The neem is considered a wonder plant because of the many goods made from its parts. This tree has been used for thousands of years in the East but is still not quite a household word in the Western world, although information about the neem is slowly spreading. According to Discover Neem, it's the world's most researched tree and contains properties from which fungicides, cosmetics, insecticides and other products are made.
The neem tree, a cousin to mahogany, belongs to the Meliaceae family. The scientific name of neem is "Azadirachta indica," which is Persian for "the free tree of India," according to the Neem Foundation. Neems are evergreen trees with attractive, broad deep-green foliage. These trees have a straight trunk and branches that spread in the form of a rounded crown. They have honey-scented flowers.
The tree's bark, flowers, leaves, seeds and fruit are used in treating various diseases, including diabetes, skin disorders, urinary problems and ulcers, according to American Education. Because neem is resistant to termites, it's exceptionally useful in construction. Neem twigs are used in making toiletries such as soap and toothpaste. Because neem oil is a potent spermicide, it's used in contraceptives. Neem oil is also useful as lamp fuel.
Size and Time Frame
Neem trees grow at a fast rate and can tower up to 50 to 65 feet tall, according to the University of Wisconsin Colleges. The tree's trunk is rather short and straight, having an average diameter of 4 feet. These trees have a good longevity, and under good conditions, a typical neem tree can live as long as 200 years.
The neem tree originated in Southeast Asia in countries including India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan, according to the UW Colleges. In India alone, there are roughly 14 million neem trees. It's also found in drier climates of Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, the Caribbean and South and Central America.
Hot weather is needed for neems to thrive, although these trees can handle a few cold spells. According to Discover Neem, temperatures as high as 120 degrees F are fine for neem trees. They can also tolerate occasional temperature drops as low as 35, although they will shed leaves if temperatures go any lower. Younger trees are more sensitive to cold weather than more mature ones. Neem trees need plenty of sunlight and can't handle much shade. They can grow in almost any type of soil.
Although neem trees can be grown indoors, just as many tropical plants, they will stop growing in winter if supplemental light isn't provided. Give indoor plants sufficient natural light during winter daylight hours. At night, provide artificial lighting such as a lamp.