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      Our private Facebook group is made up of tens of thousands of people from around our world. Some of them love talking about vanilla extract in all of its varieties. Others branch out to chocolate, coffee and fruit-based extracts. One of our most original contributors is John M. 

      John is from sunny Florida where the climate is conducive to successful vanilla bean growth. He has decided to grow a vanilla orchid and harvest his own home-grown vanilla beans and he has invited us along for the journey.  When he asked our group if they would be interested to follow along, his post received nearly 500 likes and 200 comments in 24 hours.

      This page will be John's page, populated with his content, his pictures and his discoveries. As he provides updates, they will be posted here and shared with our Facebook group. If you have questions for John, they can be directed to him through our Facebook group.

      Thanks John! We are excited to share this journey with you! 

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      Introduction: March 2, 2021

      Hello to all. I'm really excited to join and learn from this group. I'm lucky enough to live in Southwest Florida. The climate here is actually ideal for growing vanilla orchids and the University of Florida is working on genetics of vanilla orchids especially intended to produce high quality beans with excellent flavor cultivars for southern Florida. So I'm going to try my hand at start to finish extracts. It should be a fun project. I look forward to learning a lot from this group. I posted a picture of my initial plants. If anyone is interested I'd be happy to post periodic progress reports here.

      Vanilla Bean Plant Starter

       

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      Post #1: March 3, 2021

      Here's my 1st step for growing the vanilla orchid. I bought some 2.6 gallon pots at Home Depot and 1/4 inch hardware cloth that was green coated. I cut the hardware cloth and formed a tube with it and fastened the 2 ends together. Then flatten it somewhat to form a trellis that will be stuffed with organic matter. I'll post the final assembled pot later today.

      Growing vanilla

      Growing vanilla

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      Post #2: March 5, 2021

