Can someone help me with growing vanilla orchids

Can someone help me with growing vanilla orchids? I dont know what potting soil to use or how to water the plant. Thanks

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depends on humidity in your locale. To a newbie, tropical orchids can be a bit daunting, and the tendency is to overwater. I think orchids grown in usa are more likely to die of overwatering than underwatering. Orchids actually benefit from brief periods of roots drying out on a daily basis.
Coconut husk is probably the best medium if you’re in a low humidity area. If you’re growing them in humid areas, a denser/less porous medium as solid tree bark or regular wood chips would be good. Don’t use overtly oily wood as fir wood/conifer wood. Vanilla is typically a monopod so will get longer, you can have it propped onto a dried-up tree branch segment, and just keep the base supplied with coconut husk or wood chips.

practically all tropical orchids like their roots moist for the most part, BUT well-aerated. Never a good idea to embed orchid roots in a pot with no drainage.

the trick with most orchids is to wait until the foliage starts getting a little sad/wrinkly before watering. If you’re growing your orchid in a really dry region as vegas/phx, etc, would also be good to lightly spray the foliage, and not just the roots. As long as roots don’t get waterlogged, your orchids will be fine.

orchids actually get to be more productive when given lots of light, but are prone to sunburn under direct sunlight. Give your orchids as much filtered light(30% to 70% filtered light, which is species- and location-dependent) for as long as you could provide them, as long as the foliage does not bleach or start getting sad/wrinkly. You could practice on some sacrificial specimens. Vanilla can handle a bit more intense sunlight better than, say, certain phalaenopsis, but can get sunburnt at some point. Yellowing(chlorosis) is the first sign of sunburn.

one way of telling if your orchid is getting too little light is if the foliage loses stiffness, and if it starts to grow broader leaves as the orchid grows, and if foliage get too glossy in appearance. Generally speaking, orchids which get good amounts of light have thicker/firmer and more rotund foliage(instead of tongue-like) and have a more matte appearance instead of glossy.
keep us posted here :slight_smile:


I intend to test your observations @jujubemulberry. I have an array of orchids indoors, mostly phals, and have never really thought about what you just posted. I have six books about orchids and have devoured all of them including literature and gardening forums online. None of them mention anything that you just posted. You are just always onto something that other plant nerds have not observed or analyzed.

i actually seek doubters, lol

we both probably read the same stuff, as am greedy for info myself

i couldn’t blame you for doubting, because you are right, i am my own reference for many of my posts here. It is just that would rather post stuff that have never been published. That said-- readers beware!

no need to test it. Are you still in vegas? If you go to a smith’s grocery store or lowes near you, you could check out the phals for sale there. Those that are still blooming(recently imported from sunny nurseries in california) still have firm, smallish, and thick foliage that are matte in appearance, while those that are already on sale at 50% off(for having been in the store for so long) have broader, longer, and softer leaves that are also glossier and deeper green.

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Re-viving this thread in case there are other vanilla orchid growers out there:

Even since visiting a vanilla orchid nursery on Big Island in HI, I’ve been smitten with the vanilla challenge. Just got a Tahitian vanilla orchid this week and am contemplating all of its growing parameters… all of which, even in my greenhouse, are going to be hard to duplicate!

Water: Even with a moisture meter, I find it hard to measure moisture in a bark/perlite mix so I’m going to go with ‘less is more’. I’m going to take @jujubemulberry’s advice:

Humidity: Humidity of 70-80% will be easy to achieve in winter and into spring, but will need misting in summer and fall.

Light: I invested in a digital light meter and the difference between what I thought I knew and what was actually going on was immense. Even though vanilla orchids are an understory plant, I found that the needed 2500-3500 foot candles equals direct light for me on an overcast PNW day.

Summer/Winter temps: The preferred summer highs in the low 80’s are difficult to maintain in a summer greenhouse (too hot), so this will take some monitoring- maybe move outside . The preferred winter lows of 58-62 are also hard to maintain in a winter greenhouse (too cold) so more monitoring- maybe a heating pad.

This is a 4-year project for vanilla beans. Now I know I’m crazy…that smitten-ness is hard to reign in!

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That’s a good start. An orchid house grower here espaliers them on 8’ x 8’ lattices with the bases in upright #15 pots. They’re a bit too large for our sunroom.

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This is a good product:

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I use this one and like it a lot, but you have to re-calibrate it for each different soil type or growing mix:

To calibrate, you just fully saturate the mix and use a little screwdriver to turn the calibration screw until it reads 10.

I’ve got same one! Thanks.

Have never calibrated it! Will do that, thanks.

good luck on your vanilla tropicana, it is looking good! pls keep everyone updated on this thread :slight_smile:
contrary to street jargon, there is nothing “plain jane” about vanilla. Cultivating it-- even in the most conducive conditions-- is not ordinary! And the product is far from plain, considering the complex aromatics.
Exquisite in fact.
Speaking of aromatics, some of vanilla’s close cousins(brassavola-laelia-cattleya cultivars/crosses) don’t produce vanillin, but intriguingly the blossoms smell almost exactly like vanillin, similar to gardenia blossoms(which also smell of vanillin) but much stronger-scented.

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