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Vanilla Bean Orchid: Grow & Care for Vanilla Planifolia

Written by Iris

Jul 21 2021

Vanilla Bean Orchid: Grow & Care for Vanilla Planifolia
The name of Vanilla Bean Orchid is derived from the Spanish word vainilla, which means small bean pod or capsule. It refers to the fruit of the plant that looks like a pod. It is usually called vanilla bean. These fruits contain small seeds, eight to nine after flowering Month mature. A characteristic of Vanilla Bean Orchid is the root sprouting on the stem. The white, green, or cream colored flowers of vanilla orchids are usually inverted. The opening hours of these large and gorgeous flowers are very short. They open in the morning and close in the afternoon. If the flower is not pollinated when it opens, it will fall off the next day. Due to the high vanillin content of Vanilla Bean Orchid, Vanilla Bean Orchid is considered to have high commercial value and is widely used in food processing and perfumes.

How to Choose and Prepare a Planting Site

Vanilla plants make excellent container house plants when grown as a vine, because this type of orchid is both epiphytic and semi-terrestrial. This means it lives above the ground where its roots attach to tree trunks or other support from which it takes in water and nutrients. In growing a Vanilla vine in a pot, some support is needed for the vine to climb on and attach itself to. This can be a post or slab of wood, preferably a type that does not rot easily like cedar or cypress.
Vanilla Bean Orchid

How to GrowVanilla Bean Orchid (Vanilla Planifolia)

Steps for Vanilla Bean Orchid (Vanilla Planifolia) Propagation with Cuttings

Commercial growers often use 3-foot cuttings for propagation, as those bloom sooner. Gardeners may have to settle for shorter lengths which they can wheedle from friends. In either case, the cuttings root easily, and generally don't require the use of a rooting hormone.
  • Purchase or ask a friend for a cutting of vanilla orchid that has at least 6 nodes, the points where the leaves join the stems. Wrap the cutting in a damp paper towel to keep it moist until you can plant it.
  • Fill a flower pot with either moist sphagnum moss or a mix of equal parts orchid bark, peat and perlite. Choose an outdoor planting spot instead, if you live in zone 10 or higher, near the base of a tree. Spade up the soil and add several handfuls of compost if the area is not well drained.
  • Remove the lowest two leaves from the cutting. Insert the base of the cutting into either the potting medium or the loose soil beneath the tree. Cover the two bottom nodes of the cutting with the potting medium or soil, packing it tightly around them.
  • Push a plant stake into the potting medium behind a potted orchid cutting, and attach the cutting to it with plant ties. Tie the cutting to the tree instead, if you are starting it outdoors, and mulch the soil around it.
  • Keep the potting medium or soil damp until the cutting begins to show new growth in four to six weeks. Give an indoor cutting a broader support, once it begins to vine, such as a slab of wood or a trellis.
Vanilla Bean Orchid

How to Care for Vanilla Bean Orchid (Vanilla Planifolia)

Light

As covered in this article about orchids care and light, Vanilla orchids need bright natural light in order to thrive. You'll want to make sure that your Vanilla orchids don't get direct sunlight because this could cause sunburn and damage the plant. When you are choosing the perfect place to grow your orchids you will need to keep this in mind. A great place to grow Vanilla orchids is in the southern end of a greenhouse because they will be able to receive indirect bright sunlight or on a shaded tree or trellis.

Soil

Soil rich in potassium and calcium is ideal for vanilla plants. It should be light, well-draining, and with a pH between 6.0 to 7.0.

Water

Vanilla orchids should be watered regularly. Watering frequency – as covered in this article about watering orchids – can be determined by a few different things. The whole plant shouldn't dry out on a regular basis, however, you can let the top 2 or 3 inches of the plant dry out between waterings. On the contrary, in order to initiate flowers to bloom, you should allow the entire plant to dry out between waterings for a few weeks.

Temperature and Humidity

Ideal temperatures are between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 80 to 95 degrees during the day. These plants are not frost-tolerant, which means those who don't live in a tropical climate must grow them in a greenhouse. Mist your plant regularly and make every effort to keep an 80 percent humidity level. At the same time, good air circulation is required to prevent fungal rot.

Fertilizer

Fertilize vanilla orchid plants every two weeks using a diluted, balanced orchid fertilizer. When the plants are in active growth, feed them using the “weekly, weakly” approach.

Pruning

Vanilla orchids will not bear fruit until they are at least three years of age. When the vanilla plant is 2 ½ – 3 years old it is advisable to prune the tip if you want the vanilla plant to produce flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Vanilla orchids are generally free from major pests and diseases. However, they are susceptible to root rot. Root rot can be a result of overwatering or a fungus in the soil. Common symptoms of this plant disease include dull and yellowing leaves, wilting, and mushy, black roots. Other common fungal diseases of vanilla plants include anthracnose, black rot, rust, and root and stem rot. Common pests include Giant African snail, vanilla bug, vanilla vine weevil, beetle, white grubs, and Achatina.
Vanilla Bean Orchid

Varieties of Vanilla Bean Orchid (Vanilla Planifolia) to Try in Your Garden

West Indian Vanilla (Vanilla pompona)

is another species of vanilla used for its fruits and a secondary source of vanilla flavoring. It is native to southern Mexico and South Tropical America. The West Indian vanilla orchids feature long thin stems that measure about 2 cm in diameter and over 5 m in length. The long leaves, which measure 10 to 30 cm, are thick, dark green, and glossy.

Tahitian Vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis)

a hybrid between V. planifolia and V. odorata that was first introduced in Tahiti, hence the name. It produces shorter and broader seed pods than those of a more widespread species, the flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia).
Aside from the difference in appearance, this orchid species also have a distinct taste and fragrance. It is commonly used in desserts, fresh fruits, baked goods, beverages, sauces, and more.

Leafless Vanilla (Vanilla aphylla)

is a vanilla orchid species native to Southeast Asia. It is cultivated in Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Singapore. The plants produce clusters of three to four flowers on a short inflorescence. They bloom in late spring, summer, and fall.
This particular type of vanilla is named as such because of its unusual leafless vine-like thick stems. These stems have internodes spaced at about 4 inches apart. These internodes produce short and thick sheath and roots.

Chamisso's Vanilla (Vanilla chamissonis)

is a vanilla species native to South America. It is named in honor of German poet and botanist Adelbert von Chamisso. The plant features fleshy, pale green leaves and blooms in late spring to early summer.

Mexican Vanilla (Vanilla mexicana)

is a type of vanilla orchid that can be found growing in Mexico, Central America, West Indies, northern South America, and southeast Florida. The plant produces vines that grow up to 15 in length.
Vanilla Bean Orchid

Vanilla Bean Orchid (Vanilla Planifolia) FAQ

When Will My Vanilla Plant Produce Beans?

Your vanilla plant will produce beans in roughly three years. However, each plant is different and the slow coaches have been known to mature after seven years. You'll know that your plant is ready when it blooms for the first time. You might want to do serious research or practice with other orchids before you attempt to hand-pollinate vanilla. The process is delicate and tricky. But once pollinated, the beans will appear within months. After that, they will need the better part of a year to mature for harvest.