      Time to post for my vanilla growing blog again on vanillapura.com. First off I would like to apologize to everyone that I've been unable to answer their individual questions. I honestly thought that I'd be able to get back to each and every one of you. It took a while, but I've finally come to the realization that it would become a full-time job. I've absolutely been buried alive by the avalanche of response to my post. Plan B was to at least acknowledge that I'd read your comments by hitting like. I've come to realize that even that was more than I could manage and still care for the orchids under my charge. My hats off to Jill and Paul. I honestly don't know how you manage it!!! But rest assured that I have been reading all of your comments and since many are similar in nature, I thought I could be more efficient by addressing those posts in my blog.
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      Furthermore, I would like to extend a big warm sweet vanilla thank you to Jill and Paul for their fostering and nurturing all thing vanilla. They graciously provided me with space on their website as a forum for you all to follow along with my vanillary project. And as they posted somewhere, they generously gifted me a nice sample of vanilla beans for doing something I look forward to. Imagine that! I wanted to thank them in that post but the posts on this site fly so fast that I spent a half hour searching for that post before giving up in desperation. Thank you so much Jill and Paul! This site is definitely top down because the sweetness starts at the top. I've never been a member of any organization that had a nicer group of members. And I look forward to following Twila's Everclear blog as well. Make sure to follow our projects on vanillapure.com vanilla101.
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      So now onto answering some of your most frequently asked questions regarding vanilla orchid cultivation.
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      1. I've had a lot of people ask about vanilla orchid production and cultivation. Rather than reiterating what the experts have said I would like to provide you with a link to an U of F Extension Service Bulletin that was coauthored by Dr. Chambers who has been working on vanilla orchid genetics here in Florida.
      It's everything you wanted to know about vanilla culture but were afraid to ask. It's an excellent and informative read.
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      2. Many of you have asked about can you grow vanilla orchids in your home and how to do it. The short answer is a resounding YES! Unfortunately I can't give you a recipe for success. It depends on too many factors that are unique to your condition and experience. If I had to summarize I'd have to say provide them with the same lighting conditions as Cattleya orchids and the same potting medium conditions as Cymbidium orchids. If this doesn't make immediate sense to you then I'd have to say that you're probably not going to have success with a vanilla orchid. However, if you're saying to yourself, oh I can do that, then you're definitely ready for vanilla. There's a steep learning curve to growing and blooming orchids. If you've mastered the basics then go for it. If not, don't give up. Learn! Start attending your local orchid club or visit the American Orchid Association and read all you can. More orchids are killed by kindness than perish from neglect.
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      3. Where can you buy a vanilla orchid? Well I can't tell you where, but they're not uncommon or rare in orchid grower greenhouses. Go on line and find your nearest orchid retailer. Every major city has at least one. If you want a vanilla orchid plant, I will be selling plant of different cultivars. I currently have 2 cultivars and have ordered a third which will be shipped to me this Fall. My vanilla plants are $20 each and I currently have V. planifolia a varigated and an regular green variety. Shipping via USPS priority flat rate box is $15.50 and can hold several plants. If you'd like me to send you a plant contact me at johnmeyer60025@yahoo.com. I can only accept PayPal.
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      4. Can I produce flowers and beans, seed pods? Idk. Flowering should be easy for you if you can reliably reflower Cattleya orchids. In my blog I will show you how to produce beans as my plants flower. If your plants flower then you should be able to produce beans as well. The bigger issue is how will they taste? But even if they are not the best tasting vanilla beans in the world, I'll bet that to you in your opinion, you've never tasted a better vanilla bean.....lol. It takes roughly 4 to 5 years to go from vanilla plant purchase to first bean so it requires some patience, but after reading what's entailed in making a superior vanilla extract, I know that you already have no shortage of patience so you already have that going for you.
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      I'm lucky enough to be a member of 2 very different groups regarding vanilla. I belong to the vanilla growers group of South Florida and now of this group so I'm involved in vanilla start to finish. How lucky is that? But I do hope to acquaint Jill and Paul to the commercial vanilla growers here with.eye toward giving them the opportunity to offer a domestically grown and produced vanilla beans to their offerings.i think that could be a win-win for both sides. Stay tuned and thank you all for your interest and support of my posts and blog. Keep asking your questions and will definitely be reading them and as I see recurring areas interest and questions I will try to answer you in posts similar to this. I wish I had the time to answer each and every one of your questions individually. You all have been so sweet and I absolutely love this group. A nicer group of people I'd be hard pressed to find. Your love comes through, believe me!!!!
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      Post #3: March 6, 2021
