How to Plant and Grow Vanilla Bean Orchids

Find out how to grow vanilla bean orchids to enjoy their gorgeous blooms and edible pods.

vanilla orchid plant blooming

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When most people reach for a bottle of pure vanilla extract to use for baking, they likely don’t think about where that vanilla comes from. Vanilla is the seedpod of a particular type of orchid native to Central and South America. This plant, known as the vanilla bean orchid, can be tricky to keep indoors, but if you’ve mastered the art of growing moth orchids or cattleyas, you may be ready to grow vanilla orchid plants at home.

Vanilla bean orchids are vines that grow in the ground or as epiphytes, clinging to rocks and trees with their aerial roots. Recommended for serious growers only, vanilla orchid plants can be high maintenance, and they’re often reluctant to flower and produce seedpods indoors. However, even without blooming, these climbing orchids are striking, and you may be able to entice them to produce creamy-white blooms and vanilla pods with patience and hand-pollination.

Vanilla Bean Orchid Overview

Genus Name Vanilla planifolia
Common Name Vanilla Bean Orchid
Additional Common Names Vanilla vine, Vanilla orchid, Vanilla
Plant Type Houseplant, Vine
Light Part Sun
Height 4 to 10 Feet
Width 4 to 8 inches
Flower Color White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Vanilla Bean Orchids

Vanilla bean orchids can be grown outdoors in Zones 10–11. In cooler areas, these tropical beauties are primarily grown in greenhouses. However, with proper care, vanilla bean orchids can be cultivated as houseplants, but home growers must be diligent about maintaining the right balance of light, humidity, and temperature to keep these finicky plants happy.

Wild vanilla orchid plants grow under the canopy of sheltering trees, so protecting these plants from hot, bright sun is essential. Outdoor plants can be grown under trees or protective awnings that cast some light shade over the orchids’ delicate leaves. Indoor plants do best in the bright, indirect light of east- or west-facing windows or under grow lights.

How and When to Plant Vanilla Bean Orchid

If you live in an area where vanilla bean orchids can grow outdoors, plant them outside in spring in a sheltered spot that receives dappled light. Placing the orchid under a tree or trellis gives the plant a sturdy structure to grow on as it matures.

Indoor vanilla bean orchids can be grown in pots or greenhouses at any time of the year. Choose a well-draining pot 10–12 inches in diameter and fill it halfway with an orchid mix. Remove the orchid from its nursery container, take out the old potting media, and snip away any damaged or rotted roots with clean, sterilized scissors. Locate the orchid in its new pot, fill the pot with more orchid mix, and add a small trellis or other support structure for the new orchid to climb.

Vanilla Bean Orchid Care Tips

When the growing conditions are right and the plants are at least three years old, vanilla bean orchids bloom prolifically in mid-spring to late summer. However, individual flowers are short-lived; they bloom and fade in the span of a day. If you plan to harvest vanilla pods, you must hand-pollinate those blooms with a cotton swab or chopstick while they last. Following these care tips increases the chance that your indoor vanilla orchid plants will flower and produce edible vanilla pods for your culinary experiments.


Vanilla bean orchids won’t flower if they don’t receive enough light, but these plants will burn with too much direct sun. For best results, place indoor vanilla bean orchids in a window that receives bright, indirect light. If you’re using a grow light, keep the light on for 12–14 hours daily.

Soil and Water

Like most other epiphytes, vanilla bean orchids are prone to root rot, so use a well-draining potting mix. Standard orchid mixes work well for these plants, or you can make your own DIY orchid mix using coco coir, perlite, and bark chips.

Regular watering is vital for vanilla bean orchids, but don’t overdo it. During the growing season, potted plants should be watered regularly—about two or three times a week—and even less in winter. Allow all the excess water to drain completely out of the plant’s pot, and mist any exposed aerial roots daily with a hand sprayer.

Temperature and Humidity

Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels around vanilla bean orchids is one of the trickiest parts of keeping these plants. Vanilla bean orchids tolerate temperatures above 60°F, but plants grow better when daytime temperatures are between 80°F and 85°F and nighttime temperatures drop to 60°F to 65°F. These plants don’t handle chills well, so they should be sheltered from drafts.

