I love tea! Growing your own tea plants is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your garden. Let’s look at some tea plants for sale, and how to grow the tea plant (Camellia sinensis).
Tea has been a part of the human experience since civilization began. It is a great way to add health benefits to our drinks. Tea carries many antioxidants and properties that aid in digestion and immunity.
Throughout history, tea has been an expensive and precious commodity. It has lead to the opening of many trade routes across nations and even had a part in instigating the American revolution. Even today, people are enamored by tea – how to brew it, the history of it, and how this mysterious plant is grown.
For those of us who enjoy being self-sufficient, growing our own tea plants can be a great way to rely more on the land that we live on. But how do you create something that is so mysterious, especially when each tea is so different and has such a different character?
While many ancient techniques for creating incredible teas may be lost, you can start by growing your own tea plants.
The Tea Plant, Camellia sinensis
Camellia sinensis is the plant from which all teas are made. This includes white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and even pu’er tea (though the latter is made from a specific variant called Camellia sinensis var. assamica). The difference in each tea includes the processing of the leaves and when they are harvested.
Processing types are mostly based on how much a leaf is oxidized and fermented. Green teas and white teas are not oxidized at all which is why they keep their light color and astringent taste. Black teas and pu’er teas (which are considered red and dark respectively) are oxidized with the use of sun and heat. Pu’er teas also go through a longer fermentation process.
Teas can be “flavored” during processing when they are dried with, or next to, other aromatic plants such as jasmine flowers or roses. When these plants are dried next to each other, the volatile oils of the aromatic plants are absorbed by the tea leaves and this gives the tea a certain taste and quality.
Camellia sinensis plants have also been used as ornamental hedges in many gardens and backyards. They are attractive shrubs that bloom with delicate, white flowers in the fall. This plant enjoys acidic soil with good drainage and can even be grown in a pot.
Here are Chris and Elizabeth from Minto Island Tea, harvesting tea leaves. They will have tea plants for sale in Spring 2020 and have some great growing tips on their website.
Because so much can be done with the Camellia sinensis tea plant, it is one that should be in every tea lover’s garden! And for those of you who don’t love tea (yet), it can be a great way to start substituting coffee and growing your own caffeine.
As I briefly mentioned above, there are different variants of Camellia sinensis, and this can contribute to some of the variety in teas as well.
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is a Chinese variety that is traditionally grown in cooler climates, though it does well in warmer climates as well. It can grow to be between 5-15 feet tall, but many people will prune the plant to keep it shorter. This variant of Camellia is used to make white teas, green teas, darjeeling teas, and some oolong and black teas. It has a less astringent, and more light flavor than the other variant.
Camellia sinensis var. assamica is the variant that is endemic to India and Sri Lanka, as well as the Yunaan Provence in China. This variety is grown in warm, humid climates and produces a plant that will grow much larger than the other variant if left unpruned. The teas that these leaves will produce are richer and can be harvested year-round. Many black teas, oolongs, and pu’er teas are made from this variety.
There are other non-traditional forms of Camellia tea plants for sale that people have used to grow tea as well. One is called Camellia sasanqua and is said to brew a rich, clove-like tea. It is also called the yuletide Camellia because its flowers are a bright red instead of the standard delicate white of sinensis variants.
Camellia japonica grows a pink flower and does well in climates from the UK to Alabama. It is said to make a tasty green tea, and is used widely as an ornamental shrub. This variant is easily found in many nurseries across North America.
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Growing Tea Plants
When growing your own Camellia sinensis plants, you may either want to start with seeds or with plants for sale from a nursery.
How to Grow Tea Plants From Seeds
Starting with seeds is an economical way to start if you want multiple Camellia plants, and can be a good way to start for those of us who like to grow our plants from seed. If you would like a plant that is already producing, there are mature tea plants for sale from retailers and plant nurseries.
Camellia sinensis seeds have a hard outer hull that needs to be softened before they can sprout. A typical way to germinate these seeds includes soaking them in hot water for about 24 hours, noticing which seeds float and which ones sink. The ones that sink are usually the ones that will successfully germinate.
