BY VINA MEDENILLA
There are numerous species of orchids endemic to the Philippines, many of which have gained global recognition.
One of the popular orchid genera is vanda orchids. Vandas are categorized into three types depending on their leaves: strap leaf, terete, and semi-terete. A widely recognized vanda variety native to the Philippines is the Queen of Philippine orchids, Waling-waling (Vanda Sanderiana).
A local grower of different vanda orchids is Rodelio B. Pasion, Ph.D., 42, Master Teacher I, and Senior High School Track Head in Tungao National High School. Pasion has been growing ornamentals since his teenage years. It was only recently that he found time to tend a garden again.
In a 200 sqm garden in Agusan del Norte, he mainly cultivates vanda orchids along with other plant varieties that he is fond of growing.
Basic requirements of vanda orchids
Pasion shares the basic needs of vandas that can guide novice gardeners when growing this type of orchid.
Watering. Vandas require daily watering of at least twice a day. Pasion said, “Place your index finger on the nozzle of the hose to create a spray stream.”
Fertilizer. Application of fertilizer must not be performed during noontime as this can damage the plants. Usage of fertilizer, pesticide, and fungicide must only be once a week to keep the plants healthy.
Pasion applies fertilizers depending on the plants’ stages and the amount of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) that the orchids demand.
For instance, he applies Rapid Bloom Booster (RBB) for blooming or nearly blooming orchids to produce more flowers. For Waling-waling, strap leaf vanda, and hybrid moth orchids, he uses osmocote or slow-release fertilizer for a better rooting system.
Propagation. An easy way to propagate vanda is through keikis—the baby plants that grow in their flower stems.
When cutting the keikis from mother plants, make sure that the keikis are already established. To determine whether or not they are ready for propagation, there must be stable roots that are at least five to six inches long for higher chances of survival. Keep the newly potted keikis in a shaded area.
Light. Vanda thrives best under bright, filtered light. To provide them with the right amount of light, place vanda orchids in an open area with a black net roof, providing at least 60 percent shade. Pasion does not recommend green, white, or blue nets as this might not shield the plants from the UV radiation of the full sun.
“Fertilizers will not work effectively if it is too shady as the plant will not have enough energy to create sugars and combine raw materials in its leaves,” he added.
Airflow. Do not set the vanda orchids near walls, under the roof, or in any possible obstructions that can restrain the airflow. Pasion explained, “All plants need air circulation so its circulatory system would function properly and allow food to be processed efficiently.”
Photos from Rodelio B. Pasion.