We recorded a short video series of the process we take to germinate tea plants from seed. Please watch and share this with fellow tea enthusiasts.
Video: How to Germinate Tea Seeds (Camellia sinensis) Part 1 of 3
Video: How to Germinate Tea Seeds (Camellia sinensis) Part 2 of 3
Video: How to Germinate Tea Seeds (Camellia sinensis) Part 3 of 3
Growing anything from seed is an intimate experience. I gain a greater appreciation for the plant as I learn how to handle the vulnerable embryo. There is something undeniably fulfilling when I can witness the complete transformation from a seed to a mature and producing plant.
Seedlings or cuttings?
Traditionally, tea plantations were expanded by taking cuttings from selected cultivars that exhibited some favorable characteristics. This method yields a genetic clone of its mother plant and is an excellent method to quickly grow nursery stock. However, growing Camellia sinensis from seed will result in diverse, genetically unique individuals. This is exciting because it’s a mystery as to what the future tea plants will look like and how they will grow!
Where can tea plants grow?
Tea plants do best in USDA Hardiness Zones 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, and 9b. The plant is indigenous to high-altitude tropical regions in SE Asia. Raising tea plants from seed is very easy, depending on your location and climate. Tea seeds sown outdoors in Athens, GA in Autumn will yield seedlings the following Spring, usually in April. We grow our plants in a humid subtropical climate. Below are subtropical climates of the earth:
Local seed from the USA
The seed we used this year was collected from local plants in the Georgia Piedmont. The “Piedmont” is an elevated plateau region running along the southern border of the Blue Ridge Moutnain Range in the eastern United States. In general, plant seeds have an attribute called “Provenance”, which refers to the unique phenotype exhibited that corresponds within the geographic area from which the seed was harvested. For instance, plants grown from seeds collected in a colder climate will likely exhibit more cold tolerance than seeds collected from a plant in a warmer climate. This means that the seedlings from a given plant are already adapted to the climate and region where the plant is growing.
Learning from failure
We made repeated mistakes during our first attempt at germinating tea seeds. Literally all 100/100 seeds (100%) from one group were unsuccessful. Oh well. We had small victories though and germinated about ~50 seeds from other sources in 2013. In 2014, we adapted our process to address and hopefully solve the multiple reasons for failure.
- Poor seed quality
- Over watering
- No heating source
- Loss due to pests
Why do we germinate tea plant seeds?
- Opportunity for selecting the best plants for propagation
- Increase genetic diversity
- Cost effectiveness
- Seedlings are (generally) hardier plants compared to cuttings
- It’s fun!