Camellia Sinensis Tea Plant FAQS

What are Tea Plants?

Tea plants are evergreen plants that are members of the Camellia family.  The plant species used for tea production is Camellia sinensis.

What Is Tsubaki Tea™

Tsubaki Tea™ is a brand of Camellia sinensis Tea plants developed for their superior growth performance in the garden as a landscape ornamental shrub that can also be used for making your own tea.  Tsubaki Tea™ is available through Gene’s Nursery & CamelliaShop.com.  To learn more about Tea, visit the www.tsubakitea.com website/blog.

Can any camellia produce tea?

While it is possible to produce tea from the leaves of other camellia species besides Camellia sinensis, the resulting beverage may not taste, look, or smell the same as traditional tea.  All camellia species contain certain chemical elements that when processed for tea, may give you different results.

Where can I grow tea?

Tea from Camellia sinensis can be grown in most mild regions of the USA and around the world.  In the USA, they do best outdoors in climate zones 7-8-9.   Tea can be grown in colder climates if they are grown outdoors in warm weather, indoors in cold weather.

What Do Tea Plants They Require?

Tea Plants require a well-drained, organic soil that has a pH of 5.5-6.0.  They like to be moist, never dry and they will not tolerate wet feet.   We suggest planting on a slightly raised planting to help with drainage.  Provide a 2-3” mulch with leaves, straw or bark - never rocks or rubber mulch. 

How many plants do I need to produce tea?

That depends on how much you want to make.  If you have a small family and only drink tea occasionally, then 2-3 mature plants should be fine.  If you have a larger family or want to produce more tea, then start with 10-12 plants and increase as plants as needed.

When do I harvest tea? 

You only want to harvest the soft tender green growth when the plant is actively growing.  Plants in the USA usually go into a dormant period in Fall-Winter.  Harvesting in zones 7-8-9 would be anywhere from March-September depending on your climate. 

Why do I want to have bushy plants and how do I do it?

Because you are harvesting tea from the tips of plants, you want to have as many tips as possible.  The bushier the plant, the more tea you can harvest. The best way is to start with pruning your plant just before spring growth.  Pruning your plant each year to about 24” tall will encourage the plant to put on lots of shoots.  When you begin harvesting tea, do it on a regular basis – every 10-12 days as new growth emerges.  This will continue the “bushy” formation of your plants. 

What is the purpose of the flowers?

Plants flower as a way of reproduction.  Flowers that are pollinated will usually form seed pods.  When ripe, the seeds fall to the ground and seedlings soon emerge.  Seedlings are genetically different from the mother plant.

What types of plants do I need to grow green, black or oolong tea?

All tea is made from the same plant – Camellia sinensis.  It’s not the plant that determines what tea you get, but the way you make it.  It’s like potatoes.  French fries, mashed potatoes, and potato chips are all made from potatoes.  But it’s the way they are processed that makes them what they turn out to be.

How long before I can harvest my own tea leaves?

Any leaves harvested need to be soft green growth, never the older harder growth.  You can process the leaves from any size plant.  Smaller plants will only produce a few leaves.  The bushier and older the plant gets; the more tea leaves it will produce. Pinching new growth will make a plant bushier - so go ahead and pluck - just keep it light. 

What is the difference between your plants?

We grow many different types of Tea Plants.  As a grower, we evaluate our plants for certain characteristics that make them unique to others.  The differences are in growth habits, growth rates, foliage traits and flower colors.  All our tea plants are suitable for growing and making tea.  The differences in the plants should be considered only if you are using them as an ornamental shrub and not as much for growing tea. 

Can I grow tea in containers?

Absolutely.  They make excellent container plants and will fit in nicely as an evergreen shrub on your deck, porch or patio.

Can I use regular potting soil to grow my camellias in containers?

Be very careful of using a general-purpose potting soil with Tea plants.  Usually, these soils are formulated for vegetables and bedding plants and are designed to hold water to keep your plants from drying out.  Because of the components used in commercial potting mixes, soils are usually very compact leaving very little air space for your roots to breathe.  Tea Plants like to have a soil that has good drainage and good oxygen.  We use a finely ground aged pine bark mix that has some moisture retention, but the water drains away from the roots instead of compacting the soil

Where can I get a container mix?

We sell our own custom blended potting mix for Camellias & Tea plants.  It is by special order but at times we may have some available at the nursery in Savannah GA.  We do not ship our soil.  You can check with a local nursery that grows their own shrubs, particularly azaleas and Camellias.  The soil you would use for these two plants would work well for your tea plants.  You can also look over our soil recipe that should give you the components that we recommend for a tea soil.

Soil Recipe:

You can also make your own soil by using a product called soil conditioner which contains a finely ground aged bark. (other small bark pieces will work ex: fir bark)  Mix 5 parts soil conditioner with one-part peat moss and 1-part perlite.  Add Hollytone™ – 3 tablespoons per gallon container and water well.

What About Fertilizing?

You want to make sure your plants are healthy and happy and the way to do that is to make sure they have enough food.  We suggest using Hollytone™ for your tea plants. You can find this at your local garden center.  Fertilize 4 times a year for plants in the ground and/or containers.

How can I grow ‘organic tea’?

It’s very easy to grow your own organic green, black or oolong tea right in your home garden.  Just use products that are earth, people and pet friendly.  Tea responds very well to organic fertilizers.

 What Insects do I have to worry about?

Tea Scale, Mites and Aphids are the biggest concerns on tea.  They are all easy to control with an organic oil soap or spray.   Sometimes you may see some chewing insects like caterpillars or leaf hoppers.  An organic soap spray applied regularly will probably keep them from causing much damage. 

Are there any diseases I need to be concerned with?

Tea is generally an easy plant to grow provided it gets all of it's needs met ~ adequate soil for drainage and oxygen,  fresh air, a little sunshine, a balance fertilizer and protection from severe freeze.  .  Disease can come in the form of leaf spots or fungal in areas where they don't get good airflow, the foliage stays wet, or in root rot where the soil is not aerated enough and the roots develop a rot. Most of the the fungal problems you may have are usually due to cultural and not because of plant susceptibility.  

Are your plants organic?

We are not USDA Certified organic but we try to integrate as many natural products and practices into growing our plants as possible. We use organic fertilizers, oils and soap spray treatments to control foliage insects,  manual weed control and natural soil components.  

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