Planting Camellia sinensis Tea Plants

Tea Plants can be planted outdoors in milder climates.   A part-sun part-shade environment works best and Tea Plants should be protected from afternoon sun.  They are not as sensitive to cold weather as most plants can be and have been known to grow as far north as Climate zone 7 and even some warmer parts of zone 6. The main thing to keep in mind with Camellia sinensis plants is that they absolutely will not tolerate wet feet or planting too deeply.

  • Camellia sinensis can tolerate full sun in most moderate climates PROVIDED it gets adequate water. If your plant does not get adequate water in full sun it could burn, or it could dry out causing brown tips and margins or even death.  Morning sun is preferred with afternoon shade.
  • Select the proper location and planting time for your plant—Zone 8 and 9 Fall to Spring planting.  Zone 7 Spring planting is recommended.  Zone 5,6 not suitable for outdoor planting.
  • Create a raised planting or berm where you will your plant will be installed. This can be made of using additional soil from other locations in your yard, or it can be made using top soil. The area should be at least 3-4 inches higher than the existing ground level.
  • Once your raised planting or berm has been created, dig out an area in the center to install your plant. Mix in about 10%-15% organic material such as peat most or leave compost with the soil that was dug out of the center of the raised planting or berm.
  • Remove your Tea Plant from the container and plant it in the hole at the top of the raised planting or berm. You want the top of the Tea Plant’s root system to be exactly level with the top of the raised planting or berm.
  • Use the soil that was dug out and mixed with the organic material to fill back in the hole around the root system. Carefully pack the soil as you fill it in to avoid any air pockets.
  • Once the plant is installed, mulch with about 3 inches of organic material such as bark, leaves, or pine straw and water the plant thoroughly.
  • By creating this raised planting or berm, you have insured that excessive water will be drained away from your plant so that it will not be too wet. By incorporating organic material into the soil surrounding the roots, you have insured that the soil will retain sufficient moisture for the plant.
  • Once your plant has established itself by sending out roots into the raised planting or berm you should have an ideal growing area for your Tea Plant. Until the roots of your Tea Plant have grown out and established itself, be sure to water several times a week. Any excess water will continue to run off.


Camellia sinensis Planting Guide from Tsubaki Tea





Growing Camellia sinensis in Containers

2G Tea Plants

2G Tea Plants

Grow and make your own tea with Camellia sinensis Tea Plants

Camellia sinensis can be successfully grown in containers as long as you follow some guidelines!  

The most important thing to remember about Camellia sinensis Tea Plants is that they will absolutely not tolerate wet soils or soils that do not drain properly.  Make sure you pay close attention to the recommendations we have for potting soils.

Growing in Containers—tips

  • Choose a container that is about twice as large as the root mass of your plant.
  • AVOID containers that are too large or you could have uneven water and nutrient distribution which could lead to trouble with your plant. Keep plant roots near the top of the pot.
  • Make sure your container has plenty of drain holes.
  • Fill the bottom with larger pebbles or stones so that water can drain well to the bottom of the pot and out. Avoid clogging holes.
  • Clay will pull more water out of the soil—so if you must use clay, pay close attention to your plant’s water needs.
  • Don’t let your container sit in a saucer of water. Drain water off so that water will not be wicked back up into the pot.

Choose the correct potting soil for Camellia Sinensis Tea Plants

Camellias sinensis grows well in soils that are organic in nature and well drained.  The biggest mistake people make with Camellia sinensis Tea Plants is buying the traditional bagged potting mixes that contain a lot of peat. These are commonly used for bedding plants and veggies.  These soils are not suitable for growing tea.   A little peat is ok, but using soils that are comprised mostly of peat moss will cause excessive moisture in the soil and will lead to poor drainage which will suffocate the roots of your camellias.   We do not recommend that you use these commercial bagged mixes.

Tsubaki Tea Soil

We use a mixture of three different materials when we make our soil.  We use a very fine, ground aged pine bark.  The pieces are about 1/4 inch.  We add larger pieces of bark to the smaller mix.  The larger pieces are 3/4 to 1″.  Then we add peat moss.  A little is good, a lot is not.

Use this soil mix for any containers or it can be used to amend soils.  Put rocks or other material in the bottom to keep the drain holes from clogging.  This mix is excellent for amending your garden soil.  

Our Soil Recipe 

1 gallon Soil Conditioner/Mulch (Finely ground bark less than 1/8 – 1/4” pieces)

1 gallon Mini Nuggets (Small bark pieces 3/4 to 1”)

1 Cup Peat moss (ground)

2 Tablespoons Dolomite Lime


Finding Ingredients Locally

You may be able to find components that are similar to ours in your local garden center.  The smaller pieces are usually called bark fines.  It is material that is screened when trying to get bigger bark pieces. It is usually called ‘soil conditioner’ in garden centers.  The larger pieces may be called mulch or mini nuggets.  These are small – approximately 3/4 to 1″ pieces.  We have seen similar bark pieces in orchid planting mixes.  If you live in areas where there is a pine industry, you shouldn’t have any problems finding components.  Peat moss is readily available most anywhere.

