Choose a country to see content specific to your location

Skip to main content
A picture of a Vanilla

Vanilla

Vanilla planifolia

Also known as

Vanilla Orchid, Bourbon Vanilla

Vanilla planifolia (Vanille) by Fpalli (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Partial Shade
Advanced care
Moderate watering
Tender

12b

USDA zone

13°C

Minimum temperature

Expected size

Height
Spread

6m

Max

30cm

3m

Min

20cm

Flowering

  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a strong fragrance

More images of Vanilla

A Vanilla planifolia plant growing up a tree
A green leaved Vanilla planifolia plant
A green Vanilla planifolia plant with yellow green flowers
A photo of Vanilla

Vanilla Overview

Vanilla planifolia is a wonderful climbing orchid species from the Orchidaceae family. It is considered to be one of the most well-known species in the genus Vanilla. It produces valuable vanilla seed pods, which are processed to create one of the most popular flavours in the world. This species grows well onto trees and poles, having evolved from tropical rainforest environments in Central America. Growing up to 30m with support, it forms green stems measuring around 1cm across and fleshy leaves. The green leaves measure up to 15cm long. Vanilla was used by the Aztec people in Mexico to flavour cocoa. It is also used in perfumes, medications and for culinary purposes. It is tender and won't cope with freezing temperatures, grow under glass in frost-prone climates. It enjoys bright, indirect light and moist, well-draining soil. Vanilla flowers are produced in dense clusters, they are pale green-yellow in colour and have yellow hairs, the flowers lead onto cylindrical capsules, from which vanilla is extracted. Vanilla planifolia is pollinated by bees from the genus Melipona.

Common problems with Vanilla

Fungus rot, spider mites and mealybugs.

Vanilla Companion Plants

Generally planted into their own pots, but group with similar orchids and those with similar needs.

How to harvest Vanilla

After harvest, fresh vanilla pods have no aroma. It must be cured for 4-5 months - a process of drying and fermenting pods, which encourages secretion of vanillin in tiny crystals on the outside of the pod and add the popular vanilla fragrance.

How to propagate Vanilla

Cuttings

Cutting is placed on sphagnum moss and kept damp in a warm/humid environment until new growth starts from one of the nodes.

Seed

Sow mature fresh seed on moss and keep warm, moist and in a humid enviroment.

Special features of Vanilla

Attracts useful insects

Tiny bee (Melipone), is attracted to teh flowers.

Indoor plant

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 30 C in the day and 10 C 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.

Pot plant

Plant into bark and terrestrial orchid mixture, ensuring free drainage.

Attractive flowers

Other uses of Vanilla

Medicinal

Has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Edible

Tiny seeds, whole fruit, powder or fruit extract of vanilla are used as flavouring agents in food, confectionery and sweet foods to reduce the amount of sugar. Important ingredients in perfumery.