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Vanilla Orchid

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Vanilla Orchid

Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompano

  • ​​​Common Name: Vanilla Orchid (Other common names: Flat leaved Vanilla)
  • Scientific Name: Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompano (S. Florida)
  • Family Name: Orchidaceae
  • Origin: native to Florida and the Americas. Rainforests of South and Central America, Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar.  A few native species are in Florida. Florida's swamps are home to four native species: V. barbellata, V. dilloniana, V. phaeantha, and V. mexicana.
  • Height: Vines upward to 300 feet
  • Width: leaves from 3-24”
  • Growth: Fast growing vine - doesn’t require lot of space. 7-8 years to maturity.
  • Zone: 10A - 11
  • Light Needs: Bright filtered shade, indirect sunlight.
  • Salt Tolerance:  unknown
  • Soil/PH/Texture: Hn grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.
  • Soil Moisture: high humidity, to 80%, pots need excellent drainage.
  • Drought Tolerance: low
  • Pests/Diseases: Cuban garden snails and slugs.  Other fungal diseases include antracnose and mildew. Root and stem rot (browning and wilting).
  • Growing Conditions: Good air flow.  60-70° night temps and 80-95° daytime.  NOT frost tolerant.  Use a planting mix of half bark, half potting mix to start cuttings.  Can take 3-5 years from cuttings to flower production.  Fertilize every 2 weeks in spring and summer.  In the home garden, train roots back to the ground for further nutrition to encourage large strong vines.
  • Characteristics: The plant grows up the tree in a zigzag pattern and a mature plant can have several hundred bell-shaped fragrant flowers of white, yellow or pink. Each showy flower lasts for only one day but V. planifolia will go on flowering for about 2 months. Some species can flower for even longer periods of time. And once flowering is over, the plant begins producing its famous fruits: vanilla beans.  Auto pollination is rare.  The non-native orchid bee, Euglossa dilemma, has been established in Southern Florida and could potentially be a pollinator.  Otherwise, pollination must be done manually. The long bean-like fruit of the vanilla (vanilla beans) must remain on the vine for 9 months to develop the sought-after aroma.  The curing and aging process takes another 3 months.
  • Propagation: From cuttings. Large cuttings of 24” - 36” can root and flower in just 2 to 3 years. Smaller cuttings will take longer, likely 3 to 4 years. In general, vanilla begins to flower when the vine diameter reaches 0.25” - 0.5”
  • Wildlife: Attracts bees.
  • Facts: Vanilla is the second most valuable edible on Earth. Less than 1% of vanilla comes from the vanilla orchid because most vanilla is created in laboratories.  Other uses for vanilla include a natural antimicrobial remedy and is being tested for use against sickle cell anemia. Mesoamericans were the first people to harvest vanilla. The stems sap can cause moderate to severe skin reaction in some individuals.
  • Designer Considerations: This plant is a semi-epiphytic, meaning it that it can grow as an air plant in a tree or in the soil. Can grow on tropical fruit trees.  Suitable for pots as well.