Soil Mix Alternatives

If you just can not find the ingredients locally, then you can try several other products to come close to our soil mix.

Alternative Soil 2

  • 5 Part Miracle Grow Garden Soil For Shrubs & Trees (contains natural materials similar to our bark mix)
  • (This is GARDEN SOIL, not potting soil.  Make sure it’s for shrub and trees, not the one for Bedding or Vegetables)
  • 1 Part Perlite
  • No peat moss
  • Hollytone – 2-3 tablespoons per one gallon container every 3 months
  • Note:  This bagged mix may contain fertilizer so be careful of what you add

Alternative Soil 3

We have experimented with several brands of orchid potting soils for use with our tea plants.   These soils usually contain the same types of components that make up a our tea soil.  Small and large organic pieces of bark along with peat moss are traditionally used.  You may have to amend the soil with more peat moss, but it’s a good basis to start with.

Fertilizing Camellia in Containers

Your Camellia sinensis Tea Plants in containers will benefit from regular fertilizing.  You can use a liquid fertilizer for containers or a natural  granular fertilizer like HollyTone™ .   Both of these are formulated for acid loving plants like Camellia sinensis Tea Plants.   Liquid feeding will need to be done on a 7-10 day basis to be effective.  HollyTone™ can be used about every 6 weeks during the growing season.  Avoid traditional granular and timed released fertilizer on plants in containers.  Fish emulsions, organic fertilizers, compost teas all work very well with Camellia sinensis.

 Repotting Containerized Camellia  

Camellia sinensis Tea Plants grown in containers will do very well for many years.  You may at some point have the need to repot your plant.  Choose a container a little larger than the one you’re growing in.  It’s usually best to gradually step up plants on a regular basis instead of putting them in a container that is too large.

If you wish to repot the plant back into the same container, you can trim the roots back somewhat and then repot again.  The roots will generate and your plant will be healthier for it.


Grow Your Own Tea with teaplants from



My August Oolong Tea

So, here’s another attempt at making my Oolong Tea.  I really like Oolong.  It’s very easy to make, and the results vary each time, but I like it.  Oolong Tea is somewhere in between green and black.  It’s very nice.  It does take a bit more effort, but this batch turned out quite nicely.


This was done mid August while the weather was warm and new growth was bountiful!


Fresh Green Tea leaves were harvested in early morning



I put them out in the shade to let them wither for about an hour



Then I started to fluff them, move them around every 15 -20 minutes or so



After about an hour or so, I then began to bruise them.  Crushing, twisting, rolling them around.  I did this every 15-20 minutes until I started to see them really wither and start to turn copper in color.  About 2 hours.



After they withered a good bit and started turning brown, I brought them in the house and continued my twisting, turning, bruising and crushing every so often for the rest of the day.  I then left them on the counter and covered them with a dish towel over night.



The next morning they had developed a nice, dark color and the whole kitchen smelled of tea!



They were pretty dry, so I put them into a 200ºF Oven for about 3 minutes.



I then put them into a Ziploc bag, keeping out a bit to “test”…..



I boiled water, then let it sit to cool down just a bit.  Then I put some of the “new” batch in my cup and let it brew for about 2-3 minutes.  I don’t like really strong tea, and so I brew a little less time.  The color was very nice, the flavor was smooth.

Again, it never will win a Blue Ribbon at the fair, but I like it!

Growing Tea From Seeds

Let them sit in the sun until they crack open.

We have grown Camellias from seeds for years with this method with great success.  This can be used to germinate ornamental flowering Camellias as well as Camellia sinensis Tea Plants.  Seeds can be harvested in late summer to early fall.  To test to see if they are ready, gently remove the husk from a tea seed. If they are hard and brown or black, they are ready to harvest. To learn more about growing your own tea, visit


Sinensis, Other Camellias and Making Tea

Ornamental Flowering Camellias are not traditionally used for making tea. Camellia sinensis is used for tea.

Ornamental Flowering Camellias are not traditionally used for making tea

Is it Just About Sinensis?

I am so fortunate to live in a southern climate where Camellias are the Queen of the winter garden.   These beautiful old stately evergreen shrubs bloom in the fall and winter in gardens throughout mild regions of the USA.  They grow well in the deep south where they have been growing in some locations for over 200 years.   They are in our gardens, on our tables and for some southern ladies and proper gentlemen, on the lapels for Sunday church. Not everyone knows or understands the connection of Camellias to our beverage of choice in the south – Tea.  Tea is traditionally made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis and it has been for the last 5000 years or so.  Camellia sinensis belongs to the Camellia family and is cousins to the more famous garden selections of Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua.

