Botanically, vanilla is considered “semi-epiphytic.” This means gardeners can plant it in the ground or grow it as an epiphyte, an air plant. The vine is perennial and can reach a length of over 200 feet. Natural vanilla extract comes from the seed pods of the orchid. These pods are the “vanilla beans.”
Vanilla is native to the Americas, but today the source of this familiar flavor is exotic. Mesoamerican peoples in modern-day Mexico were the first to harvest vanilla. European explorers learned of it by the early 16th century. It became so popular in Europe that merchants tried to grow it in greenhouses. Production soon spread to European colonies in Africa and Asia.
Today, Madagascar and Indonesia produce most of our planet’s vanilla. There, growers cut, cure, and ship the beans around the world. The cost of shipping is part of what makes this edible so expensive. Theft and waste also reduce the amount available. Some vanilla is grown in Hawaii and Puerto Rico but moving production to the continental US would lower the price and make the supply more sustainable.
Bright indirect light.
This one is offered in a 4” pot