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Last Update 06/03/08
Plant of the Month

 Vanilla planifolia or Vanilla fragrans

 Vanilla Orchid

Vanilla is the only orchid that can produce edible fruits. The process of converting vanilla into a spice is very long and complicated; hence, vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Pollination is only possible through manual manipulation. The pods must be blanched before drying and fermenting -- all tricky processes to bring out the bean's best flavor.

Vanilla Planifolia, Vanilla Orchid

Vanilla Orchid closeup (Click for Larger View)

Click pictures for a closer view.

This plant is approximately 4 years old, 12' long and is growing on a Clerodendrum (Clerodendron) Quadriloculare

Common Name:  Vanilla Orchid

Botanical Name:  Vanilla planifolia or Vanilla fragrans

Family:  Orchidaceae

Plant Type:  Climbing, terrestrial orchid

Origin: Florida, West Indies, Central and South America

Zones: 10 - 11

Height:  30' or more

Rate of Growth: Slow

Salt Tolerance: Medium

Soil Requirements:  Well drained, moist, fertile humus to start, plant becomes Epiphytic with age

Water Requirements: Water freely, less water in winter

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly

Light Requirements: Partial shade

Form:  Branching climber -- give it a sturdy, shady tree to climb

Leaves:  Fleshy, mid-green to 6" long

Flowers:  In Spring, yellow-green, 3/4" across, on axillary racemes

Fruits: Pendulous, cylindrical seed pods to 10" long

Pests:  Aphids, scale insects and spider mites

Uses:  Curiosity -- conversation piece

Bad Habits: 

Cost:  $$ -- reasonable

Propagation:   cuttings

Source:   A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

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