to Aerides odorata and sometimes the former is considered to be a different variety.

However, the flowers of Aerides lawrenceae are rather smaller compared to those of Aerides odorata. Aerides quinquevulnerum is yet another species or variety or Aerides odorata and it bears white flowers with bright purple tips.

According to many, Aerides quinquevulnerum is the most attractive of the entire species. All these hybrid orchids either bloom in spring or the beginning of summer.

Aerides rosea (A. fieldingii)

The stems of Aerides rosea (also known as A. fieldingii) are erect and grow up to a height of 10 inches. They produce drooping flower cluster that may be about 2 feet in length and comprise as many as 100 fragrant blossoms. The flowers are white or pink and spotted with purple. The individual flowers measure about an inch across. This orchid is in bloom either in spring or summer.

x Ascocenda

x Ascocenda hybrids are a cross between Asocentrum and Vanda orchids. These hybrid orchids may be small or large depending on their parent species that were used in the crosses. All the plants are erect and produce stiff flowering spikes.

The color of the flowers of these hybrids ranges from orange and red to yellow and green. Occasionally, some flowers may have markings with contrast colors. Some of the well-known grexes of these hybrids are Meda Arnold (pink to red blossoms) and Yip Sum Wah (orange blossoms).

Ascocentrum

These orchids are indigenous to Indian and South East Asia and they bear resemblance to miniature vandas. The plants produce opposite ranks leaves having the shape of straps and compact flowering spikes. The flowers have bright hues and they appear above the foliage of the plants. Ascocentrum orchids thrive well in conditions that are also favourable for cattleyas.

Ascocentrum curvifolium

The plants of Ascocentrum curvifolium grow up to a height of 10 inches and they produce flowering spikes whose color varies from red, orange to purple. There was a time when this orchid species was known as Saccolabium curvifolium. The plants are in bloom in spring.

Ascocentrum garayi

Ascocentrum garayi plants are relatively small, growing up to a height of only 4 inches. The flowering spikes of this orchid bear vivid orange red blossoms, each of which measure about 1 inch across.

The plants are in bloom almost all through the year. Often this orchid is sold as A. miniatum - a plant that is similar to Ascocentrum garayi, but rarely cultivated. The plants may flower at any time of the year.

Euanthe sanderiana (Vanda sanderiana)

This is a relative of Vanda orchid, and is known as "waling-waling" in its native the Philippines. By itself, this orchid species is outstanding and important parents of many crossbreed orchids.

The plants of Euanthe sanderiana (also known as Vanda sanderiana) are quite large, producing long leaves, each of which measure about 16 inches, while the erect flowering spikes each carry about 10 blossoms. The individual flowers of this orchid species measures about 4 inches across.

The flowers are wide and have a rounded shape, while the color of the upper portion of the blossoms varies from white to rose hue and they are marked by red dots.

On the other hand, the lower part of the flowers has a yellowish green hue and are heavily spotted and barred with brown. In fact, this orchid has given its shape, size and even markings to several hybrids that have been developed by crossing Vanda with Ascocentrum. Euanthe sanderiana plants are in bloom during the fall.

Neofinetia falcata

Neofinetia falcate is a miniature orchid which has its origin in Japan and Korea. The plants of this orchid grow up to a height of anything between 2 inches and 6 inches and are branching from their base. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs in the Aerides fashion and they grow up to 4 inches in length.

The flowering spikes bear small white flowers having long and thin spurs. The individual flowers measure about half-an-inch wide. Each flower spike may carry about seven flowers, which bloom in spring and summer. Interestingly, the flowers exude their fragrance during the afternoon and at night.

Rhynchostylis

Similar to Aerides orchids, Rhynchostylis orchids also bear solid clusters of flowers that are every so often described as foxtail orchids. The flowers are extremely fragrant.

Rhynchostylis coelestis

The plants of Rhynchostylis coelestis grow up to a height of about 8 inches and have erect flower spikes which bear clusters of white flowers having blue tips. The plants are in bloom twice a year - first in summer and again in fall.

Rhynchostylis gigantea

The plants of Rhynchostylis gigantean are akin to those of R. coelestis, but they produce larger drooping leaves. The flower spikes bear clusters of white blossoms, each measuring about 15 inches wide. The flowers of this orchid are tipped as well as spotted with a deep purplish red hue. The plants are in bloom in fall and winter.

Rhynchostylis retusa

The plants of Rhynchostylis retusa grow up to a height of 2 feet and produce drooping clusters of solidly packed white flowers. While each flower cluster is about 2 feet wide, the blooms have purple spots all over. This orchid is in bloom in spring and in summer.

Sarcochilus

The genus Sarcochilus is a relative of small Vanda orchids and is mostly indigenous to Australia, where it has been a favourite of orchid hobbyists for years for the small as well as attractive size of the plants.

Gradually, the plants of Sarcochilus orchid are turning out to be popular even in North America, particularly in places having climatic conditions like those in coastal Southern California. In fact, orchids of this genus can be grown outdoors in such places.

