Due to high numbers of large-volume orders placed in late 2016 and early 2017, we are unable to reserve any more plants for advance purchase in the 2017 growing season. However, plants will be available in limited quantities weekly at the Portland State Saturday Market, at our Farm Stand in Salem, and at our Summer Tours.
The tea plant, Camelia sinensis, grows to be a large shrub or small tree but is most often kept to a manageable height of 3-5 feet in cultivated hedges. Flowers are usually white and somewhat reminiscent in shape to the ornamental camellia, only smaller. If you are regularly harvesting the leaves for tea processing, you will often be removing the stem tips or buds before the plant flowers.
Here are some tips on growing Camelia sinensis:
Planting: As with most shrubs, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball but only as deep. Plant the root ball so the top is level with the soil height. Backfill with mostly native soil, amended with some well-aged compost. During establishment phase, mulch the tea plant with sawdust, leaves or compost, especially in early fall before temperatures drop. The ideal planting time for tea plants is between April and late August. If planted later, plants may be susceptible to frost injury before becoming well-established.
Soil: Camelia sinensis grows in a wide range of soil conditions. To prevent root rot, the plant requires adequate drainage. In some wetter sites, you can consider a raised bed with extra compost amendments.
Light: Tea plants prefer sites with full sun to partial shade. Try to avoid sites that are fully shaded, as a lack of sunlight will reduce vigor.
Spacing: Allow 5 feet in width and 15 feet in height for specimen plants. For hedge plantings in a production setting, individuals can be spaced between 1 foot and 1 ½ feet apart. Prune frequently to encourage branching and numerous growing tips for tea plucking.
Water: For the first 2 years, before the plant is well-established, water twice or three times per week in summer. Make sure the entire root ball is soaked through. Once the plant is established regular water in dry summers will encourage more growth of new shoots. Take care not to over-water.
Find information on processing tea here.