Rising tea: discover Zen within the backyard

Nothing is more relaxing than a cup of steaming tea, is it? But what if you could also relax by growing the tea yourself? Growing tea is easier than it seems and will fill your home with a soothing and delicious atmosphere.

Tea is widely touted for its many health benefits, including antioxidants and stress relief. It can promote heart health and reduce the risk of stroke. Green tea is famous for weight loss, while the caffeine in black tea makes us wake up in the morning. With your own plant you get all these advantages and the joy of the garden!

There are hundreds of tea flavors, but only a real tea plant. Camellia sinensis is the vegetation that you have to thank for your daily repair. The evergreen leaves give every garden charm and your cup of comfort from your own cultivation.

By growing Camellia sinensis you are participating in a worldwide and ancient practice. Tea was valued by the Chinese monarchy, was the focus of Japanese ceremonies, and was introduced to the British by Portuguese kings. At one point, it was such an expensive delicacy that it was smuggled into the UK to escape the high prices.

Fortunately, you can grow this historic luxury in your own garden today. The price may have dropped, but the elegance and awe of tea is omnipresent in the beautiful Camellia sinensis. So let's dive into the cultivation, processing and sipping of the world's most popular drink.

Get a tea plant

Good products for growing tea:

Brief instructions on care

Grow teaGrowing tea is surprisingly easy! Source: TeachAgPSU

Common Name (s) Tea, tea plant, Chinese tea, India tea, cha, tea camellia, matcha
Scientific name Camellia sinensis
Months of harvest 4+ months a year
light Partial shade or mild sun
Water: Even medium watering
ground Well drained and slightly acidic
fertilizer High nitrogen content in spring
Pests Scales, spider mites, aphids
Diseases Algae leaf spot, root rot, cancer

About the tea plant

To say that the tea plant is historical is an understatement. It has played a major role in the cultures of the past and has a great traditional, medical and spiritual meaning to this day. This single plant, which came from China and India about 2,000 years ago, is now grown and consumed worldwide!

Camellia sinensis is adapted to tropical and subtropical climates, which means that it likes moisture and warm, not hot temperatures. For this reason, commercial tea production mainly focuses on Asia, from Japan to Nepal to Sri Lanka.

Camellia sinensis is a woody shrub that can grow into a small tree. Pruning usually keeps it about 3-7 feet high, but it has the potential to reach 20 feet or higher. The coveted tea leaves are bright green and elongated. In autumn and winter, this evergreen plant produces the sweetest little white flowers with buttery yellow centers.

The genus Camellia includes various ornamental plants with striking, colorful flowers. The Sinensis variety is the tea machine.

At tea time we are dealing with two varieties of this plant. C. sinensis var. Assamica is mainly grown in India, where it likes the heat. It has large leaves that produce a strong, robust taste. Because of this, it is mainly used for black tea. C. sinensis var. Sinensis is grown in China and has much smaller leaves. It is hardy in cold weather and has a delicate taste that is appreciated in green and white teas.

Several teas from one plant

Tea plantationTea plantations are not uncommon in large growing areas. Source: j_arlecchino

While you don't get your herbal blends (called "tisanes") from tea leaves, you get all real teas from the same source. Occasionally there are blends that blend tea leaves with herbal ingredients for taste, but everything that is real tea is made with the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.

Real tea includes black, green, oolong (sometimes referred to as red), and white tea. Every aroma is created by different processing of the plant, mainly by oxidation. Simply put, oxidation is what happens when a leaf dries out. This starts as soon as the leaf is picked and does not stop until the gardener literally stops it with heat.

The more the leaf dries out, the darker its color and the stronger its taste. As you can probably guess, white or green tea is made from hardly processed leaves, and black tea is the most oxidized. Of course, this hardly touches the surface of the many ways to process tea. The many flavors may require different parts of the plant, different heating methods and even fermentation. We'll go into that a little later!

