Vanilla seeds won't sprout!

baskin at baskin at
Thu Mar 17 16:35:45 EST 1994

In <CMs9ny.2t0 at>, 41020003 at (Louis-Gilles Lalonde) writes:
>I have been growing all sorts of tropical trees and plants at home in
>from baobab trees to litchi and lots in between. But I haven't been
>able to
>get these microscopic vanilla seeds to germinate. Despair, anger. Help!
>will be on my green list forever.

Vanilla is an orchid, and like all orchids, has special seeds.  As you 
say, they are tiny; they contain no food store.  In order to germinate, 
they must be "infected" by a fungus, a mycorrhiza.  These fungi are 
symbionts with the roots most higher plants.  In the case of orchids, 
however, germination requires them.  One trick is to sprinkle the seeds 
in the same pot as an adult orchid.  If you're very lucky you might get 
a few seedlings.  But it is tricky; the tiny seedlings are vulnerable.  
You have to keep the surface moist, but not wet.  It's also pretty slow.

What commercial breeders do is sterilize the seeds and then culture them 
on an agar gel, or some such.  There are places that you can send a seed 
pod to, that will do it for you.  I don't imagine you really want to do 

The only practical way for amateurs is vegetative propagation.

Mat Baskin       baskin at

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