Growing Camellia sinensis Tea From Seeds

One of the easiest things to do is to grow Camellia sinensis from seeds.  It’s nature’s way of giving back!  Camellia sinensis is a prolific seed producer.  When the plant flowers, it produces seeds.  When you are growing for tea, your plants are pruned and you are constantly harvesting foliage and keeping the plant in a vegetative state.  This will severely limit or halt flower and seed production.  But if you have plants in your garden and you allow the plant to flower, then you will surely get seeds—and a lot of them.  If you are not careful, your plants can generate so many seeds that when they drop, the seeds can become plants and overtake a garden in a short period.

Supplies for Germinating Seeds

  • Perlite
  • Peat Moss
  • 6”-8” Nursery or other container with plenty of drain holes
  • Optional – Clear plastic storage container with lid

Harvesting Tea Seeds

In fall, your seed pods will ripen as shown in the picture opposite page.  You can wait for the seeds to crack open on their own and fall to the ground. You can also pick the seeds from your tea plants.  Place them on a window screen so they can get ventilation and place them in the shade away from rain, preferably somewhere warm.  You can also place them sun for a few hours but not too long or they could get too hot.  As the husks dry out, they will start to open. This process could take several days.  If they do not want to open on their own, gently shave off the husk with a paring knife and remove the brown seeds from inside.

Planting Tea Seeds

The question to plant them after harvest or to put them into cold storage is one you will need to address.  In climate zone 8,  I prepare pots and plant them immediately after I harvest the brown seeds.  Others in colder climates may refrigerate them for a few months then plant them and put them out when the weather is warmer.  If you do refrigerate, I have found it works well to have a plastic container with a lid and put a moistened paper towel in there with them.  The temp in the frig never goes below 40.  They will sit dormant until I plant them.   Don’t let the seeds dry out—keep moist but never wet.

Step 1 – Prepare the planting pot

Mix equal parts perlite and peat moss.  Add to a container with plenty of drain holes.  Fill the container  1 1/2 inches from the top of the pot.  

Step 2 – Add seeds to the pot. 

Step 3 – Add soil to top

Add 1/2” to 3/4” of soil on top of the seeds and pack them down tightly.    Don’t put more than 1″ of soil on top of the seeds. 

Step 4 – Water 

Water your seeds with a gentle spray.  Let the pot drain well. 

When you’ve planted your seeds, place them in a shady place away from direct sunlight and keep them watered well.  Don’t let the pots sit in a saucer.  If you have cold weather, you can bring them indoors, but just make sure you don’t let the soil dry out too much.  Tea seeds typically germinate within 2-3 months depending on the weather.  The warmer the weather the faster they will germinate.

You can also place your pots full of seeds inside of a clear storage container with a lid.  This will create a humid environment and if kept warm, your seeds will germinate faster. The enclosed container should keep the humidity up but if it dries out, just remove the pots from the storage container, water them, and let drain well then replace.  Keep the container out of direct sun.

Seeds should begin to break dormancy and start to germinate when the soil temp reaches 70F.  After the tea seeds have sprouted, you can move them to individual containers.  Make sure to follow the correct soil recipe for growing tea in containers.  Protect from frost and freezes while they are young.

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