How to grow your own tea plants at home November 11 2014

posted by Nick Schäferhoff

One of the best presents I have ever given was a grow-your-own-chili-plant set. The friend I gave it to is a big fan of the spicy red peppers and was very excited. Even more so when the plants started growing like crazy.

To this day his room looks like a jungle because of the dozen shrubs in his room which have grown taller than head-high. And the best part: Every year he is able to pick his own homegrown chili peppers by the bucketload.

As it turns out, growing your own tea isn't that hard either. So if you are a serious tea drinker, are looking for a new hobby or gift for someone else, or if maybe you are just a fan of DIY, maybe you would like to consider it. If so, here's how to get started:

Where to get seeds

Tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The two main varieties grown for their leaves are Camellia sinensis var. sinensis from China, and the Indian variety Camellia sinensis var. assamica. If you are lucky, you can find tea seeds at your local nursery, however, probably the most convenient way is to order them on the internet.

Requirements

To grow you own tea, you don't need a large garden. A balcony or windowsill will work just fine and might even be preferred depending on where you live. The plants will thrive in sunny to partly shaded locations in USDA Zones 7-9. Outside of that you can use a greenhouse or bring the plants inside during cold winters. Tea likes well-drained and sandy soil which is on the acidic side.

Planting

The seeds are sown in spring when nights are getting warmer and there is no more danger of frost. Soak seeds in water for a day or so before planting them. Place them in small pots indoors in a sunny window and keep the soil slightly moist. Sprouting should appear within four to six weeks.

Care

The plants need plenty of water so be sure to give it to them. You can prune them to waist-height, as is done on plantations for ease of harvest, or let them grow naturally into larger shrubs.

Harvest

Tea is harvested in spring when the plants are around 3 years old, so you need to be patient. Harvest the top two leaves and the leaf bud of the new growth. Fresh stems will be green and stand out from the brown stems of the previous year. Enjoy!