Take your “sinkers” and let them dry in the full sun, misting them regularly to keep them wet. Eventually, you will see a crack develop in the hull. Take your cracked seeds and plant them into soil, keeping the soil moist but well-drained.
Another way to germinate seeds is by using a wet paper towel and sandwich bag. You will still want to soak your seeds for 24 hours to see which ones float and sink. After that, wet a paper towel so that it is slightly more than damp, but not soaking wet.
Take your sinker seeds and place them on one half of a paper towel (I usually put 2 to 4 seeds in each 4×4” section of paper towel). Fold the other half of the paper towel over the seeds and put it into the sandwich bag, sealing the top and labeling the plant name and date on the outside. Place somewhere warm and dark (I use a cupboard near the stove where the heat will rise).
With either technique, you will need patience as germination can take anywhere from days to weeks. Using a 1:5 ratio of hydrogen peroxide to water while soaking your seeds can also help loosen the seed hulls and increases the oxygen that the seed receives. This can, in some cases, speed up the germination of some of the seeds.
How to Grow Mature Tea Plants
If you would like to start making tea tomorrow, buying a mature tea plant for sale would be the best course of action.
Camellia likes to grow in acidic soil, so supplementing with acidic fertilizers such as worm/compost tea would be appropriate.
This plant enjoys full sun, but could use some shade in the afternoon if you live in a warmer climate. If you prune it, it will keep a shrub-like shape. If you let it grow without pruning, it may become a 10 to 15 foot tree! Starting with a mature tree can be less cost-effective than starting with seeds, but it will cut down on time and work to bring seeds to maturity.
Tea Plants for Sale
Here are some places that have the beautiful Camellia tea plants for sale:
- Camellia sasanqua, Yuletide Camellia from Nature Hills Online Nursery. You can also find Camellia-specific fertilizer on their site.
- Logees Nursery has tea plants for sale on Amazon, they’re a great price (see the box below) and shipped directly to you.
- Amazon is also a go-to for buying seeds and has tea plants for sale. Amazon is currently selling both Camellia sinensis seeds and mature tea plants.
- ✔ Quality seeds packaged by MySeeds.Co All seeds sold by...
- ✔ Tea, Tea Plant - Camellia sinensis - Cold Hardiness Zone...
- ✔ This is THE specie of Tea that makes Green, Red, and...
- ✔ Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages...
- ✔ It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually...
- Camellia Forest Nursery has a wide range of tea plants for sale, including Camellia sinensis “Black Sea Tea”, Camellia sinensis “Teabreeze”, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica.
- Burpee Nursery has tea plants for sale.
- Fast-Growing-Trees.com has tea plants for sale in 1 quart size and 2 gallon size.
- I also like White Buffalo Trading Company for unique seeds that you won’t often find elsewhere. They are all organic and non-GMO varieties and have tea plant seeds for sale.
- Spring Hill Nurseries is another online nursery with tea plants for sale. They will ship live Camellia sinensis plants to your door.
- And then there’s Minto Island Tea (from the photo above), who will have tea plants for sale in Spring 2020!
Whichever route you choose, know that you are one step closer to being fully self-sufficient! On top of that, drinking tea can be a healthy and mindful ritual in your life. Adding hand cultivation and processing to the ritual can make the experience even more mindful and meaningful.
You can experiment with how to grow your Camellia plant, which parts of the plant to use, and how to harvest and process the leaves so that you create a tea that fits your taste buds. And one thing is for sure – once you start growing your own Camellia, you will never view tea the same way again!
If you would like more information about harvesting and processing your own tea plants, I highly recommend these books, below. There’s also one book on the 20,000 uses of tea – it’s an amazing read and I had to include it. Once your tea plants are ready for harvest, it’ll be a great resource!
“Once there was a man who knew 100,000 healing properties of herbs. He taught his son 80,000 secrets. On his deathbed, he told his son to visit his grave in five years, and there he would find the other 20,000 secrets. When the son went to his father’s grave, he found, growing on the site, the tea shrub….” –Chinese Legend
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Zak, Victoria (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 210 Pages - 12/18/2009 (Publication Date) - Dell (Publisher)
- Germinating Tea Seeds – Camellia Sinensis – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai at Manoa
Last update on 2021-01-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API