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How to plant and grow vanilla

Vanilla phalaenopsis, Brulée, Mahé

Vanilla, the vanilla orchids, form a flowering plant genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae). The most widely known member is the Flat-leaved Vanilla (V. planifolia), from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived. It is the only orchid widely used for industrial purposes (in the food industry and in the cosmetic industry). Another species often grown commercially but not on an industrial scale is the Pompona Vanilla (V. pompona).

This evergreen genus occurs worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions, from tropical America to tropical Asia, New Guinea and West Africa. It was known to the Aztecs for its flavoring qualities. The genus was established in 1754 by Plumier, based on J. Miller. The word vanilla, derived from the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning sheath or pod), simply translates as little pod.




20 responses

  1. If I am not mistaken, I think you need some sort of vanilla wasp to pollinate them before they bear pods? Maybe I am wrong but there is a snowflakes chance in hell of narf77 growing any kind of vanilla orchid here in frosty Tasmania! 😉

    July 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    • Pollination

      Flowering normally occurs every spring, and without pollination, the blossom wilts and falls, and no vanilla bean can grow. Each flower must be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of opening. In the wild, very few natural pollinators exist, with most pollination being carried out by bees of the genus Melipona. These pollinators do not exist outside the orchid’s home range, and even within that range, vanilla orchids have only a 1% chance of successful pollination. As a result, all vanilla grown today is pollinated by hand. A small splinter of wood or a grass stem is used to lift the rostellum or move the flap upward, so the overhanging anther can be pressed against the stigma and self-pollinate the vine. Generally, one flower per raceme opens per day, so the raceme may be in flower for over 20 days. A healthy vine should produce about 50 to 100 beans per year, but growers are careful to pollinate only five or six flowers from the 20 on each raceme. The first flowers that open per vine should be pollinated, so the beans are similar in age. These agronomic practices facilitate harvest and increases bean quality. It takes the fruits five to six weeks to develop, but it takes around six months for the bean to mature. Over-pollination will result in diseases and inferior bean quality.[27] A vine remains productive between 12 and 14 years.

      July 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      • After all that…I would have to fight the duck for the beans! 😉

        July 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      • lol

        July 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      • this is cool piece of history
        It was not until 1841 that a 12-year-old slave by the name of Edmond Albius discovered the correct technique of hand-pollinating the flowers.”

        July 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      • Very interesting! I am not the hugest vanilla fan so won’t be hand pollinating or cultivating the orchid any day soon but if someone gave me one I would enjoy the flowers. Do they smell like vanilla?

        July 22, 2013 at 5:53 am

      • i was wondering that myself, i have never seen it growing. i am huge vanilla fan and there is big difference in quality. currently i go to specialty store and get the Mexican grown vanilla beans. its kind of pricey, so if i could grow enough for me i would be very happy

        July 22, 2013 at 10:44 am

      • July 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

      • July 22, 2013 at 11:11 am

      • i don’t think they do,have not found a definite answer yet, however, the flowers only last one day and the aroma from the pods and beans doesn’t happen till it is in curing process. so i guess no, they do not smell like vanilla.

        July 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

    • i know you can grow it in Texas in USA, not sure what other southern states, unless you have green house and simulate environment. if i do move someplace tropical i am definitely growing my own

      July 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    • i have been wanting to ask you if you would like to one of our authors for this garden blog. your adventures are entertaining 🙂 would love to have you share your experiences here if you like.

      i have to get the baby pcs off the camera and share some personal gardening photos and happenings here. new baby in family July 2 🙂 little hectic here lol

      and honestly am not the best writer, i still can not compose the words the way i would like to convey what i am trying to get across. yes after 20+ years in US i now speak poorly in three languages lol

      July 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      • What bad timing you have…I have just started writing posts for another blog as well as my own called Not Dabbling in Normal. With studying as well I don’t have enough time to donate to another blog and give it the attention it deserves but thank you for asking me it is very flattering :). Where were you originally from?

        July 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      • most welcome, thank you and please continue to share 🙂

        Bologna, Italy, land of food, drools lol

        July 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      • I love Italians, they most certainly know how to live life to the fullest 🙂 AND they have the very best veggie gardens. Some of the most important things I learned about veggie gardening came from the Italian market gardeners in my home state of Western Australia. They were always willing to share what they knew and you could tell the Italian gardens in the suburben houses, the front yards were full of flowers AND veggies all mixed together. A delight to see and way before “sustainable gardening” became a buzz word 🙂

        July 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      • thank you 🙂

        yes that is pretty much my front yard, flowers, veggies and herbs all mixed 🙂 i have this variety of thyme i am still trying to identify. it has yellow flowers, and the bumblebees just love it, the garden is full of the fuzzy little buggers 🙂

        July 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  2. (although I AM growing turmeric and cardamom in the glasshouse…)

    July 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    • i was just looking at Saffron, that is impossible to grow your own pretty much. no wonder it is so expensive

      July 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm

  3. I think I will stick to the vanilla extract in supermarket 😀

    July 23, 2013 at 2:46 am

    • i make it out of Mexican vanilla beans also but i use glass, i am really not a fan of plastic.

      July 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

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