Like most other orchids, vanilla bean orchids crave moist air and 70–80 percent humidity. Misting plants doesn’t maintain consistently high humidity levels, but placing the orchid on a pebble tray or near a humidifier should do the trick.


The right fertilizer can support the health of plants and encourage flowering. Vanilla bean orchids grow best when fertilized regularly during the growing season with a diluted, liquid organic fertilizer. As dosage rates vary among products, follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging.

Pruning and Harvesting

Pruning vanilla bean orchids is rarely necessary, but you can trim these plants if they grow too large or you want to take cuttings for propagation. Use sharp, sterilized scissors or a knife and cut the stems at a leaf node.

When you successfully hand-pollinate vanilla flowers, the blooms wither on the plant and transform into long pods within a week after pollination. Pods take about 8 to 9 months to mature on the plant and are ready for harvest when they’re about 6–9 inches long. To achieve the characteristic vanilla flavor, pods must be cured before use.

Repotting Vanilla Bean Orchid

Vanilla bean orchids should be repotted approximately once every three years, or when you notice their aerial roots sprouting out of the pot. Choose a pot that’s only one size larger than your existing planter, and always use fresh orchid mix when repotting. After removing the orchid from its pot, check the roots and cut away any damaged or rotted roots with sterilized scissors before repotting.

Although vanilla bean orchids are not considered toxic, it's best to wear gloves when pruning the plant’s roots or stems as the sap can cause skin irritation.

Pests and Problems

Sun-damaged leaves are common on vanilla bean orchids when these plants are grown in bright light. Beyond that, you should be aware of a few other common pests and problems if you want to grow these orchids indoors or in your garden.

Mealybugs are small, sap-sucking insects that look like fluffy bits of cotton on plant leaves and stems. Over time, mealies can spread and cause a lot of damage, but small populations can be easily managed by spot-treating pests with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Like mealybugs, spider mites feed on plant sap, which can weaken orchids and cause unsightly mottling on their leaves. The good news is these pests can be easily managed by spraying plants with a few drops of gentle dish soap mixed in water. Repeat this treatment in 7- to 10-day intervals until all signs of infestation have disappeared.

Well-draining pots and potting mixes are essential for orchids, and plants will develop root rot if they’re kept in soggy conditions. Water vanilla bean orchids only as needed and make sure excess water flows freely out of the pot to prevent this common problem.

How to Propagate Vanilla Orchid Plants

Theoretically, vanilla bean orchids can be grown from seed, but the process is complex and unreliable. It’s much easier to propagate the orchid from stem cuttings. Snip off a section of orchid vine with at least six growth nodes and remove the lowest one or two leaves. Place the cut end of the orchid in moist perlite or sphagnum moss in bright, indirect light and keep the substrate damp until the cuttings root.

Types of Vanilla Bean Orchids

White Variegated

Vanilla planifolia ‘Variegata albomarginata’ is a rare vanilla bean orchid with lovely, white-rimmed, variegated foliage for a beautiful display in the home. This fast-growing vine is perfect for homeowners and produces the same vanilla beans as the solid-green-leaved Vanilla planifolia.


Vanilla planifolia ‘Handa’ is a new variety of vanilla bean orchid. Much like the species plant in appearance, fruit, and vanilla content, this variety is more suitable for commercial growers due to its resistance to several diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How difficult is it to grow a vanilla bean orchid?

    Growing vanilla bean orchids isn’t recommended for beginning gardeners. Ideally, the home grower should be an experienced gardener who has grown other orchids.

  • How do I cure vanilla bean orchid pods?

    After you pick ripe seedpods, expose them to sunlight or a heat lamp by day, and then tightly wrap them in cloth at night to absorb any condensation that forms. Place the wrapped beans in a sealed container and warm location for a few weeks. When the pod is dark and shriveled, unwrap it and store it in a cool, dark place for a month.

  • How do I get my vanilla orchid to bloom?

    Vanilla bean orchids only flower when they’re fully mature and at least two to three years old. You can increase the chances of flowering by providing your plants with the right balance of light, moisture, temperature, and humidity. Fertilizing regularly with a diluted liquid organic fertilizer can also help.

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