Tropical Edibles – Wish List, Part 2

To continue with my conservatory trip and all the things I’d love to have space for, below are a few more plants that can be grown indoors in zone 5.



Vanilla orchid at the conservatory

At the beginning of the year, I purchased a tiny 3″ vanilla orchid cutting
. Vanilla often forms areal roots, so cuttings are a method of propagating the vanilla orchid. Unfortunately, my cutting was not well established. The dryness of the house in January and the lack of roots caused my orchid to die.

Orchid can easily be grown in pots when established. It requires a humid environment (misting indoors) and a well-draining orchid mix. Weekly misting of a foliage fertilizer will improve growth, however, fertilizing should be done only when actively growing. Medium light is necessary, and vanilla will do well in indirect light.

Huge Vanilla Orchid

Huge Vanilla Orchid

To propagate a vanilla orchid, dust an areal root with rooting hormone, and wrap with damp Sphagnum moss. Moss can be misted daily or every other day for moisture. Roots will grow into the moss, and when roots appear established, this section can be cut and planted into an orchid mix. A cutting with 3 or more nodes can be cut directly, and placed in moss as well, without waiting for roots to form.

At the conservatory, it’s easy to see how absolutely huge vanilla vine can grow. Their plant is easily over 100ft long. It travels to the top of the tree, and back down, and then up some more.

Barbados Cherry


Barbados Cherry

Barbados Cherry, or Acerola, is a natural source of vitamin C, and is used in many vitamin C supplements. It is native to the warm climates of South and Central America. It grows as a woody shrub or small to medium tree, and has a shrub-like growth pattern. Barbados Cherry can be kept small by pruning and makes an interesting bonsai specimen due to it’s thin branches, small leaves, berry-like fruit, and curled growing habit. Fruits are bright red, edible, and have good flavor.

The conservatory’s specimen was in fruit at this time, but fruits were not ripe. A Acerola tree will generally produce fruit after 3 years. It can be grown indoors in a large pot as a shrub or as a bonsai. This plant like dry, well-drained, sandy soil and warm temps.


Coffee plant in fruit

Coffee plant in fruit

Coffee is a tropical plant that can be grown as a shrub indoors. The plant has shiny leaves, and attractive foliage, so it is a common indoor ornamental plant. The plant, once mature, can even fruit indoors, however, the amount of beans produced by a single plant is small, and the processing of beans is tedious. I like this plant for it’s foliage alone. Small plants can often be bought at nurseries for a couple dollars, and often there is more than one plant in a pot which can be split. This is an awesome deal for an interesting edible.

The conservatory’s plant was in fruit at the time of our visit.

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