Growing Vanilla Beans, A Complete Planting Guide

Growing Vanilla Beans.
Growing Vanilla Beans.

Introduction to Growing Vanilla Beans:

Today is the time to learn about Growing Vanilla Beans.

This is a tropical orchid, it is famous for its pleasant flavour, and this is also known as coolest specie in the international markets. The vanilla bean is originated from the genus of Vanilla. Vanilla Beans belong to the Orchidaceous family. The Vanilla Beans are scientifically named as Vanilla Planifolia. These Vanilla Beans have been cultivated in India since late 1990’s. There are more than 50 species in the Vanilla Beans. These are originated in South and Central America. In India, we can find Vanilla Beans in parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and also the regions of North eastern parts. But in India, Kerala is largest Producers of Vanilla Beans.

These are things which we regularly see things in the market. They are:

  • Bean
  • Essence
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Double Strength Vanilla Extract
  • Triple Strength Vanilla Extract
  • Vanilla Flavouring
  • Vanilla Powder
  • Imitation Vanilla Extract

These Vanilla extracts are used in flavouring cakes, beverages, drinks, and also many more.

Read: Growing Akhrots (Walnuts).

Characteristics of Vanilla Beans:

Plant: the Vanilla Bean plants reached up to a height of 10 – 15 cm, and the life span of the plant is 10 years. The Vanilla Bean plant is native to the Central America.

Leaves: the leaves of the plant are oblong or lanceolate and these leaves are rounded at the base part of the plant.

Flowers: the flowers are short with racemes; in each processing, we can find 6 – 15 flowers.

Pods: the pods are cylindrical and they are posses small black seeds in numerous.

Cultivars/varieties of Vanilla Beans:

  • Madagascar
  • Tonga
  • Tahltlan
  • Indian
  • Mexican
  • Indonesia

Soil and Climate requirements for Growing Vanilla Beans:

The soil, which is more preferred for growing Vanilla Beans are laterite or sandy loamy soils. The soils that are not suitable for growing Vanilla Beans are too light or too heavy. The pH level of the soil should be closer to the neutral. If the soil pH level is too low or too high then this might determine the growth of the plants.   The soil should be capable of well drained and well aerated. The soil should content a good organic matter. The good organic matter will allow producing good quality of beans.

The climate which is suitable for growing Vanilla Beans is pleasant climate. The annual rainfall, which is required, is about 150 – 300 cm of rainfall. On proper altitudes, these Vanilla Beans can be cultivated. For growing Vanilla Beans, too much heat or too much cold is not good for the vanilla crop.  For growing Vanilla Beans, frost conditions are not suitable.

Land preparation and Planting for Growing Vanilla Beans:

The land which is selected for growing Vanilla Beans, should be prepared well for planting. The land should be prepared well by removing the weeds, pebbles etc. Then the land should be ploughed for 2 – 3 times as it attains fine tilth and smooth texture. Followed by the ploughing, the land should be levelled and trilled, then the land should be applied with manure. For a hectare of land as per the requirement we need to apply the farmyard manure.

The best time for planting the plants is in the month of the August – September. The best weather for planting should be neither too dry nor too hot. In a hectare if land, we can plant up to 1500 – 200 plants. The spacing should be at least 3 m * 2 m.

Read: Aniseed Cultivation.

Propagation of  Vanilla Beans:

The propagation of the Vanilla Beans can be done through the cuttings or by using the tissue culture method.

Manures and Fertilizers for Growing Vanilla Beans:

The first application for the plants should be bio-fertilizers. If needed macro nutrients should be supplied to the plants. The land should be supplied with Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. In proper quantities, micro nutrients should also be given.  Too much of fertilizers can also harm the plants. If required, we can also add the organic fertilizers to the plant.

