The vanilla bean is a climbing tropical vine related to the orchid family. True to the orchids elusive nature, the vanilla vine flowers only once a year, and then only for a four-hour period. Native to Mexico, this exotic vine will only grow in USDA zone 11, Hawaii being the only appropriate climate for outdoor cultivation. While cultivation of a vanilla crop is not feasible outside of Hawaii, growing a vine or two in a humid hothouse or bathroom is a fun and challenging project.
Cut the tip of a green vanilla vine. Use a pair of sharp garden clippers to make a clean diagonal cut. Select a cutting that is be between 9 and 12 inches long.
Place the cut end into a jar or vase of water. Add 1 tablespoon of fertilizer to stimulate root development. You should see root development in 12 to 14 days.
Prepare a planting pot with rich sandy loamy soil. Add equal parts topsoil, compost, coarse sand and peat moss to the mixture. Select a pot that has drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to drain through after watering.
Make a hole in the center large enough to accommodate the root system of your vanilla vine and 1/3 of the vine's length. If you have a 9-inch vine cutting you will bury 3 inches under the soil.
Water the vanilla vine making sure the soil in the pot is saturated. You will see water draining from the bottom of the pot when it is properly watered. Keep the soil in the pot moist, and do not let it dry out.
Drive a stake into the pot next to the vine being careful not to damage or disturb the root system. This will give the vine something to climb up as it grows and develops.
Put your vanilla bean plant in a warm, humid place that gets plenty of natural light. Indirect light, such as light filtering through green foliage is better then direct sunlight.
Things You Will Need
- Pruning shears
- Jar or vase
- Peat moss
- Coarse sand
- Potting soil
- Wooden stake
- It can take a vanilla vine up to four years to bloom and produce a bean pod after planting.
- Set a saucer or tray under the pot to protect surfaces from water damage, but be sure to empty the tray daily to prevent water building up, which can cause the roots to rot.
- The vanilla flavor is harvested from the seedpod, but for the pod to develop the flowers must be hand pollinated. Plant several vines and when the flowers emerge, dust the pollen from one flower to another using a cotton tipped stick or soft paint brush.
- You can plant your vine at the base of a small potted tree to give it a natural structure on which to grow.