Flowers on the vanilla pod will only last one day, and if left unpollinated they will fall off.
Although they are self fertile they require the transfer of pollen from one another to the stigma. This involves using a small splinter of wood or grass stem to carefully lift the rostellum (i.e flap) out of the way. You then need to press the overhanging anther against the stigma. This should be done as soon as the flower opens.
Position – Place the plants in filtered sun or partial shade along vertical structures like a fence or trellis to support their climbing habit. Under a tree makes a lovely filtered protective position.
Size – These plants can grow anything from 2-15 metres tall. The best spacing would be to plant vines 1-3 metres apart with rows being 2-3 metres away.
Soil Type – Vanilla orchids are semi-epiphytic, meaning they can be grown in soil or as air plants. Soil needs to be moist, and well drained. Use some mulch and thin sticks in the soil for drainage. The soil needs to be rich in calcium and potassium with a pH of between 6 and 7.
Water – Only water when dry. Over-watering will cause root rot. Misting regularly with a spray bottle will help simulate the humidity of the tropics.
Pruning – The living posts will need to be pruned once or twice a year. This will allow you to manage sunlight and shade during rainy and dry seasons.
Fertilising – Fertilise your orchid every two weeks with a diluted orchid fertilizer. A water-soluble 20-20-20 fertiliser is suitable for this kind of application.
Mulch – Mix mulch into the soil a few times every year for added nutrients.
Harvesting – After flowering and pollination the seedpods take 5 to 9 months to develop and ripen.
Curing vanilla beans
Fresh seedpods are heated during the day, then covered indoors overnight to “sweat”. This process can continue for a month which will stimulate the chemical reaction that gives vanilla its flavour.
After that they are stored for 3-6 months during which they will shrivel up, turn dark brown and develop their flavour. Store vanilla beans in an airtight container away from sunlight for 2 years.