Irrigation methods in Growing Vanilla Beans:

At the time of the planting, we must give the first irrigation. Based on the moisture level, the next irrigation should be given. During rainy season, there is no need of  providing water . Water should be given in case of any irregular rainfall pattern. If there is any dry or humid weather, we should supply the water to the plants. For saving water we can use the drip and sprinkler irrigation method. For irrigating the plants, the saline water should not be used. Make sure to have  the drainage channels in the field as they are useful in the rainy season to drain the excess water.

Intercultural methods in Growing Vanilla Beans:

Weeding: The weeding should be done regularly and the removal of weeds can be done chemically by using the weedicides or herbicides. The weeds can also be removed manually.

Training: For training, the plants need support for straight upward growth , as the vines should be grown upwards up to 1.50 cm.After reaching certain height of the plant, it should be supported by the coil.

Mulching: In the growing Vanilla Beans, the mulching process is an important activity. This will maintain the moisture content in the soil. The mulching can be done with the help of leguminous plant and grasses. At the time of irrigation, less water can be used.

Pruning: Pruning is also an important process, as this will help in good growth of the vines.

Pest and Diseases control measures in Growing Vanilla Beans:

The pests and diseases attack the Vanilla Beans crop are:

Pests of Vanilla plant:                         

  • Leaf feeding beetles caterpillars
  • Snails
  • Sucking bug
  • Stem necrosis

Diseases of Vanilla plant:

  • Mosaic diseases
  • Root rot/wilt
  • Tip rot
  • Bean shedding
  • Stem rot
  • Bean rot

All these can be controlled by using the natural methods and also by using the chemical methods.

Read: Frequently Asked Questions About Plant Diseases.

Harvesting techniques in Growing Vanilla Beans:

While harvesting, the Vanilla Beans will be dark green in colour. These are immature; when the Vanilla Beans are ripened they will turn yellow in colour.  They should be harvested soon, if not they will get split open. If the vanilla gets split, we can see oil like substance. When this substance dries up then this will be cured as and also to the vanilla. For curing the vanilla, artificial methods are used. Not only artificial, methods, but also there are many other methods which can be used for curing the Vanilla Beans. There is a long process of curing the Vanilla Beans. Each variety has its own method of curing the Vanilla.

Post harvesting techniques of Vanilla Beans:

Cleaning: The harvested beans should be washed with clean water.

Sorting: As per the size and appearance, the Vanilla Beans should be sorted.

Grading: The grading should be done as per the length as follows:

  • If the bean is 15 cm and >, so they should be graded as Grade 1.
  • If the bean is 10 cm – 15 cm, so they should be graded as Grade 2.
  • If the bean is 10 cm, so they should be graded as Grade 3.
  • If there are any splits, damaged and cut beans, so they should be graded as Grade 4.

Killing: The Vanilla Beans which are graded should be transferred to the bamboo basket and then we should immense them in hot water which are at a temperature of 70C. The time period will differ as per the Grade.

Grade of Vanilla BeansTime Period of Immersion
Grade 15 minutes
Grade 24 minutes
Grade 32 minutes
Grade 41.5 minutes

Sweating: For sweating the beans, which are in hot water should be transferred immediately to a wooden box. For sweating these all beans should be kept in wooden boxes for 36 – 48 hours. Initially then the temperature should be 48˚C – 50˚C. Then the Vanilla Beans will attain imparting aroma and also they attain light brown colour.

Sun Drying: In hot sun, i.e. 12 pm – 3 pm, then the Vanilla Beans will be spread in the hot sun. We should spread the Vanilla Beans on the and also on the clean black blanket. Later the temperature of Vanilla Bean should be raised to 50˚C. As per the grading, the drying period should be increased.

Slow Drying: The next step is to involve, the Vanilla Beans should be spread on the racks and they should be left in well ventilated room and the temperature, which is maintained should be of 35˚C and the relative humidity is 70%.

Yield of Growing Vanilla Beans:

The yield of this vanilla plant become  profitable from 3rd year after planting, then the average yield from each plant will be 250 grams, 4th year after planting, then the average yield will be 500 grams from each plant. In 5th year, the average yield is 750 grams and from 6th – 15th year the yield from each plant will be 1000 grams.


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