Vanilla beans are the fruit of the vanilla orchid. All vanilla plants are vines that reach more than 90 feet in height in their natural habitat, causing some people to confuse the vining plants with the trees they use as support. These vines produce clusters of fragrant, small, white flowers and, later, pods containing the edible vanilla beans. Native to tropical environments, such as Central and South America, the vanilla bean plant requires specialised growing conditions. Once these conditions are met, this vine will add tropical flowers to your home or greenhouse and consistently produce pods of fresh vanilla beans.
Select an area for your vanilla bean plant where it will receive direct morning sun and indirect, bright afternoon sun, such as near an east-facing window. Mimic the natural growing environment of the vanilla bean plant whenever possible. Vanilla plants thrive in the jungle, where they grow up the trunks and branches of other trees. This provides them with filtered light and protection from the heat of the day.
Provide a trellis or other structure on which your vanilla vine can grow. This is vital, as this plant gets much of its moisture and its nutrients from aerial roots produced along the vine of the plant.
Water your vanilla bean plant frequently, keeping the soil moist but not wet. Place a humidifier near the plant to increase the humidity in the air. Most home environments do not have sufficient humidity for vanilla bean plants to thrive.
Feed your vanilla bean plant 1/2 tsp of 20-10-20 fertiliser every two weeks. Water well after fertilising. Instead, 1/4 tsp of 20-10-20 fertiliser every week is also recommended.
Prune the tips of the plant with garden clippers once it is three years old. Vanilla bean plants are immature and do not produce flowers until they reach this age. Pruning at this time encourages flower production.
Pollinate your flowers soon after they open by gently lifting the part of the flower that covers the anthers and stigma. Taking a cotton swab or like instrument, press the anther to the stigma. Pollinate only two or three flowers per cluster to assure premium vanilla bean production.
Keep the daytime temperature of your home between 26.7 and 32.2 degrees Celsius. At night, these orchids prefer a temperature of 15.6 to 21.1 degrees Celsius.