By Bonnie L. Grant
True vanilla has a fragrance and flavor unmatched by cheaper extracts and is the product of an orchid pod or fruit. There are 100 species of vanilla orchid, a vine which can get up to 300 feet in length. Vanilla planifola is the scientific name for this flavoring that originated in Mexico. Vanilla orchid care is very specific and each requirement must be met exactly in order for the vine to produce fruit. Learn how to grow vanilla orchid in the home interior.
Can I Grow Vanilla Orchid?
The home grower can certainly cultivate a vanilla orchid. The easiest way to raise an orchid is to use a greenhouse or room with carefully controlled heat and light. Unfortunately, even the best care often does not result in the pods, which are the source of the vanilla flavor. The glossy green vine will still add an attractive accent to your home.
Planting Vanilla Orchid
Good orchid growers know that planting vanilla orchid properly is the first step to a healthy plant. Choose an orchid pot with good drainage holes and fill it part way with fir bark and terrestrial orchid mixture.
Cut off the bottom one-third of the roots with a sanitized knife. Put the vanilla plant into the pot and fill the rest of the way with the fir bark mixture. You will need a stake or pole on which to train the vine.
Conditions for Growing Vanilla Orchids
The orchid is a potentially massive vine but in home cultivation the plant will likely only grow a fraction of its potential. The plant still needs special conditions to thrive. Provide temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and 50 at night.
Growing vanilla orchid in a hot house is ideal but you need to add extra humidity and air circulation. The home bathroom is a good place for humidity and heat as long as you have a fan for air circulation. Medium lighting to partially shaded areas provided the best situation for vanilla orchid care.
How to Grow Vanilla Orchid
If you are very lucky your vanilla vine may bear large greenish yellow flowers that turn into long 6-inch pods in eight to nine months. To accomplish this the plant needs food. Fertilize the orchid every two weeks with a diluted orchid fertilizer. Water the plant consistently to keep it evenly moist but allow the top two to three inches to dry out between watering.
Vanilla orchid care does require vigilance for spider mites and mealybugs. The orchid’s high moisture needs open it up to become a victim of root rot, so the plant should be repotted annually and have its roots examined. Growing vanilla orchids is a fun and challenging hobby.