Vanilla pompona, Vanilla. (one of several species). This vining orchid prefers warm and relatively humid environments, as are common in greenhouses or in Southern Florida. Humidity should run 45-85% relative humidity and the temperatures should be 55-95°F. Typical orchid conditions are good. Some shading should be provided as the plant can get scorched in full sun. About 50% shade is typical. Light should be very bright and diffused for best growth. This species is not very picky about media, as long as its mildly acidic and porous. Most orchid mixes work as well as long-fiber sphagnum moss, tree fern, bark, etc. Since roots appear along the vining stem, a long media container or pole works best Several methods seem to work well, including planting in a nursery tray, a tall pot, stuffing a chicken wire tube (6 in. diameter) with sphagnum moss, tying moss to a slab or log and even using perforated 6 inch drain pipe, filled with media. The object is to protect and cover most of the roots with media. Keep the cuttings humid and the root zone moist, but not soggy (allow it to get almost dry before watering. A white plastic bag is often helpful as a covering to provide extra humidity as long as drainage and ventilation are provided-do not overheat. Misting the leaves and root zone are helpful, but allow the foliage to dry or the leaves will rot. Soon, roots will start appearing in the air and through the media. We find that by placing the container about a foot or so above the greenhouse floor, the roots eventually travel down and grow along the floor, giving the plant more nutrition from runoff and soil. Alternately, the roots that dive down can be directed to another pot of potting soil that is porous or contains about 40% perlite. While the roots go down, the vine will climb upwards and clasp/root into whatever suitable material/structure it finds. Mature vines can get over twenty feet long and should get trimmed as needed. You do not need to provide soil/media for all the roots, most aerial roots will die back.
Most houseplant and orchid fertilizers work well, misted (foliar) and into the media about once every two to four weeks. During the cooler winter months, less frequent feeding is recommended. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for dilution rates. Vanilla vines need to get fairly large (over 8 feet?) before they flower. Our plants flower in the spring, producing many green and yellow flowers, each lasting from morning to about late afternoon (less than one day). The clone we distribute is self-fruitful if pollinated by hand.
We are not sure what the best curing method is for the pods, which do not smell or taste like vanilla until cured. So far, the best curing method we have found involves picking the pods when the tip starts to yellow. Pods may yellow prematurely as aborted pods and these are not useful. Matured pods generally take 4 months or more after pollination. The mature pods are then immersed in a scalding water bath at 65°C for 5-6 minutes. Then they are drained and placed in a shaded,dry place to slowly cure and dry over two months or more. We are still experimenting with curing methods. The vanilla bean is actually the cured pods, primarily from Vanilla planifolia. Vanilla pompona has been cited as a secondary source.
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