I am getting a lot of mail with this sort of question: "Hi - any info on how to acquire a vanilla orchid? I live in Norfolk, VA. Thanks, Cynthia".
Here are some possible Vanilla planifolia sources:
Hill Gardens (Illinois)
There is a fairly detailed article on Tahitian Vanilla in the magazine "Tropical Gardener" in their Winter 1998 issue. They have a website at ww.TropicalGardener.com (which has just about nothing in it, so don't bother to go there unless you want to contact them regarding a subscription).
Anyway, regarding your questions, the article indicates that nighttime temperatures should not fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if that's what you consider cooler, the orchid should be fine. (I have a feeling that warmer is better though, as long as it's not extreme.) I have had good success with my orchids this year in keeping the temperature no cooler than 59 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Other than that, high humidity is important, light shade or filtered light. Regular watering (but I would say let it dry out a bit between waterings to avoid the roots rotting) and weekly fertilizing using orchid fertilizer.
They like humusy well-draining soil and need a large pot and support for climbing. If really happy, Vanilla planifolia apparently can exceed 100 feet in length in just a few years. They flower only when mature, which takes a few years. My other sources don't get specific about V. planifolia culture, except to say that it's easy to grow.
You might want to look at the following pages:
Crop Plants and Exotic Plants - Vanilla, some cultural info here
Native Orchids of South Florida: Vanilla
A web greenhouse tour of Bontanischer Garten
Sixteen Orchid Species in One Day
I just finished going through your home page and I have to say that I loved it! There was alot of interesting information. I am 20 years of age and go to college out here in Los Angeles, CA. I would like to start my own greenhouse and grow plants from Madagascar. It is really for a school project that students have saved up the money for. The goal is to grow Madagascar Vanilla Bean here in Los Angeles. I was just wondering if it was possible until someone told me that if I visited the website, someone could help us out on this school project.
Money is of no significance, since there are about 120 people involved. The cost is going to be split up evenly. I would appreciate it if you could help me find out how to go about this. I have never done this event in my life and I was wondering if it is really possible. I guess it seems so unreal to do, but not according to what I have found out.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you for your help and cooperation in this matter and hopefully I can hear from you soon. I am counting on you to get this project launched as soon as possible! I have no idea as to what temperature and humidity levels are needed to grow the vanilla bean from Madagascar, but hopefully with your assistance, all will be solved in a short matter of time!
Vanilla plants (Vanilla planifolia) are tropical orchids that grow in a vine form. The flowers develop into long narrow pods over several months. To develop the characteristic "vanilla" flavor, the pods must be cured by sun drying, oven heating, or in hot water. Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla bean pieces in hot alcohol.
Vanilla planifolia (there are many different
species) can grow to quite a long vine (300 feet?!). The greenish flowers
are about 2 inches across. The fruits (pods) are about 6 to 9 inches long.
Basic orchid culture applies here.
Need more? Here's a list of links (including "vanilla bean art"). Have fun! I would appreciate an update on your project, if you have the time. Be sure to check the current Madagascar weather conditions. (links below):
orchid flower image
Accessing Your Finances
Scrimp and Save
Bad Credit Auto Loans
planifolia culture (Venger's Orchids)
Very good basic guide to orchid culture (Venger's Orchids)