Camellia sinensis is the evergreen shrub used to produce the tea we drink. Both leaves and buds are used. Grow Camellia sinensis in the home landscape for its striking flowers as well as for its edible leaves. Reaching 4 to 5 feet high, tea plants can spread equally as wide. Use it for hedges and screening or keep it trimmed to size in big containers as a specimen plant.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Freshly harvested seeds
- Bowl or bucket
- Coarse cheesecloth
- String or twist ties
- Nursery flats
- Spray bottle or misting attachment for hose
- Small plastic pots
- Shaded area
Harvest fully ripe Camellia sinensis seeds in early fall. Ripened pods will crack open showing black seeds inside. Prepare seeds immediately; harvested seed rapidly loses the ability to germinate. Tie the seeds up in coarse cheesecloth.
Soak camellia seeds in bowls or buckets of water for 24 hours by dropping in the filled cheesecloth bags. Remove the bags and pour the soaked seeds into the water. Use the strainer to take out any seeds that float and put them aside.
Spread the seeds that sank on a nursery flat. Keep in full sun but keep moist by misting with a hose attachment or mist bottle.
Spread out the seeds that floated on a separate flat, these may not germinate as well. Keep moist by misting. Check both seed batches in two days for cracks in the outer coat.
Plant any seeds that have developed cracks in the coating. Use fast draining medium like vermiculite. Put your growing medium in small pots or flats. Put a seed in each partition of your flat, or one seed in each pot. Make sure seeds are covered by 1 inch of medium.
Put prepared containers under a lath shade structure or shade cloth. Dwight Sate of the Hawaii Manoa Dept of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences recommends 80 per cent shade cloth.
Mist the growing medium often to keep it moist. Seeds will not germinate if the growing medium is allowed to dry out.
Look for small shoots in one to two months after seeding your flats. Transplant seedlings only after they develop four leaves. Roots should be well developed at this point.
Tips and warnings
- Scarify (manually scratch or nick) camellia sinensis seeds near the "eye" before soaking to speed cracking and germination.
- Plant two different varieties for cross pollination and better seed quality.
- Fruits of camellia sinensis take up to 12 months to develop and may contain only a few seeds.
- Camellia sinensis shrubs must be at least four years old before they will produce seed pods.
- Tea plants are wind-sensitive and may brown off or die back if in exposed areas.
- Camellia sinensis will not grow well in areas with standing water or soggy soil and may fail to produce seed.
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- College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources: Germinating Tea Seeds
- Univ. of Florida IFAS Extension: Tea Growing in the Florida Home Landscape
- American Camellia society: Camellia Sinensis
- Newport News Master Gardeners and Alabama Cooperative Extension: The Culture of Camellias
- Plants for a Future: Camellia sinensis -- (L.)Kuntze
- Southeastern Camellia Society: Growing Camellias from Seed
- International Camellia Society: Camellia: Seed and Seedlings
- The Camellia Club of Mobile: Camellia Culture: Seeds
- Purdue University Extension: Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze
- Univ. of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension: Small-scale Tea Growing and Processing in Hawaii