Plant tea

The Camellia sinensis plant grows tea seeds very well, but they are not reliable for germination. To ensure that they grow the right plant, most gardeners rely on store-bought launches. These shrubs grow best outdoors, but can also be grown indoors and outdoors. If you want to plant in a container, you need to be prepared for the annual cut to keep the size manageable. You will also need a 3 to 5 gallon container with good drainage.

Start your tea in the spring just before the growing season begins. If you want to plant in the ground, select the appropriate location beforehand. Your little tea garden must be somewhere in partial shade – under a tree roof it is perfect. However, these plants must be protected from cold wind and weather. If necessary, plant them on the south side of your house. Place each shrub at least 36 inches away from other plants.

As with wine, the taste of tea strongly depends on its growing environment or its terroir. The taste can vary between leaves growing in different climates, altitudes or even parts of the garden. You can try to find the sweet spot of your garden by planting in several places.

After determining your location, remove the start from the container and plant it in a well drained, slightly acidic soil. If the location is below the water table, build a hill for the plant so it doesn't drown. Picking the tea leaves immediately may be tempting, but it is highly recommended that the plant grow for about 3 years before harvesting.

These are usually slow growing plants that don't mind being root-bound. However, make sure to repot if your tea plant is obviously too big for its container.

Caring for your tea leaf plant

Tea flowerThe Camellia sinensis flower can be very beautiful. Source: Cosmic Angler

Now that your Camellia sinensis is planted, it needs some TLC before tea time. Here you will find everything you need to know about growing these relaxing tea leaves.

Sun and temperature

You may think that tropical plants need full sun, but most naturally grow under the canopy where they thrive in dappled light. Give your green tea plant partial shade and protect it from direct light and heat. Indoors, you should expose it to indirect sunlight.

The ideal temperature here is between 50 and 90 ° F. If the temperature drops below 50 ° F, the camellia becomes dormant for the winter. During this time it should be between 25 and 50 ° F. If necessary, you can cover the plants or move potted plants to a warmer place. However, keep in mind that the plant will only bloom if it is put to sleep.

Irrigation & humidity

Tea plants need even and even watering. Water when the top centimeter of the soil dries out, which occurs about once a week depending on the location. Container plants go through water quickly, so you water them more often.

Moisture is a must to keep tea plants sparkling. If you live in a naturally humid climate, your Camellia sinensis should thrive outdoors. For drier regions and houseplants, however, you need to increase the humidity. An easy way to do this is with a water bowl. Simply find a tray that is larger than the bottom of the pot, fill it with pebbles and add water just below the pebble line. When your camellia is placed on it, the water around it evaporates, while the rocks prevent the roots from drowning.

There are alternative methods of adding moisture, e.g. B. the use of a plant humidifier. At the very least, you should spray the leaves with a spray bottle daily.


Camellia sinensis is an acid loving plant with a preferred pH of 5.5-6.5. You need to make sure the soil is acidic before planting the tea and maintain the pH from there. Use a soil test kit to determine if your growth medium needs treatment. Use an acidic fertilizer and mulch to maintain acidity over the years.

Soaked roots pose a serious threat to the black tea plant. They therefore need a fast and well-drained soil. It must also be quite fertile, which can be achieved by adding organic matter. Make sure the drainage is not messed up!


For tea plants you need an acidic fertilizer. There are many products made specifically for camellias (azalea fertilizer works well too). However, if you want to promote leaf growth, look for a high nitrogen fertilizer.

Start fertilizing in the spring when the tree begins to grow. You can carry out an annual application of slow-release fertilizer or 1-3 applications of short-term feed throughout the spring. If you have applied mulch to the soil, remove it before fertilizing. After applying the plant food, pour it in and replace the mulch.

Pruning / training

Rows of tea plantsTea is often grown in hedge-like rows to facilitate harvesting. Source: f99aq8ove

This is a slow growing plant so you don't have to prune too often. However, you should look for dead or dying branches at least once a year. If you really take your tea garden seriously, there is more to it than that.

