How to Grow Your Own Tea Plant

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Tea is beneficial to your health. It is among the most widely consumed beverage in the world and is quickly becoming popular in the United States as well. The best part is that every kind of commercial tea comes from one tea plant that can easily be grown at home. There are many varieties to this beverage ranging from black, yellow, white, and green tea.

What Plants Are Used to Make Tea?

Camellia plants are popular among many home gardeners for beautiful flowers during fall and winter when nothing else is in bloom. Camellia Sinensis also called tea plant is responsible for every commercial tea in the world. Everything from oolong, black tea, to green tea comes from this plant. The best part is you can grow them at your own home in your backyard, or as potted plants. It is recommended that you grow these plants in pots if you do not live in an area that has a temperate climate.

Temperature Required for Growing Tea Plants

tea plantation

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Camellia Sinensis is known to thrive in low elevation sub-tropical climates and high altitude tropical climates. They require mild year-round temperatures that are constant between 65 and 85 F.  In fact, as per a study conducted by the University of Florida, tea plants stop growing when the temperature rises above 95 F or drops below 55 F. Hence, if you are planning to grow your own tea, it is recommended that you keep them indoors in a tightly controlled environment and put them outside only during the mild seasons.

The USA is broken into zones on the basis of temperature and weather patterns. USDA Zones 7—9 are ideal to grow tea outdoors. If you do not live in these zones, then you can try growing tea plants indoors or in a greenhouse.

Why Should You Grow Your Own Tea?

herbal tea in a cup

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If you are a connoisseur of tea, then you would know each tea brand has a distinctive flavor. This is because tea leaves can change taste depending on mundane factors like time of plucking or type of processing. Tea plants can live anywhere between 30 and 50 years. You only have to work once in planting to enjoy refreshing and flavorful cups of tea for many years.

Various Aspects of a Tea Plant

A person is picking tea leaves

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Tea plants are interesting with various distinguishing features. It usually grows like an evergreen shrub. However, it can transform into a tree with a bowl-shaped canopy if left to grow undisturbed. The plant branches into alternate elliptical shaped leaves are leathery in texture. Tea plants blossom into beautiful hermaphrodite white colored flowers. They are also fragrant and sometimes heady. Often, tea plants are grown as ornamental plants for the flowers.

Supplies You Will Need For Your Tea Plant

A person is holding a tea plant

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Growing tea might not be easy if you live in a cold area. However, you can control the temperature by growing it in a greenhouse. It is relatively easy if you live in an area that has a temperate climate.

Tea Supplies

Tea growing is an art which can take on the outlook of a hobby. The rewards will be in the form of ready tea leaves to make flavorful and full-bodied cups of tea. To be successful, you will need certain supplies.

Tea Seeds

You can easily buy Camellia Sinensis seeds locally from a nursery or online. You need to ensure that the seeds come from a trusted source or else your efforts will be in vain. Alternatively, you can even purchase Camellia Sinensis saplings that might lessen the work for you.

Acidic Compost

Acidic compost is great for germinating saplings from tea seeds. In fact, acidic compost formulated for rhododendrons is recommended. You should use the same acidic compost for fertilizing grown plants as well.

Planting Tray

You will require these trays if you are germinating seeds. These are shallow and allow the roots to take hold in compost with individual cocoons for each seed. You need to be prepared that only a few seeds will germinate into strong seedlings.

Planting Pots

You will have to move your seedling to a small sized pot such as an 8-inch pot. After a couple of months, you will have to transfer it into a bigger sized pot such as a 15 inch. If you are growing your tea plant as an ornamental plant, then you might need a 4 to 5-gallon pot as they can grow as high as 6 feet.

Soil

Camellia Sinensis thrives in well-drained and sandy soil. If you are serious about harvesting tea leaves, then you should keep the soil pH balance on the high acidity side. It is also recommended to add some sphagnum moss to the potting mix.

Other Supplies

You will require other regular supplies such as a spade, prunes, and loopers. You should also invest in a good pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands and fingernails.

How to Grow a Tea Plant?

You can grow tea plants anywhere such as a balcony, backyard, and greenhouses. These plants do not necessarily require ground soil and thrive well in pots. In fact, if you do not live in a temperate climate or USDA zones 7 to 9, then it is recommended that you plant Camellia Sinensis in pots. This way you can move it indoors and outdoors easily depending upon the climate.

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Planter Phase

If you are growing the plants from seeds, then you would need to sow them in their planters. Fill a shallow seeding pot with the right kind of acidic compost. The best acidic compost is the one formulated for rhododendrons. Water this compost evenly to damp it. You need to ensure that you do not excessively water to the point of saturation. Next, place the tea seeds an inch apart from each other. If you are using planters, then they come with their own grooves to plan individual seeds. Cover the tea seeds with 1/8 inch of soil. This should be enough to cover the seeds. The delicate seedlings could not push through the soil if you put a thick layer.

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Germination Phase

The seeds need around 4 weeks to germinate and show their heads. It is important that you keep the seeds damp during this period and not wet. The soil or compost must not attain water saturation. Keep the planting trays in indirect sunlight. Dapple shade under the canopy of grown plants is the best area. The temperature should be between 65 and 72 F for optimal growth.

Transfer to Pots

Choose the strongest seedlings once they are 2–3 inches tall. Create the same acid compost covered with soil mix in small 8-inch pots. Transfer the strongest seedlings individually into these pots. It is important that you sow multiple seeds at the same time as only a few might be strong enough to survive maturity. Maintain the same temperature of 65 to 72 F.

Once the saplings grow 10 to 12 inches, you can transfer them to a bigger pot of 15 inches. Fill the new pot with the acidic compost and cover with soil. There might be seedlings that have to be abandoned during this phase. Choose only the strongest sapling if you want a tea plant that grows to thrive for 50 years.

Keep pruning your tea plant while it is in a pot and increase the size of the pot with time and maturity. Maintain a temperature of 65 to 85 F throughout the life of your plant.

Helpful Tips to Grow Your Own Tea Plant

tea leaves

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These tips will help you keep your tea plant healthy.

Moving Outdoors

It is important that you expose your plant to dapple rays while moving an indoor plant outside during the summer months. You can increase the amount of sunlight as the plant becomes more tolerant. Tea leaves mold in rain. Cover the plants during rains and also protect them from the wind.

Watering

Tea plants do not require water saturation whether indoors or outdoors. Frequently and lightly water the plant to maintain a moist soil that isnot saturated.

Harvesting

If you are growing tea plants to harvest tea leaves, then make sure you add sphagnum moss to the containers. Do not attempt to harvest until your plant is 3 years old.

Plant Several Seeds

Probably only a few seeds will cross the germination phase and even fewer will attain sapling maturity. Hence, pick only the strongest seedlings you can find and abandon the rest. You can grow them in your garden as ornamentals and leave them to their fate. Make sure you plant several seeds or seedlings to ensure a healthy plant.

Conclusion

Tea Plantation

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Growing tea plants is a patient process and one that you should not hurry.  It is important to maintain adequate temperature and soil conditions. You also need to ensure that you remove the weaker plants at every stage of the process. A healthy tea shrub can grow to last 30 to 50 years in age allowing you to enjoy many cups of naturally delicious tea.

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Jonathan E. Bass
 

Graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. I am currently a gardener. I have a small garden behind my house. I love it.

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