Camellias are in abundance in the warmer regions of the USA.  Many people often question it is possible to make tea with other camellias, not just Sinensis.  My answer is quite simple – yes, you can make tea from other camellias. The result may not taste the same, look the same, or smell the same.  All plants have certain chemical compounds that are in their genetic makeup.   Camellia sinensis contains caffeine, as do many of the other camellias. The caffeine content, along with other physical chemical compounds, may differ from species to species.    The chemical compounds may also react differently to processing in Camellia sinensis than the other camellias which will affect appearance, taste, and aroma.

Making Tea With Camellia Sasanqua

I was intrigued by making tea with camellias other than sinensis, so when the new growth emerged on Camellia sasanqua I gave it a try.

The tea that resulted was quite different from that of my Camellia sinensis tea plants.  It oxidized nicely and turned a beautiful bronze but the taste was nothing like that of traditional tea.   There was a very distinctive hint of cloves both in fragrance and in taste.  It wasn’t unpleasant but it was just not something that I think I would enjoy every day.

There is no rule that prohibits you from making tea with other camellias. You should understand that the results will vary. It may not be at all like that of traditional tea made from Camellia sinensis.

If you are interested in learning more about Ornamental Flowering Camellias, visit our sister site

Want to make your own Green Tea?  Here’s how! 



Benefits of Mulch

Camellia Sinensis

Camellia sinensis makes an excellent plant for your landscape garden!

pine straw mulch pinebark 2 pinke bark mulch Mulching your Camellia sinensis tea plants can provide a wealth of benefits such as

  • Temperature and moisture regulation to protect roots
  • Weed preventative
  • Provide nutrients as mulch breaks down

Even in growing in containers, providing a mulch to the top of your containers can make happy plants.  We add bark chips to the top of every container we grow.  This helps keep the plants cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It also slows down evaporation in the summer so we don’t have to water as much.  It also acts as a weed deterrent so chemical weed control is minimal if at all.

Appropriate mulches should be 3-5″ thick, organic and replenished as needed.  Pinestraw, Bark,  and leaves all make ideal mulch protection for you camellia sinensis.   Rubber mulch, and rock mulch do not provide any nutritional benefits at all, but they can help with weeds and moisture loss.




Fertilizing Camellia sinensis

Making sure your plants have adequate nutrition will provide you with healthy plants!  There are many options when choosing what to feed your camellia sinensis.

Natural Fertilizers

Natural fertilizers are usually the best choice when it comes to feeding your tea plants.  There are many things on the market that you can use that will give your plants proper nutrient levels.

Some natural liquid fertilizers, fish emulsions, and compost teas are all good ideas when it comes to feeding.  HollyTone is a granular product made of natural ingredients and is formulated for acid loving plants.  Tea plants will love it.

Synthetic Fertilizers

Widely available on the market are many types of liquid, granular or timed release fertilizers.  We caution you when using these fertilizers to make sure that you are using the right type for your plant.  For example, you wouldn’t want to use formulations for Roses on your Camellia sinensis.

Timed Released fertilizers can damage plants in the event of temperature spikes or drought.  Many timed release fertilizers tend to release more active ingredients as the soil and air temperature increases.  This must be balanced out with adequate water to make sure there is not a buildup of salts.

Granular and timed released fertilizers used on very young plants can damage the young root systems by putting out too much salt.  If you must use these types of fertilizers on your plants, make sure you are using the correct dosage.

Synthetic fertilizers are not considered “natural” so if you’re on the ‘organic fence’ it’s best to use some other products that are labeled as organic.

Mulch Provides Nutrients

In a forest setting, which is the natural habitat for Camellia sinensis, they grow well in a rich organic soil.  The natural mulch from trees and plants provide excellent opportunity for nutrients and beneficial bacteria to get back into the soil.  Mulch plays a huge part of the overall healthy of tea plants in addition to added fertilizer.


Your plant will tell you when it is lacking in nutrients.  Yellowing foliage and stunted poor growth are all scions of nutrient deficiency.  The trick is to keep your plants well fed and hydrated so they won’t show signs of trouble.



