by Lia Andrews. Award-winning hybridizer and grower, David Genovese shares how he grows vandas:

There are 3 main types of vandas: terete, strap-leaf, and semi-terete (a hybrid between the two). Terete vandas can be grown in full sun. Strap-leaf and semi-terete vandas require about 50% shade in South Florida. Genovese grows his vandas under a polycarbonate roof which protects them from cold and offers 10% shade, and a 40% shade cloth underneath. Genovese uses Collier county water.

Genovese observed that in their natural habitat vandas grow in trees with a lot of wind. He mimicked this in his growing environment by installing fans and ensuring that there was always a strong breeze. As a result, he has very little fungus in his collection.

Genovese observed that in their rainforest habitat vandas receive rain for 20 minutes a day. To mimic this, he goes through and waters his collection, then goes back to the beginning and rewaters. Vanda roots are covered with velum, The roots are just filaments inside. The first watering opens the pores of the velum and it becomes translucent. You will notice the roots get green showing the chlorophyll within. The second watering penetrates into the roots.

Vandas are heavy feeders. Genovese uses full strength fertilizer once a week. (Half strength is recommended for most orchid species). He sometimes feeds twice a week in the summer months. He uses Dyna-Grow weekly and Max-Seed Kelp Extract (like this other brand) every 2 months.

Genovese tries to prevent issues by offering a healthy growing environment which minimizes the need for chemicals. About twice a year when he sees something bad happening with a few plants he will treat his collection. For fungal issues he tries Dithane M-45 (topical) first, followed by Thiomyl (systemic), and Bayer 3-in-1 (very good for scale on vandas) as a last resort. Genovese cautions to use protective gear (gloves, goggles, mask, long sleeves) whenever handling toxic chemicals.  For bugs he first tries straight rubbing alcohol applied wit a q-tip. It can be left on. If that is not effective he uses Orthene, Bayer 3-in-1, Bug-Geta, or Melathion.

Many orchids, such as oncidiums and cattleyas, can handle temperatures below 40°F. However, when temperatures dip below 50°F they begin to lose their leaves and become susceptible to fungal infections. Aerides are even less cold tolerant. Genovese recommends bringing vandas into the lanai when temperatures drop below 50°F. He recommends wrapping terete vandas and mokaras that are grown on trees with a sheet when they can’t be moved.

Genovese had his shade house installed by Hendry Aluminum, who added awning-type shades that roll down on the sides for when it gets cold. He added 1-3 heaters. He closes the awnings when temperatures are around 50-55°F. When they drop below 50°F he turns on the heaters.

A vanda should have a minimum of 3 roots on it before it is divided. Genovese only divides vandas with 4-5 roots. They do not have to be blooming size. The best time for dividing vandas in April and May, which allows a full growing season for them to recover.

Genovese simply hangs his vandas on a hook. The exception is Vanda vietnamica which has tiny roots and he pots with charcoal. He uses nutri-coat with sphagnum moss for vanda seedlings.

“Pda.” = papiliovanda and is the new classification for any vanda with a papilionanthe (terete vanda) in its ancestry. Crosses with miniatum exhibit the characteristic orange color for several generations.  Crosses with Rhynchostylis gigantea (like V. Michelle Genovese “Callie”) and Vanda Sanderiana are very fragrant.

When hybridizing, the pod parent has stronger genetic expression in the progeny. The process involves extracting pollen off the father plant and adding it to the stamen. Then waiting 6 months for the pod to develop before sending it off to a lab and wait for the flask.

I have been growing orchids for 28 years. The first 17 of those years I had a small indoor collection consisting of a few Phalaenopsis and Cattleya plants while living in the suburbs of Washington DC. Shortly after moving to Naples, Florida in 2005, my simple hobby became a flourishing passion, and I soon had a thriving collection. While I grow many genera of plants, my favorites are the Vandaceous, Cattleya and Phalaenopsis groups. Approximately 30% of my collection are species, gown in a shade house. In addition to caring for and exhibiting my plants, I also enjoy creating new hybrids, and sharing with others about what I have learned. Since 2007 I have been granted a total of 33 AOS awards, including both flower quality and cultural awards, exhibit certificates and an AOS Show trophy.

I have created and presented programs that teach about:

Growing Vandas and Their Relatives (formerly presented annually at the Redlands Festival, and also at the Naples Botanic Garden as well as the GCOA, South Florida (Miami) and Tampa Orchid Societies).

Growing Cattleyas and Their Relatives (presented at the Naples Botanic Garden)

Growing Phalaenopsis (presented at the Naples Botanic Garden and GCOA)

Growing Orchids From Seed (presented at the Naples Botanic Garden, the South Florida Orchid Society, and for NOS growers – an offshoot from my AOS award winning table exhibit of the same name)

AOS Orchid Judging: What it is & How to Prepare for It (presented at NOS)

Paphiopedilum bellatulum and its Hybrids (presented at the AOS WPB Judging Center and at the Guatemala Orchid Society lecture series in 2011 – translated to Spanish)

Phalaenopsis violacea & Phalaenopsis bellina (presented at the AOS WPB Judging Center)

In a nutshell, many of these programs have been given to the general public at several orchid venues throughout central and south Florida. Some have also been given to the caretakers of the Naples Botanic Gardens orchid collection, as well as AOS Judging groups.

Other orchid related activities include:

Donation of plant material to several non-profit organizations, ongoing

Creation and maintenance of the Tropical Orchid Society website, 2011 to 2013.

One year as an apprentice & 2 1/2 years as a student in the AOS judging program, 2008 to 2012

Creation and monthly maintenance of the NOS website, 2007 to 2010

NOS Monthly Meeting Photographer, 2007 to 2010

NOS Plant Table Volunteer, 2007 to 2010

NOS Show Photographer, 2009

NOS Show Judging Coordinator, 2008 and 2009


Active Memberships include: NOS and GCOA