In tea growing, it is common to cut flower buds to achieve better leaf growth. We know it's a shame to part with such beautiful flowers, but it will help your tree become bushier. You also want to cut back the main branches to keep inner trees and outer trees within reach of the harvest. Also remove crossing branches to promote ventilation through the tree.


Since tea plant seeds do not germinate well, we recommend vegetative propagation. Stem cuttings are a common and easy way to create clones of the original plant. You can propagate your own trees or take a cut from a friend.

Take your cut from the top of a healthy branch that contains 2-4 leaves and growth buds. It should be about 3-4 inches long with a diagonal cut. If necessary, dip the cut end in a fungicide and then root the hormone.

Insert the cut one centimeter deep into well-drained, moist earth. The medium must be kept warm while cutting the roots. Therefore, start the process in spring or keep it on a heating mat (approx. 65-75 ° F) in winter. Pour it lightly so that the soil is evenly moist but not soaked. If the cut is successfully rooted and shows stem or leaf growth, you can transplant it into its permanent home or into a larger container. Your new tree should begin to bloom in 1 – 3 years.

Harvesting, processing & storage

Harvest tea leavesTea leaves are harvested in different seasons for different taste profiles. Source: Jaundice Ferret

Before planning a tea party, the leaves must be harvested and prepared. Here's what you need to do:


You pick your tea leaves by hand, just like the highest quality teas around the world. Be sure to pick only disease-free leaves that are not broken or damaged in any way.

In spring, tea plants "flushes" have new growth. You can pinch the new leaves and buds with each flush. In order for the plant to continue growing, it is recommended that only the leaves and buds at the top of each branch are harvested. As with pruning, you should not remove more than a third of the plant.

If you plan to make green or white tea, choose the smallest, youngest leaves and buds. Some white teas are even made only with buds. Black and oolong tea, on the other hand, taste best if they are made from larger, more mature leaves.

After harvesting, the next rinse should be ready in 1-2 weeks. You can harvest whenever new growth appears, or schedule only a few harvests a year so you have larger leaves to choose from. Some gardeners even harvest the flowers, which can be done in late autumn.


After harvesting, you must start processing the tea leaves immediately. This is perhaps the most important part, since the way you process it determines the type of tea you get. Every step in the processing of tea leaves can affect the taste. So there is plenty of room for experimentation. You may find that each batch you process has its own taste.

White tea is the least processed overall and the finest tea leaves. Tenderness is achieved by using only buds and unfolded leaves on the tip of a branch. In fact, the leaves are usually so young that they are still covered with white fluff. They are not heated like green tea, but are allowed to oxidize slightly when they dry. Let them dry out slightly – preferably in the sun.

Green tea is least oxidized, which tastes so fresh. The oxidation starts as soon as you pick the leaf. Therefore, apply heat immediately to stop it. Steam them for a few minutes to get their current taste. Chinese-style green teas are roasted on dry heat and not steamed, which gives them a distinctly different taste. They can be rolled carefully between hands without hurting the leaves to get a distinctive shape.

To the Red or oolong teawe need partial oxidation. Start by gently rolling the leaves in your hands to injure them. This exposes more of the inner leaf to the air and speeds up the oxidation process. Now it only takes about half an hour for the leaf to turn brown. You need to heat them up as soon as they start tanning so that your fruity oolong doesn't turn into a strong black tea.

You can keep the leaves rolled or even shape them into a tea ball. If they are steep, the leaves slowly unfold. They can even be soaked more than once to give them a different taste each time.

Black tea is the most oxidized and gives it the strongest taste. Roll the sheets, but squeeze them a little more this time. You can even crush or crush them several times. Once they are thoroughly beaten up, let them stand for a few hours until they turn completely brown. As with Oolong, the leaves can be shaped into a tea ball before drying.