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      It's time to go onto repotting the vanilla orchid vines. Unlike regular orchids, vanilla orchids develop roots at their nodes. In the 1st three pictures you can see these roots projecting from the nodes which are the same areas where the leaves are located. The viable roots appear thick, fleshy and are beige to whitish in color. The roots that are no longer viable have shriveled and darkened in color and can be removed. The vine is removed from the pot by pushing on the pot rather than tugging at the stem which can injure the roots (photo 5). I know commercial growers that plant their vanilla orchids in potting soil but I feel that this might retain too much water. The potting mix I prepared is made of 1 part perlite, 1 part coconut coir, 1 part long fiber sphagnum moss, 2 parts organic potting mix and 2 parts orchid potting mix (photo 4). Mix well and place in a 2.9 qt plastic pot. The idea is to encourage terrestrial root growth since this is how the plant gets its nutrients. We want to encourage a healthy terrestrial root system so the plant is placed so that the nodes are in contact with the planting medium. The viable roots are pushed into the media where possible. I actually prefer using coconut husk chips rather than bark because it lasts much longer without breaking down. The final picture shows the reported orchid. Notice how the viable roots have turned green as the vellum has taken up the water. It's important not to use fertilizer in the first several months of watering to encourage root growth in search of nutrients. Now it's time to wait and watch for good root growth development allowing the potting medium to approach dryness between watering unless the plant is in an active growth spurt.
      Growing vanilla
      Growing vanilla
      Growing vanillaGrowing vanilla
      Growing vanilla
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      Post #4 - April 8, 2021
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      I've been watching my 1st 2 plants carefully and they are starting to show signs of growth. So yesterday I decided to stick my fingers into the potting media to check moisture content. I felt that the mix might be a little too dense for their roots, especially considering that as the summer rainy season begins in SW Florida where we can get daily rain, it might retain a little too much water even for a terrestrial orchid. So the first thing I did was unpot the vine and check the condition of its roots.
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      The 1st 2 pictures are of the green orchid's root system. You can see that there's no evidence of root rot and the vellum is a healthy tan-beige color. But I don't see any evidence of growing green root tips. I don't know if vanilla orchids get these the same as other orchids but I'm not taking any chances. I decided to repot these orchids in a more open lighter potting mix using a bit more coconut husk chips, extra perlite, more long-fibered sphagnum moss and LECA hydroponic media. This will cut down on the heaviness or the mix and open it up to more air flow while still maintaining good moisture retention.
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      Root system
      Vanilla orchid roots
      The next 3 photos are of the variegated vanilla orchid. That one still has very minimal root development but still healthy. Since I'm really way overpotting my plants I want to really encourage extensive root growth throughout the media and I think this will force the orchid to start sending out more roots to search for water rather than being content with a limited root system to acquire all of its water uptake. Greatet root development should eventually produce greater plant growth as well because the 2 are usually in balance.
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      Vanilla orchid roots
      vanilla orchid root
      vanilla orchid roots
      The last picture is of the media mix that I discussed above. And believe my it is extremely lightweight and opened. At some point when I get more plants I'll experiment with different mixes but that really won't help anyone else since it depends on lots of other factors like humidity, light intensity, wind, rain, temperature and proximity to other plants. So as these vines grow I'll keep you posted.
      vanilla orchid soil
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      I've also been getting a lot of members asking for instructions on how to grow the vanilla orchid. I am not an expert by any means. In fact other than having some experience with other orchids I'm learning right along with you on this project. Perhaps we can all learn together. That would be the ideal. Here's a link I found on growing vanilla orchids on line. https://florgeous.com/vanilla-orchids/
      I read almost daily about their needs and you should as well. It's better to study about them and observe than fuss too much. In my experience more orchids are killed from kindness than don't thrive from neglect. Change your cultural practices only when you're sure that there's a problem. From what I've read so far it's best to treat your vanilla's roots like a Phalanopsis and it's light requirements like a Catelaya. If you do that your plants should do well. And if what I just said makes sense to you then you'll have success because you've got the right stuff as far as experience goes.
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      Post #5 - June 17, 2021
      *****VANILLA ORCHID CARE*****
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      I know that a lot of you have emailed me asking about vanilla orchid care so I'm going to provide important information here to help you with how to care for these plants.
