Vanilla orchids are probably at the top of my favourites list.I want to grow great big vines that ramble all over with shiny leaves and clusters of pods, and their oh so brief trumpet shaped blooms peeking through.
The reality is - its not going to happen anytime soon!
I need a heated greenhouse or at least to heat my current greenhouse....
I did have four spieces of Vanilla, I'm now down to two and a half.
Ill start with the one that didn't make it : Vanilla polylepis.
I acquired my vanilla's from Germany, the polylepis was not in good shape and it was the one I was really desperate to find.
It comes from Kenya and tends to grow in or alongside dry riverbeds, it has very thick stems and a beautiful flower in the typical vanilla shape but with a pinky, maroon lip.
I received a cutting about a foot long, no leaves and one very weak looking root. It also had bruising either from being handled badly at the source or from transit - the packaging was not great.
I cut off the bruised part and dusted with cinnamon, then potted up in a mix of bark, African Violet compost, perlite and gravel to make an open, fast draining medium.
Vanilla grow both terrestrially and epiphytically so they need to have their roots in a rich, but fast draining medium that replicates the forest floor while their aerial roots like to cling to a support or they will just hang in mid air if they do not make contact with anything.
Vanilla will often rot off at the base but as long as their aerial roots are receiving enough humidity and nutrients they will continue to grow purely epiphytically. Most often though a portion of the vine will collapse and any part that brushes the ground will root thus strengthening the plant and perpetuating its growth.
The story of this plant is that it did nothing for two and half years - NOTHING!
Actually I lie, it did do something - it rotted periodically at the base so I kept cutting off the bottom until I was left with a piece with two internodes and an arial root at the bottom.
Eventually I gave up trying to re root it after scouring my various books.
One of the methods used to root Vanilla cuttings is to lay it on damp sphagnum moss.
So I laid a bed of spag on the top of the pot, wrapped one of the supports and tied the cutting to this.
It stopped rotting and lived as a green stick like this for over a
Then last summer with all that delicious hot weather we had it grew an aerial root!!!
I was so happy!
I have cried over this plant, it has caused me anguish to a degree no plant should!
It would only grow if the temperature stayed at over 25/26 C.
Once the temperature dropped which it did as live in an old cottage with terrible heating, it just stopped growing and sat there looking all smug at me again with its one little aerial root.
"How's the green stick"? My husband took great delight in asking.
I stupidly killed my green stick.
I removed it from the sphagnum and decided to 'spag and bag' it and put it above the boiler where it is nice and warm.
If you need heat, Ill give you heat I thought.
Well it obviously likes lots of air movement and to be nice and warm. The green stick turned black very quickly, so I resigned myself that it was over, and I shall wait before trying this one again. When I have a nice warm greenhouse...
Among my Vanillas are a planifolia 'Variegata' which grew
very well initially and added about a foot to its length.
We then moved to this house, it got very cold the first winter
so I stopped watering it.
It went dormant and stayed that way for about
ten months. Even in the hot summer because I was so
worried about the polylepis and its rotting problems
I just didn't water any of them enough.
I've since read that Vanilla will go dormant for extended
periods if water is withheld too much, and it can take
a long time for them to resume growth.
One of the branches of the vine started to die, so I unwound
the living part and laid a bed of sphagnum moss over the
surface of the pot, then I buried parts of the vine at the nodes
under some of the moss.
I have kept the spag damp and a new shoot has begun to grow.
Underneath there are long roots growing down into the medium,
I'm hoping it continues to do well and so far it has grown
over the winter slowly despite not being very warm.
It is in a south facing window in a room that averages about
Vanilla crenulata has grown almost continuously, when it
temperature. Some days I can almost see it grow.
There would be no stopping it if I could keep it warmer.
The coir covered support is a meter tall and it has grown
up one side and then I have wrapped it around and down
the other side.
I wait till it has grown a few inches then gently tie it into
position with garden twine.
It is always trying to grow upwards, and now it has nearly
reached the bottom I am allowing it to make its own way
back up. The aerial roots do not like to be sprayed, they
shrivel and die but this may be due to the fact that my tap
water is very hard or that it is not warm enough when I
have sprayed so the plant has been cold and not dried
I no longer spray but this is an old house with damp so the
humidity is always around the low to high 50's. I also keep
them on trays of damp clay pellets.
The aerial roots that make contact with the coir dig in and hold
the plant, it certainly wants to climb.
Again I keep this as a houseplant it sits in an alcove by a
south facing window next to the chimney breast. It is out
of drafts here and next to a fishtank and so far it seems happy.
I try to wait so it is almost dry, before watering. I stick my
finger into the medium to feel, its hard to describe but I wait
until its on the verge of dryness with just a hint of moisture
I alternate between very dilute Tomato feed and Lorbex orchid fertilizer, with straight tap water inbetween. Again there is a layer of spag on the top to aid
Another Kenya/Tanzania orchid, this arrived in good condition it had a good root and seemed a strong cutting.
I potted it up as the others, it started to grow after a couple of
months and it suddenly started to grow fast. It grew a good 5 inches or so, until again we moved house.
It must have got a cold draught in the winter, because it developed black area that looked like a bruise which started to rot so I cut it off.
The bottom half rotted away leaving me with a cutting with one aerial root.
I have had it lying on damp spag for a few months with nothing happening, so I put it in a smoothie pot with a lid that has the hole for a straw. I put some clay pellets in the bottom and then some damp spag making sure the root is buried in it.
It has been in this pot for about four months on the shelf above our central heating boiler in the window so it gets light.
Not much changed.