How to Grow Vanilla Bean Orchids

Overview

Vanilla is an essential flavoring for everything from milkshakes to fudge. The freshest tasting vanilla comes from the vanilla bean produced by the vanilla orchid (Vanilla plainifolia). This tropical vining orchid grows high in the trees in the rain forest, producing yellow-green blossoms and long, narrow seed pods which provide the distinctive vanilla flavor. You can steep these pods in vodka to create your own vanilla extract, bury them in sugar to create vanilla sugar or scrape the seeds into puddings, cakes or other recipes for an intense vanilla flavor.

Step 1

Fill the clay pot two-thirds full with a growing medium made especially for orchids. This is usually a fibrous substance such as osmunda fiber or bark. A clay pot is preferable to plastic, because it allows for better drainage.

Step 2

Carefully spread out the roots of the orchid and set the plant on top of the growing medium in the pot. The plant should be centered in the pot.

Step 3

Fill the pot the rest of the way with growing medium and pack down around the plant.

Step 4

Set the pot in a bright window in a warm spot away from drafts. Vanilla orchids need a lot of heat and light in order to bloom.

Step 5

Set the plant on a tray filled with pebbles. Water the plant and allow the water to drain into the tray.

Step 6

Run a humidifier near the plant. Vanilla orchids grow in the tropical rain forest and like high humidity.

Step 7

Water the orchid only when the growing medium dries out. Too much water will lead to rot.

Step 8

Feed your vanilla orchid every other week with food made especially for orchids. Follow the directions on the package to determine the proper amount of food to give your orchid.

Step 9

Support your vanilla orchid with stakes or netting as it grows and climbs.

Tips and Warnings

  • It can take up to nine months for your orchid to produce even one flower.

Things You'll Need

  • 8-inch clay pot
  • Orchid growing medium
  • Tray with pebbles
  • Humidifier
  • Orchid food
  • Stakes or netting

References

  • University of Georgia: Growing Orchids
  • Texas A&M University: Orchid Family
  • Purdue University: The Vanilla Orchid

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois: Vanilla
Keywords: vanilla bean, vanilla orchid, growing vanilla

About this Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University. Before turning to freelancing full time, Myers worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.