The stems of Sarcochilus orchids are branching right from their base, forming clumps or tufts. The flowers of these orchids are small, plump and a short spur is appended with their lips. All the orchids belonging to this genus are cool growing. In other words, they flourish and bear flowers when the temperatures during the night are cool.

Sarcochilus ceciliae

The plants of Sarcochilus ceciliae orchid grows up to a height of 5 inches. Each flower spike of this orchid, which is a little taller compared to the leaves, bears anything between six and a dozen small pink flowers. The individual flowers measure just about ½ inch. The plants are in bloom during the period between autumn and winter.

Sarcochilus falcatus

Sarcochilus falcatus orchids are also known as the orange blossom orchid. Plants of this orchid produces dense clumps of leaves shaped like sickles and each clump measuring about 4 inches. Sarcochilus falcatus bears arching clusters of 15 white, exceptionally fragrant flowers, each measuring about 1 inch across. The plants are in bloom towards the end of spring.

Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii

Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii is known as the ravine orchid in Australia. This orchid species is a somewhat vigorously growing plant that reaches a height of about 2 feet. Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii produces numerous flowering spikes and each bears about 15 white flowers having red markings at their base. The individual flowers are just 1 inch wide. The plants are in bloom during spring.

Sarcochilus hartmannii

Compared to S. fitzgeraldii, the plants of this orchid species are somewhat smaller. Sarcochilus hartmannii bears clusters of anything between six and 25 small white flowers with red markings. The individual flowers measure just an inch wide. It is worth mentioning here that this orchid species blooms heavily and is also a parent of the better-quality hybrid Fitzhart. The species as well as its offspring Fitzhart bloom during the spring.

Vanda

Generally, Vanda orchids are large plants whose leaves are arranged in opposite ranks. The leaves are flat and strap-shaped with plentiful clumsy aerial roots. Some species of Vandas produce terete or pencil-shaped leaves. Such orchids are classified under the genus Papilionanthe.

Nearly all the vanda orchids are indigenous to the tropical regions and, hence, they require warm temperatures, full sun and high level of humidity. If you are growing these orchids in places beyond the tropical regions, you need to provide them with some shade.

In case you wish to include vandas in your orchid collection, it is important that you plan with awareness. This is primarily because nearly all the vanda orchids are extremely large for using them in the form of house plants. In addition, some of them would also take up a large space in a greenhouse, straining the capacity of the smaller greenhouses.

Vanda coerulea

Vanda coerulea is a highly sought-after orchid that grows up to a height of anything between 2 ½ feet and 3 feet. The plant is stiffly upright growing on a chunky stem. The leathery leaves are closely set and each measure about 3 inches to 10 inches long.

The inflorescence may be upright of leaning and it is anything between 8 inches to 2 feet in length, holding about 10 to 20 flowers. The individual flowers are round and measure 4 inches flat.

The color of the Vanda coerulea blossoms varies from light to deep blue and they last for a long time both on the plant as well as when used as cut flowers. The plants are in bloom from fall to spring. Ideally, you should grow Vanda coerulea orchids along with other cool growing orchids.

Alternatively, you may also grow this orchid in a cool corner of the greenhouse where you are also growing cattleyas. A hybrid developed by crossing Vanda coerulea with Euanthe sanderiana is Vanda (properly written as Vandanthe) Rothschildiana - one of the very famous hybrids ever developed in the history of orchids. This hybrid orchid bears large blue flowers that are checkered with deeper blue.

Vanda (Papilionanthe) hookeriana

Vanda (Papilionanthe) hookeriana orchid is a vigorously growing plant. It has a sprawling nature and can reach a height of 6 feet. The leaves of this orchid are terete (pencil-shaped or cylindrical or somewhat tapering, with no substantial furrows or ridges), while the flower clusters are about 1 foot in length.

Each flower cluster comprises as many as two dozen white and purple blossoms having large lips. The individual flowers measure about 2 ½ inches in width. The plants of vanda (Papilionanthe) hookeriana are in bloom during the fall.

This orchid as well as V. teres are both tough and hardy plants suitable for growing outdoors. However, they should never be grown outdoors in places that are beyond the tropics.

Vanda (Papilionanthe) teres

Vanda (Papilionanthe) teres is a sprawling orchid that consistently bears white or cream hued flowers that blend to red or rose with their yellow lips having red spots.

While the plants are terete-leafed, the individual flowers of this orchid measure anything between 2 inches and 4 inches across. V. Miss Joaquim is a cross between vanda and V. hookeriana. This hybrid orchid is grown widely in Hawaii for cut flowers as well as for leis.

Vanda tricolor

The plants of Vanda tricolor grow up to a height of 3 feet and bear clusters of white or light yellow hued flowers having reddish brown spots. The lip of the flowers is white and purple having reddish brown streaks.

The individual flowers of this orchid measures 3 inches across. Another orchid variety, Vanda t. suavis (also known as V. suavis) is similar to Vanda tricolor, but former flowers have fewer spots and their color is reddish purple.

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