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Vanilla is becoming one of the most expensive flavors and that brings more interest to people who want to grow the plant.
The vanilla plant is an orchid and also a tall vine with white flowers. You’ll find a common plant pairing that is a big coffee tree with a vanilla epiphyte growing like a vine.
The plant is native in the tropical Mexico region, growing at a minimum temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
That means growing the plant will need extra care and arrangements.
Read on to find out how to grow a vanilla bean.
The vanilla bean plants need humid weather to live in, which means for those of us in the colder regions, you will need a greenhouse.
That’s because they cannot survive in temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. They also require moist humidity to grow. You will want an even warmer environment to grow the flowers and the beans.
That is why you have to cultivate in a greenhouse to grow the vanilla beans. The process of cultivating vanilla beans can be expensive and require hard work. If you don’t live in Mexico, there are no natural pollinators. That means you’ll have to do the pollinating by hand.
How to Grow Vanilla Bean: Steps to Grow Vanilla
Growing the vanilla bean requires extra care, and the plant needs to grow in a greenhouse to sustain temperatures in non-tropical regions.
These are the steps to grow vanilla beans on your own.
Step 1: Plant the cutting in a warm and humid place and spray them with warm water
You’ll want to use a vanilla cutting because it’s tedious to get it to grow and root as a seed. You can get a vanilla plant cutting from Amazon.
However, you can get vanilla seeds, too, if you want to grow from seed.
The best place to plant a vanilla plant is a greenhouse if you in zones that get colder than 55 Fahrenheit. It keeps the weather warm inside and restricts direct sunlight.
You need to place the plant in a place where it can get a temperature of 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, keep it away from direct sunlight. Leave the plants in a shaded area. This will ensure the best growth for your plant.
When you get the cutting, the sap is acidic can be irritating for the skin. Wear gloves or wash your hands.
Place the plant in the pot, right side up. Make sure the leaves are facing upwards. If there are any roots visible, that side goes down.
For this step, you’ll need:
- Plant pot, minimum 6 inches
- Medium mix for orchids, such as pine bark, or coconut coir, perlite, lava rocks, make sure it is sterile. Vanilla plants grow from tree bark, so you do not want to use regular soil where they will rot.
Put the plant cutting in the pot and add the bark. Add a bit of slow-release fertilizer.
Add a stake or pot trellis for the vine plant to hold on to.
Then you need to spray the plant with warm water on a daily basis.
The warm water will keep the moisture up to benefit the plant growth.
It will take 3-6 weeks for the cutting to develop a nice root system.
Step 2: Transfer it to the growing area
Vanilla orchid plants grow in tree bark. A common combination is with a coffee tree or cacao tree.
Remove any weeds at the bottom of the tree because it will compete with the vanilla plant growth.
Put your plant pot next to the tree and wrap the vanilla vine around the trunk. This acclimatizes the vine to start growing on this tree.
Optionally, make a few cuts in the tree bark along the trunk and place the new vanilla plant roots in there. Cover with some bark.
Mist daily and apply a diluted amount of fertilizer every two weeks. Use about half the strength of fertilizer recommended by the package instructions.
The fertilizer should be Triple 13 with no urea and controlled-release.
Step 3: Keep the humidity high
You need to mix water and fertilizer together and then spray it on the plant every two weeks.
The growth season of the vanilla vine is in the spring to late summer. Fertilize weekly during that time to accelerate the growth of the plant.
Overwatering can lead to a fungal infection in the plant roots. So let the soil get dry a bit if it feels wet to you.
This will prevent the rotting of the roots.
Step 4: Hand pollination
If you’re growing vanilla bean outside of its native area, you’re going to have to do hand pollination to increase the chance of growing the vanilla bean.
You’re going to putting the pollen from the male flowers to the stigma of the female flowers.
The vanilla orchid blooms once a year for a month, around April to May, in the later spring and early summer.
When they do, the bloom only lasts for a few hours, so you’re going to have to be ready for it.
To help you with hand polinating, you can use a pollinator.
As well, not every pollination ends up with vanilla beans.
Step 5: Pick the beans when they turn yellow
When you have the beans turned yellow, then you can pick them up. It takes 8 to 9 months for a vanilla bean to ripen.
Cut through the steam to pick the bean. Then scale them to preserve them and get them ready to be consumed.
Getting the vanilla beans ready for harvesting is a tough job. With time, you can practice the process to grow vanilla beans.
You’ll need to be patient because it takes 3 to 7 years to be mature enough to flower and fruit.
Learn more about the vanilla plant in the next section.
When is Vanilla Harvested?
The vanilla is harvested when the beans turn yellow. The color tells you that they are fully ripe.
The vanilla bean tips become yellow first, and that indicates that the time is coming. Besides, the vanilla bean takes around 9 months to get ripe.
How Long Does it Take for Vanilla to Grow?
The vanilla takes around 3 to 7 years, depending on the species, to start its first flowers.
The survival rate of the vanilla plant is relatively low in comparison to other orchid plants.
This makes it one of the most expensive spices of all.
Where Do Vanilla Beans Grow Best?
The vanilla beans grow best where there is a tropical climate. The warm weather is the initial requirement of the vanilla beans to grow.
It is mostly cultivated in Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti, Indonesia, and other tropical locations of the world.
If you don’t live in these areas, only with a proper greenhouse system, you can grow your own at your house.
Vanilla has a sweet flavor and aroma that makes it highly desirable for baking, drinks, and food.
With a greenhouse or a tropical climate and a good amount of patience, you too, can grow and harvest vanilla beans.