First Flush Frost Tea

Cold Cold damage to new growth on teadamage to new growth on Tea

Cold Cold damage to new growth on teadamage to new growth on Tea

Weather in the southeastern US has been unpredictable this entire year.  First we were hit with an unexpected back door tropical storm which left debris and damage everywhere, then Matthew blew in causing another disruptive mess.  We had the warmest winter on record with temperatures reaching 80ºF in January and February.  This unusually warming caused the tea plants to begin flushing in mid February.  This normally doesn’t happen for us until April.  Our “first flush” tea is a highly anticipated treat, but the sudden 21ºF winter freeze in early March was anything but that.  All of the new growth on our tea was damaged.  It broke my heart seeing all my hard work damaged.  But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade!   I had a friend suggest we pick the brown darkened leaves and try to make some “frost tea” as they called it.  And that I did!  It was not bad.  I didn’t really do anything to it except let it sit on a tray a few hours.  The taste of this First Flush Frost Tea was a like a mixture of white, green, oolong and black – all rolled into one.  I was pleasantly surprised, but hope that I don’t have to experience it again.  Interestingly, most of the older growth on the plants was unharmed except for a few seedling varieties.  Those particular ones may prove to not be as cold tolerant and I will watch them as they grow.   I’m sure my First Flush Frost Tea will not win any awards, but it certainly made me feel better and look at life a little more positively!


Grow Your Own Tea

Only after water, Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world.  For over 5000 years it has played an unique role in history.  It has brought people together and ripped people apart.  It has made us feel better, think clearer, and comforted us when we needed it and affects us all – in body, mind and spirit.  It has successfully been grown in regions all across the globe in both large scale plantations and in back yard gardens.

If you Grow Your Own Tea, it is not only healthier to consume but will be very rewarding  to actually produce your own tea.  Camellia sinensis or Tea is the ultimate edible plant.  It can be grown in almost any location provided you supply it’s basic needs.


Tea can be grown outdoors in climate zones 7,8,9 and 10.  It prefers warm, humid climates with adequate rainfall.  In colder climates, of zone 6 and lower,  tea can be grown during the dormant season in protected greenhouses, containers or even indoors – and outdoors during flushing season.


Camellia Sinensis prefers well drained soil with organic matter and sufficient nutrients.   Soil pH of 5-6 is suitable.  For container culture, avoid traditional bagged potting soils with a lot of peat moss that are commonly used for bedding plants and vegetables.   They do not drain well and can suffocate the roots. Choose a mix that is organic in nature, has larger and smaller pieces of natural matter – sticks, barks, chips, etc. An orchid potting soil may work well as long as it has a mixture of organic matter.  See our article on soil for Camellia sinensis.  

Compost is an excellent addition to your mix, but make sure that you don’t use so much that you end up with a mucky soil.  A little is good while a lot may hold too much water.  Remember, no wet feet for tea.


A balanced diet is required for growing Camellia sinensis and organic fertilizers are usually the preferred choice with growers who produce their own tea.

Water – Humidity

Camellia sinensis prefers a humid environment with adequate moisture to not let the plant roots dry out.


Each year, just before spring flush, prune plants heavily.  Remove any dead or diseased limbs.  Pruning will encourage new growth and lots of branches for a very bushy plant.


Harvest leaves from soft, fresh, new growth that begins in the spring.  Don’t harvest older growth. It won’t taste good and removing too many older leaves could damage the plant.   Harvesting season will be determined by your climate.  The warmer your climate, the longer your harvesting season will be.  Typically in zone 8-9, the growing season will be from April-May thru September.   To Learn more about harvesting and making your own tea, READ MORE


Potting Soil For Tea Plants

The best and fastest way to kill your Camellia sinensis tea plants is to use a potting soil that is formulated for bedding plants or vegetables.  The reason for this is that Camellia sinensis root systems like a soil that gives the roots a chance to breathe.  They will not tolerate soils that are compact with no air space.  This is common with bedding plant soils.

Peat moss is a powdery fine substance that when wet, holds water near the roots.  There are no avenues for the water to travel away from the plant roots. When you take a powdery fine substance, and add larger organic matter to it, water can get to the roots, but the larger pieces create voids in the soil structure where oxygen can be increased.

Tsubaki Tea Soil

We use a mixture of three different materials when we make our soil.  We use a very fine, ground aged pine bark.  The pieces are about 1/4 inch.  We add larger pieces of bark to the smaller mix.  The larger pieces are 3/4 to 1″.  Then we add peat moss.  A little is good, a lot is not.

You can often find these ingredients in a garden center especially if there is a tree industry, such as pines.  You could also visit a local growing nursery that makes their own bark-based soil mixes for shrubs or trees.

Use this soil mix for any containers.  Put rocks or other material in the bottom to keep the drain holes from clogging.  This mix is excellent for amending your garden soil.  

Our Soil Recipe 

1 gallon Soil Conditioner/Mulch (Finely ground bark less than 1/8” pieces)

1 gallon Mini Nuggets (Small bark pieces 1” or less)

1 Cup Peat moss (ground)

2 Tablespoons Dolomite Lime



Alternatives to making your own soil:

You could use a bark based potting soil with a small amount of peat.  Usually recommended for shrubs and trees.  Sometimes labeled as Garden soil.  Examine the ingredients.