Nov 23

Videos: Tea Seed Germination (Camellia sinensis)

By Tygh Walters | Uncategorized

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:

Subtropical

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!

Links

Germinating Tea Seeds PDF

*Follow our progress and subscribe to the Piedmont Tea Co.’s email newsletter…

Sep 04

Tea Plant Propagation; Clones from Cuttings

By Tygh Walters | Uncategorized

Like other woody shrubs, the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) can be asexually propagated from the small terminal branch sections, known as “cuttings”. Usually, the cuttings are treated with a hormone solution at the cut to facilitate the rooting process. IBA (Indole-3-butyric Acid) is commonly used dissolved in an alcohol solvent. Research suggests to increase the rooting %, to store the cuttings in an environment that will not desiccate the plant material, since it lacks roots to rehydrate itself. Often, cuttings are placed under plastic coverings and periodically “misted” to ensure adequate moisture. Factors that may affect the rooting of cuttings include: nutrition, juvenility, timing, the condition and type of cutting wood, wounding, and hormones.

This process yields exact genetic clones of the parent specimen, and is a desirable practice to quickly multiply the numbers of a particular plant exhibiting favorable characteristics (e.g., flower color, fruit size, or growth habit). Of course, it is by the ascertainment of the individual propagator that characteristics are deemed “favorable”.

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May 29

Tea in Georgia!

By Tygh Walters | Uncategorized

Tea plant seedling (Camellia sinensis) from the Georgia Piedmont.

History: Tea in Georgia

Tea was first imported to the America by the Dutch in 1650. Camellia sinensis was the first of the the Camellia genus to come to the continent in 1744. Seeds that were sent to the Trust Gardens in Savannah, GA did not survive, but according to the U.S. Patent Office Report in 1805, tea plants were flourishing on Skidaway Island near Savannah. Unfortunatley, due to insufficient capital and a malaria outbreak, the effort to grow tea as a commercial crop failed. Another effort was made in Charleston, SC, In 1813, but as in the Savannah region, it was not successful.

Today

This wild Camellia sinensis seedling was found near a mother bush in the Georgia Piedmont. It had germinated and grown without human intervention for two years. The tea plant is considered to be native to Southeast Asia, yet the subtropical climate of Georgia is just warm enough to support the plant without much maintenance.