How to Grow Vanilla

Four Parts:Constructing a Tropical EnvironmentPlanting the OrchidCultivating VanillaGrowing Vanilla Beans

Vanilla is an edible pod from orchids of the Vanilla genus. It is commonly cultivated in Mexico, Madagascar, Reunion and several other tropical locations, where it vines up trees. Growing vanilla at home can be a difficult and long process.

Part 1
Constructing a Tropical Environment

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    Construct a tall greenhouse or hothouse. Vanilla orchids require a tropical environment, so you will need sunlight, heat, space and humidity for it to grow. If you live in the South of the United States, Australia or another warm climate you may be able to cultivate vanilla outside.
    • Your environment should be 65 degrees (18 Celsius) or warmer all year to successfully cultivate an orchid. Warmer temperatures are preferable.
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    Try growing several types of orchids before you attempt to grow a vanilla orchid. You can improve the greenhouse conditions until they are ideal for this type of orchid that requires heat, humidity and partial shade.
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    Purchase a vanilla cutting. If you don’t have a local florist or garden center that sells these, you may need to order them online. Ensure each cutting is at least one foot (30 cm) long.
    • If you are ordering cuttings online, you may want to purchase several to improve your chances of having a vanilla crop.
    • Cuttings are usually taken from mature plants that are 20 feet (6 m) or more in length.

Part 2
Planting the Orchid

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    Immerse your cutting completely in a tray of water for 10 minutes.
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    Remove the cutting from the water, but reinsert the ends in the tray. The ends should remain immersed for five days. Notice which end is the top and which is the bottom.
    • Add a pinch of liquid fertilizer to improve results.
    • The top is the direction in which the plant has been growing. The leaves will point down toward the bottom of the cutting.[1]
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    Ready a space in your hothouse or outdoor tropical garden next to a tree or a trellis. It will need shade 50 percent of the time, as well as constant support to grow vines. If you are using a trellis, you will need to create a shaded area above the plant.
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    Pour orchid potting soil into a pot. Lay the bottom two nodes of the plant horizontally on the top of the soil. Nodes are vine intersections.
    • Orchid soil is usually a combination of pine bark, perlite and mulch.
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    Cover these nodes with 0.8 inches (2 cm) of orchid potting soil.
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    Tie the remaining plant to the trellis or a stake. It must be trained to grow vertically. You can purchase ties or clips online or at a gardening store.
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    Keep the soil slightly drier for the first month, but never allow it to completely dry out.[2]
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    Water the plant regularly as time goes on. Never allow the soil to dry out, yet don’t allow it to get too saturated or it can rot.

Part 3
Cultivating Vanilla

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    Add mulch to the soil every few months. The mulch is its food so it should be rich in organic matter.
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    Move the plant as needed for the next nine to 12 months to ensure it gets sunlight for approximately 50 percent of the day.
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    Allow the vanilla orchid to grow and mature for several years. Air roots will attach upward to the support and others will reach down to the soil. It will take between two and seven years for the plant to grow large enough to bloom.
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    Mist the orchid daily with soft water. It will encourage roots to grow and the plant to grow larger.[3]

Part 4
Growing Vanilla Beans

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    Watch out for clusters of vanilla orchid flowers. It only flowers for a six week period per year and the flowers only last approximately one day.[4] During this time, you will need to hand pollinate the flower in order to grow the vanilla beans.
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    Wear rubber gloves to avoid problems with orchid sap. Consider asking a local orchid grower to help you hand-pollinate the first few times. It is a very delicate process.
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    Push the anther up. Push the pollen mass out and hold it up with your right thumb and index finger. Use your middle finger to push the anther back and expose the cam underneath it, which serves as a shield.
    • Place the pollen on the ridge. Push the ridge back into place with your left hand and pull the cap back down.
    • Repeat with all the flowers.
    • Pollinate in the morning. Some sources suggest 11 am is the best time.[5]
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    Watch to see if the stem turns downward. If it begins to elongate instead of point up, it is pollinated.
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    Continue caring for the plant and pollinating the flowers. Pods should appear within two months; however, they take nine months to mature.
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    Pick the pods when they are green and begin to turn yellow at the bottom.
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    Cure your vanilla beans before using them. Spread your beans on trays and place them in direct sunlight for three hours. Fold them inside cloth to sweat overnight.
    • Repeat each day until the pods turn a deep brown.
    • Hang them or place them in drying rooms for two to four weeks.


  • Sap from orchid roots and flowers can irritate the skin. Wear gloves and be cautious when replanting or pollinating the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Greenhouse
  • Vanilla orchid cutting
  • Tray
  • Liquid fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Water
  • Tree/trellis
  • Clips/ties
  • Spray bottle

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