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The vanilla, bot. Vanilla is a genus of the orchid family (Orchidaceae). All species of the genus are evergreen, perennial climbing plants. The best-known type is the spice or real vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), from whose seed capsules, which are also popularly called pods, the spice vanilla is extracted. You can get a vanilla orchid from breeders or good specialist shops. With a little skill, you can also grow vanilla yourself.


In order to grow young plants from a vanilla orchid, the mother plant needs good care. Since vanilla is native to tropical and subtropical regions, it needs lots of light and a high humidity. It must also be watered and fertilized regularly. The plant does not need pruning.


A vanilla plant thrives best in one Glasshouse, because that is where the optimum climate for the plants can be created. Because Vanilla planifolia needs a location with:

  • 25°C to 28°C
  • high humidity (80 percent)
  • lots of light, but without direct sunlight

In addition, she needs a climbing aid, which should not be too short, because the tendrils of the plants are between ten and fifteen meters long.
An alternative to the greenhouse is the east or west window of living rooms or the bright bathroom. In these, however, the temperatures should not fall below 18 °C and should be constant. You should also be prepared for indoor culture that the plants can only rarely be made to bloom.


Vanilla grows best in orchid soil. If you want to put together the substrate yourself, then a mixture of pine soil and conventional potting soil is recommended. It is important that the substrate has the following properties:

  • slightly damp
  • friable and
  • air permeable

tip: When planting, the substrate is only lightly draped around the roots to allow the roots to breathe. Under no circumstances should you press the substrate.

watering and fertilizing

Only use lime-free, lukewarm water for watering. Rainwater is ideal. When watering, make sure that the substrate is always slightly damp. The soil can dry slightly on the surface of the pot, but it should always be slightly damp at the bottom of the pot. Do not give the orchid too much water either, because the plants do not tolerate waterlogging.
In order to be able to meet the plant's desire for high humidity in living rooms, you should spray the vanilla regularly with lukewarm, lime-free water. You should also place the plant and the planter in a wide vessel filled with water.

Fertilize every two weeks from March to September with a special, low-salt orchid fertilizer. Don't fertilize in winter when vanilla is resting. You should also reduce the watering, but the orchid must not dry out.

Vanilla orchids use trees as climbing aids


The vanilla orchid can be propagated with seeds or cuttings, although propagation with seeds is not so easy for the hobby gardener.


In order to grow vanilla plants from seeds, you need to obtain seeds from the mother plant. These are in the pods, i.e. the fruits of the vanilla orchid. This means that the plant must first be made to flower. If this is successful, then it must be pollinated by hand.


In order for the manual stunning to be successful, you must always be on your guard, because the time window for this is very tight. You only have a few hours. The vanilla bud opens in the morning hours and dies by the evening of the same day. Therefore, you should pollinate them between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. Proceed as follows to pollinate the hermaphrodite flower:

  • Carefully slit the flower open on one side with a pointed chopstick, e.g. a toothpick
  • Pick up the yellowish pollen from the male genitalia with a toothpick and transfer it to the pistil underneath

If pollination has worked, the flower will develop into a long, green pod after six to nine months.

Cultivation of the seeds

A vanilla pod contains around a million seeds. Therefore, one might think that propagation is not a problem. However, this is not the case. Vanilla seeds need a partner to germinate mycorizza fungus, with which they enter into a symbiosis. The tiny seeds only begin to germinate when this is in the growing substrate. But there is another hurdle. In order for sowing to be successful, it must be in a completely sterile environment take place.
Since this environment is difficult for the hobby gardener to create, there is an alternative that promises success: sowing in a pot next to the mother plant.

To do this, proceed as follows:

  • Scatter seeds on the substrate of the mother plant
  • sieve very thinly with peat sand or vermiculite
  • Spray finely with lime-free water

tip: Scatter the seeds generously, as there is still a high failure rate.

Then place the pot in a light but not full sun location. The optimal temperature is 28 °C. It is watered regularly, but you must not fertilize during the germination phase. If the mycorizza fungus is present in the substrate, you should see the first seedlings after 6 to 30 days.


Propagation with head cuttings is easy compared to growing with seeds. Proceed as follows:

  • cut off a head cutting about 40 centimeters long
  • Remove leaves on the bottom side
  • Put the cuttings in a pot with potting soil
  • Tie the cutting to a trellis
  • Slightly moisten the potting soil with a spray bottle
  • Put a glass cover or transparent plastic over the pot and cutting (humidity)
  • Keep substrate slightly moist (spray leaves)
  • Place the cutting in a bright spot out of direct sunlight (temperature: 25 °C)

If you discover a new shoot on the cutting, then the cutting has taken root and the propagation has been successful.

tip: You can also place the cutting in a glass of water to root.

To harvest

Home-grown vanilla plants flower after several years at the earliest. So it takes some patience before you can use your own vanilla in the kitchen. You also have to pollinate the flowers by hand, just like propagating from seeds. The vanilla pods are harvested while they are still green. If you have already turned yellow, it is too late and the pods will burst.


In order for the pods to get their vanilla-scented aroma, they have to be fermented. To do this, they are briefly immersed in hot water and then kept in a humid environment for several weeks. To do this, you can wrap the pods in damp cloths and place them near a heater.

During this process, the pods slowly turn brown. The pods then have to dry for several weeks. Alternatively, you can also dry them in the oven at low temperatures. Now the brown pods are stored dry and get the popular aroma.

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