Vanilla is part of the Vanilla genus and its scientific name is Vanilla fragrans.
Vanilla is a fleshy, herbaceous perennial vine, climbing by means of adventitious roots up trees to a height of 10-15 m. Stems are dark green and photosynthetic. The leaves are large, flat and alternate with an aerial root opposite. They are narrow oblong shaped, tapering at both ends with numerous parallel veins.
Flowers are borne on short axillary bunches, with one to three flowers open at one time. They are large, pale greenish-yellow, fragrant, waxy and orchid like. The fruit is a long cylindrical capsule, called a bean. Due to the structure of the flower and the lack of vectors pollination must be carried out by hand.
This variety has a sweet fragrance and typically grows to 5.0 cm (1.95 inches imperial) in diameter, blooming in the following colours: Royal yellow and Yellow-green. This variety typically produces fruit in the following colours: Forest green (web). The leaves of this particular variety normally show as Bright green colour. It is a flower / orchid and is treated mainly as an annual/perennial, so it can grow either as a single season or multiple season plant. Vanilla is known for its vine-like habit and growing to a height of approximately 12.00 metres (39.00 feet). This plant tends to bloom in early summer, followed by first harvests in mid winter.
WARNING – Vanilla poisoning can occur from contact with the latex juice in the green plant, resulting in skin inflammation. Handling pods during curing can also result in skin eruptions, headache, fever and intestinal disorders.
Guatemala is believed to be where Vanilla originates from.
This plant tends to need a moderate amount of maintenance, so ensuring that you are aware of the soil, sun, ph and water requirements for Vanilla is quite important to ensure you have a happy and healthy plant.
This plant info is provided by the myfolia gardener's wiki. All details about Vanilla have been kindly provided by our members.
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Prefers a hot, moist climate with frequent rain with an average temperature of 27°C. A short dry period is required to induce flowering. Soils should be light and friable with adequate drainage. A thick layer of humus material or mulch and light shade is also required.
When growing a vanilla orchid the vine should be guided back to the ground regularly to promote the growth of new roots in the soil. This method provides an ample supply of nutrients and triggers fast vegetative growth.1
The vanilla orchid will take about two months to get established. It will also take from three to five years to start flowering. When successful the plant will produce seed pods that need to remain in the vine for nine months to develop their distinctive aroma. The process of curing the pods will then take about three months after which time they are ready to be sold.1Position in a dappled sun / full shade location and remember to water often. Use Zone 10 - Zone 11 as your guideline for the appropriate climate for this plant. Vanilla requires a soil ph of 6.6 - 7.5 meaning it does best in weakly acidic soil - weakly alkaline soil. Keep in mind when planting that Vanilla is thought of as tender, so remember to wait until your soil is warm and the night time temperature is well above freezing before moving outside.
See our list of companion Plants for Vanilla to see which plants you should plant in close proximity to encourage growth.
Commercial vanilla is always grown from cuttings taken from healthy vigorous plants. They can be from anywhere on the plant and can be from 30 cm to 3 m long.
Short cuttings may take up to three to fours years to flower, where long cuttings will flower in one to two years. Remove the lower two to three leaves from the stem and push into the humic layer and mulch. The stem should be tied to the support until the aerial roots have taken hold, and the end of the steam draped over the top of the support to hang.
Supports can be a small tree with low branches and light chequered shade or a trellis with partial shade. Some form of wind shelter is also recommended, as plants can be damaged by strong winds.
Fruit is produced only on mature plants, which are generally over 10 ft long. The fruits are 6-9 in long pods. They mature after about five months, at which point they are harvested and cured. Curing ferments and dries the pods while minimizing the loss of essential oils. Vanilla extract is obtained from this portion of the plant.3
Pots must be killed after harvest so they will stop growing. This is usually done by either leaving pods out in the hot sun, or by boiling them.2
These problems, diseases and pests are known to affect Vanilla plants:
Vanilla beans can be placed in a canister with sugar to create vanilla flavored sugar. This will take about one week. This sugar can be used in decoration work on cakes, pastries etc.1
Vanilla orchid, Flat-leaved Vanilla, West Indian Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla, Madagascar Bourbon, Bourbon, Tahitian vanilla
Vanilla planifolia, Notylia planifolia, Vanilla viridiflora, Vanilla pompona, Notylia pompona, Vanilla sativa, Notylia sativa, Vanilla rubra