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      POTTING MIX: Vanilla orchids require a moisture retentive but rapidly draining potting mix. Do not use orchid mixes intended for epiphytes. They just don't hold enough moisture for vanilla orchids. Vanilla plants will do very well in a terrestrial orchid media. Unfortunately this can be very hard to find. What you're aiming for is a mix that will provide high humidity at the roots for about a week before it needs to be watered again. Regular potting soil is too heavy and will retain too much water for orchids. In a pinch you can use long fiber sphagnum moss for planting but if you do DO NOT PACK IT DOWN. Orchid roots need to breath so air spaces are very important for healthy roots. If the roots can't breath or become water logged for any extended period the roots will rot and the plants may die. Also I've read that some people have successfully used citrus potting soil. I make my own mix that's made of 1 part medium grade horticulture charcoal, 2 parts medium grade pearlite, 2 to 3 parts LECA pellets, 2 parts medium coconut husk chips and 1 to 2 parts long fiber sphagnum moss. With this mix it's possible to over pot the plants as long as you don't over water them. This mix will have lots of open air spaces but still provide high humidity at the roots for about a week at a time. When the top 1 to 2 inches of media feels dry to the touch it's time to water again. Flood the pot well with water allowing it to flow freely through the bottom, then tip the pot on an angle to remove remaining water from the bottom. Never place a saucer under the pot to catch the water. This will cause the plants to have wet feet which they don't like. If I think of anything more I will add more notes.
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      Post #6 - September 18, 2021
      ***Winter is Coming.***
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      For those of you who are fans of Game of Thrones, I decided to name this post after one of their episodes, and for good reason. Just as it signaled the beginning of a big change for the show, so it does for orchids as well, the vanilla orchid just as well. Your individual growing environments will have more of an impact on your plants so what I'll cover here are so general guidelines that you'll have to decide how they impact your plants through observation. There's no one formula that will apply to everyone equally. As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop, your vanilla orchids will respond accordingly. If you're growing indoors under perpetual summer conditions this may NOT apply to you. Then again it still may. So what I advise to to carefully watch your plants and listen to what they're telling you.
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      In nature it's very normal for orchids to undergo their normal annual growth cycle. For mature vanilla orchids sometime in August or September they'll be completing the end of their rapid growth period where the vines may have grown 10 feet in one week. For smaller vanilla orchids that most of you probably have, they would have grown continuously throughout the spring, summer and fall at a much slower and fairly steady rate. But as fall approaches and you're allowing you're plants to cycle they should begin to finish growing soon and enter their annual rest period. This rest period is essential for vanilla orchids to set flowers the following spring providing that they're old enough to do so. Usually this is in vines 10 to 20 feet in length. You'll start to notice that your plants will stop growing and the terminal growth center at the growing tip will start to develop a more mature leaf without additional new growth of smaller leaves at the tip, and if you see any root tips you'll notice that the green growth tip starts to cover over with the white vellum layer and is no longer green. Vanilla orchids can easily tolerate night temperatures into the 50s without problems. But much colder than that and it's time to bring them in. I'd recommend that you spray your entire vanilla orchid on all surfaces at least twice with an insecticide/miticide for spider mites prior to bringing them in to shelter. Spider mites especially will cause you emense headaches over winter and can even kill your plants. If they get in you'll have to shower your plants to water to control the numbers the best that you can, but here's where the ounce of prevention is best applied. Frequent misting of your plants in winter will also help but just make sure not to over water the roots, especially in winter.
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      As you notice your plants entering their rest period it's time to slowly decrease watering and fertilizer as well. Depending upon your humidity during midwiter you may only have to water once a month. When you do water, water thoroughly, but allow the media to dry out much more than you did when plants were actively growing. Keeping the humidity up will help and also light is still just as important. Some orchids actually experience higher light levels in winter because the trees they grow on May lose their leaves in winter. Do not place your plants in perpetual darkness. Let them rest quitely for the winter with perhaps more light and less water and a lot less fertilizer. In fact you could skip fertilizer all together but I'd go like at least a quarter of what you did in summer which should have been half the recommend dose at each watering. Oh and if you can, keep your plants cooler during the winter months. I'd say 70s by day and 60s at night with a 10 to 15 degree decrease at night is ideal. Take advantage of microclimates in you house. Windows will be cooler at night and warmer during the day with a southern exposure. And check your plants at least once a month for pests.
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      Now sit back, enjoy your vanilla orchid and wait for spring. Again your plants will tell you when their ready to wake up. You'll probably notice root growth as the first sign and that's followed by renewed leaf tip growth. As you notice this awakening, SLOWLY begin to increase the watering and fertilizer applications. Just reverse the fall process until your plants are back into their summer mode and you're one season closer to flowers.
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      Spring is also the best time to check your potting mix for signs of breakdown. If the mix has broken down, mushy and holds too much water, spring is the best time to change out your potting mix. If you mix has a lot of organic matter in it and especially peat, you may only get 1 to 2 years out of it. For those of you who have gotten my terrestrial orchid mix, I have a lot of inorganic materials in it so you may get 4 to 5 years out of it. Also if you're going to pot on your vanilla, into a larger pot, spring is the best time for that as well, just be very mindful of over watering your plants as the roots are not yet grown into many areas of the larger pot so too much water before the roots have had a chance to reach these new areas can result in root rot. Good luck and be mindful that Winter is Coming.