After your tea leaves are oxidized and fixed to the desired taste, they need to dry. This can be done in the sun, which is recommended for white tea, or on a baking sheet in the oven. Place the sheets evenly on the baking sheet and heat them to 200-250 ° F for 10-20 minutes.


Tea doesn't get so bad that it's poisonous, but it gets stale. After processing, it's best to use it within six months, but it stays fresh for about a year. When processed correctly, black and oolong tea can be stored for two years without losing their taste.

Store your tea in a dark pantry that is at room temperature or slightly cool. You need to use an airtight container so that the tea can be stored properly. You may even want to double the lids. We know you would like to show the pretty leaves in a glass, but opaque containers are better because no light comes through. Metal or glass is preferable because plastic can affect the taste. Tea also steals flavors from its warehouse neighbors, so keep it away from spices and coffee.


Tippy leaves with some leaf stainThese leaf tips show some evidence of leaf spots. Source: Matt 2906

As always, keep an eye out for signs of distress in your camellia. Detecting these problems early is the best thing you can do to keep your tea plant healthy.

Growing problems

The symptoms of growing problems usually appear in the most important part of a tea bush – the leaves. Yellowed leaves are usually a sign that the soil needs to be more acidic. Pale leaves, accompanied by stunted or long-legged growth, can speak of a lack of nitrogen.

Magnesium deficiency is a common problem with camellias. In contrast to the steady fading of nitrogen deficiency, it causes yellowing between the veins and a possible leaf drop. Prevent defects by applying organic substances to the floor every year.


Scale insects can be a big problem for camellias. These are tiny insects that come in a variety of colors. Most excrete honeydew, which often forms sooty mold and attracts ants. Dandruff feeds on juice, causing the leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Horticultural oil and neem oil are excellent organic control agents for this pest. When applied to the plant, they choke the insects.

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that cover the leaves with fine webs. They make little yellow dots on the leaves and eventually kill them. They like dry conditions, so make sure your camellia is well watered. They can be removed with insecticidal soap or even a strong jet of water.

Finally, we have the common and yet threatening Aphids. A large infestation of these guys can yellow the leaves, form rotting stains and impair the growth of shoots. Like scales, they make honeydew that invites to sooty mold and invites ants to visit. Smaller populations can simply be cut from the tree or sprayed with water. However, large numbers require more serious control, such as insecticidal soap.


Algae leaf stain shows up as silvery, raised spots on the leaves. Large infections can yellow the leaves and kill them. This disease thrives in hot, humid weather and must be recognized early. The best control method is to prune the infected leaves and allow good ventilation through the bush.

Root rot, usually caused by Phytophthora or Pythium, damages the plant below and above the earth. It starts with damp roots that can start to rot and move the shrub upwards. This disease slows down growth, yellow leaves and eventually kills the whole tree. The most efficient way to prevent root rot is to use well-drained soil rather than water. If you suspect root rot is already going on, stop watering, switch to better soil, and apply fungicide.

Cancer and dying withers new growth, kills leaves and creates lesions on older wood. This disease enters the plant through a wound in combination with heat and moisture. If you prune or harvest C. sinensis, keep the wounds dry and ventilated until they are callused. If you notice infected leaves or branches, prune them immediately. If necessary, the fungicide can be applied annually in spring.

frequently asked Questions

Q: How long does it take to grow tea?

A: After planting, it will take approximately 3 years for your Camellia sinensis to be harvested.

Q: Can you grow tea from tea bags?

A: It's best to leave your teabags in the pantry. Tea plants can only be grown by living vegetative propagation or tea seeds that do not contain the bags.

Q: Is the tea plant the same as the tea tree?

A: Tea plants are shrubby and can grow like trees. However, the term "tea tree" usually refers to Melaleuca, a completely different plant.

The green thumbs behind this article:
Rachel Garcia
Juicy fanatic
Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime gardener

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