Updated: Jul 22, 2020
Tough question. But here's my research done all based on Google reads and accessible websites I found online:
1) I've never tried growing Vanillas
2) I've never successfully grown Vanillas
3) None of these information is absolutely credible, but worth a try
4) In this post, success is based on the growth of the plant till the harvest of the fruit and in possible continuation for consumption purposes. Comments provided are summarized and may be altered based on my 2 cents horti-brain opinions.
5) Information below does not help the Vanilla beans taste better because that's a whole new story to tell
We'll start of by saying growing vanilla beans is a long term investment.
Fun fact: Vanillas are Orchids that grow like vines! The Vanilla genus has roughly 100 species, but the one most often used in the commercial production of vanilla is the Vanilla planifolia.
Basic growing conditions of Vanilla planifolia
Sun Exposure: Indirect bright sunlight (~70%)
Soil Type: Rich, fertile, consistently moist soil (Sphagnum moss/coconut husk)
Soil pH: 6.6 to 7.5
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer (usually around end of year)
Temperature: Warm (60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 80 to 95 degrees during the day)
Humidity: High (~60-80%) humidity: Tropical climates
What you'll need to grow vanilla beans:
A healthy vanilla bean plant that is 3-5 years old. Vanilla plants take 3-5 years to bloom, so it doesn't make sense to try to start a plant from seed. You can propagate them too but it will take many years to mature.
A support system/trellis/stake for the vines to cling on.
Pollination techniques (for successful pod production) - usually by hand because we don't have natural bees to do the pollination
A greenhouse if you need for humidity control
To water regularly
Tips to take note:
Don't leave it soaking wet to prevent root diseases
Low light = no flower = no bean pods
Flowers will appear when the plant matures
No pollination = no bean pods
Use normal fertilizers every 1 or 2 weeks for active plant growth. Use the orchid fertilizer every 1 or 2 weeks to induce flowering once it matures. Dilute them. Orchidsmadeeasy recommends weekly, weakly. You can spray on the aerial roots. Be careful not to burn the roots with strong chemical contents.
Keep the climbing aerial roots moist too. You can wrap the support system with sphagnum moss
At humidity too high it can be susceptible to root rot so you may have to balance the air circulation too
When the plant matures, you can try to initiate the bloom by giving it a dry period for a couple of months (don't know, just a rumour, probably need more experience to really confirm this)
1 Vanilla bean = 1 plant you pollinate
Flower only comes up at 6-9am in the morning and only last for a day, very narrow window to do all the work
Pollination is best done mid-morning
8-9 months waiting time after pollination to mature and be ready for harvest
The pods are ready for harvest when the tips of the pods start to turn yellow
You will need to sweat the bean pods by wrapping in a blanket for 36-48hours
After sweating, you need to sundry the bean pods for a month until they are dark brown and leathery
When they are dark brown and leathery, it is ready for use
Tadah! We learn something new everyday.