How to Grow Your Own Tea Garden
What is a Tea Garden?
A tea garden is simply a dedicated space where you can grow your own tea ingredients. For the strictest definition of tea, this will include Camellia sinensis, but it is still a tea garden if you do not grow traditional tea leaves and, instead, grow a variety of herbs to make herbal teas.
If you do not have space for an in-ground garden or raised garden beds, many herbs used for making tea can be grown in containers. This means you can have a container tea garden tucked away in a corner of your yard or on your porch or balcony.
If you happen to have the space, you could also make a more formal tea garden where you can both grow your own tea ingredients and invite your friends over to enjoy afternoon tea. This type of tea garden would include a seating area and, perhaps, even a structure for tea ceremonies.
If you decide to go this route, you will want to discuss this with your landscape designer to include this space and its features in your professional landscape design.
What to Grow In Your Tea Garden
There is a huge variety of herbs and other plants you can grow to make tea. Here are 10 popular choices to get you started. Keep in mind that some herbs are not good options for folks with particular health conditions or can interact with prescription medications. So, even if it is an herb you know is commonly used in making tea, it is a good idea to look up anything you are thinking about planting to make sure it is a good choice for you and your family.
1. Camellia sinensis
Also known as tea plant or tea shrub, Camellia sinensis is the plant that provides tea leaves for black tea and oolong tea (Camillia sinensis assamica) and green and white teas (Camellia sinensis sinensis). So, if you are interested in growing, harvesting, and making traditional tea, you will need to include Camellia sinensis in your tea garden. The downside of this plant is that it will take two to three years before you will be able to harvest leaves to make tea.
Plants in the mint family are a great place to start, because they are so easy to grow. You can use the leaves fresh or dried, and options include peppermint, lemon balm, spearmint, chocolate mint, and Moroccan mint. Mint plants are invasive, so it is best to grow this one in a container or in a raised bed with a border. Traditionally, mint has been used for stomach issues, such as stomachaches and digestive issues, so this is also a good addition to a medicinal garden.
This popular tea herb is easy to grow and will grow as an annual in a container or in the ground. Chamomile has long been used as a medicinal herb, often in teas, to improve sleep and reduce stress.
There are many reasons to include rosemary in your garden, such as cutting sprigs to throw in the fire pit to ward off pests or to add flavor to grilled foods. In your tea garden, rosemary is an easy, perennial addition that can be grown in the ground or in a container. Historically, this herb has been used to treat circulatory issues and muscle pain. Rosemary tea consumption is not recommended during pregnancy.
Sage can be grown in the ground or in a container and is a particularly good choice for drought-prone areas. As a medicinal herb, sage has historically been used as an expectorant and a diuretic.
6. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are the seeds of the cilantro plant, so you can grow cilantro for culinary purposes, and then harvest the seeds for making tea. Cilantro can be grown in the ground or in a container. Coriander seeds have traditionally been used in herbal teas as a digestive aid.
If you are interested in making refreshing hibiscus tea, you will need a bit more space. Unlike the herbs on this list that can be grown in a small space, hibiscus is a large shrub that needs space and can grow to about 10 feet. If you have the room to grow hibiscus, you can enjoy the added benefit of attracting more butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard.
This attractive plant attracts pollinators to your yard, and the dried buds can be used for making sachets and potpourri or for culinary purposes. For making a calming lavender tea, dry the buds and store them in an air-tight container until you are ready to use them.
9. Lemon Verbena
This perennial can be grown in the ground or in large containers that are at least 12 inches in diameter. Traditionally used as a treatment for inflammation, prevention of menstrual cramps, or to support immune system function, lemon verbena tea is now also often used to relieve stress and combat anxiety.
10. Citrus Trees
If you have space for one or more fruit trees, consider planting a lemon, lime, orange, or tangerine tree. When you harvest the fruit to enjoy, keep the peels and dry them. Dried citrus peels make a great addition to herbal tea blends.
Tips for Growing and Making Tea from Your Tea Garden
- You should never use toxic pesticides or herbicides in your tea garden or on any plants grown for consumption. If you are having issues with pests or weeds, look for one of the many natural options available that you can make or purchase.
- Different plants may have different irrigation needs, particularly if you are growing your tea in a container garden. For example, plants grown in terra cotta pots that are not glazed require more frequent watering than those planted in containers that are glazed.
- Before adding any new plant to your tea garden, jump online to look up possible side effects or interactions with medications. Just because something is used in making herbal tea does not mean that it is safe for everyone. Something as simple and ubiquitous as chamomile or sage may interact with prescription medications, and many herbs are not recommended for people who are pregnant or nursing.
- Most herbs do best with at least six hours of sun each day, so pick a sunny spot for your tea garden. Ideally, choose a location that receives morning sun but has some protection from the hotter afternoon sun.
- When using dried herbs, you will usually use about 1.5 to two teaspoons of your herb mixture for one cup of tea. If you are using fresh herbs, you will more likely use about five to six teaspoons of your herb mixture for one cup. You can also expect to steep your herbs longer when using fresh herbs.
- If you harvest herbs before you are going to use them, you can store them in a vase of water at room temperature or in the refrigerator but only for a few days. If you dry your herbs, store them in a cool, dry, dark place in an air-tight container.
- When harvesting fresh herbs, use clean, sharp scissors or pruners and cut stems, rather than just leaves. Then you can remove the leaves from the stems to either dry them or use them for tea right away. It is best to rinse the herbs before use to make sure there are no insects or soil.
- You can dry herbs by hanging them in small bunches, laying them out in a hanging herb dryer, or drying them in a dehydrator used for drying food. Whichever method you use, make sure they are not packed in too tightly; they need plenty of air circulation to dry properly.
- When making tea with fresh herbs, you will need to first release the flavors by bruising the leaves. You can achieve this by using a mortar and pestle or by squeezing and rubbing them between your fingers.