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Vanilla Technical Session | Shaping the Support Tree

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Gliricidia sepium is a widely available tree and one that comes recommended for a support tree IMAGE: Nalaka Thalagala

By Piero Bianchessi, Former Owner and Operator of Venui Vanilla

Goal 1  : to shape the support tree with branches as open as possible to support all the vanilla loopings – ‘coat-hanger style’

Goal 2 : to ensure that the main carpentry is at a reachable height

When :  6 – 8 weeks after planting the cutting

Tools : pruning saw


(1) Shaping the support tree can happen only ONCE – in the early stage of the tree’s growth.

Once the first shaping or ‘carpentry’ is established and covered in vanilla vines, very little can be done to modify the shape and/or the height of the tree without badly damaging the vanilla.


(1) Select two branches of the support tree that will create a wide ‘U’ shape. Make sure you line-up the ‘U’ shape with the line of the trees.

(2) Cut all the other branches off around the two branches that make the ‘U’ shape you have selected.

(3) After 6 to 8 weeks cut the two branches back to 40cm from the body of the tree.

(4) After 12 weeks, or when the two branches have grown more branches, cut off enough to make two more ‘U’ shapes. (i.e. a four pronged fork). After this you will need to prune the support tree every 3 months.


(1) If support trees are too tall they are hard to reach for pruning and vanilla pollination

(2) If the support tree’s branches are not wide enough, the vanilla vines hanging on top of one another will smother each other

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