Although the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is native to India and grows best in very hot, arid climates, you can grow one outdoors in the southern United States or in a pot that you move indoors when temperatures drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit in the fall. Neem has many medicinal uses and has been a staple plant in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition of healing for over 5,000 years. The leaves are often made into shampoos, soaps, skin care products and even as an insecticide to repel insects from other plants.
Planting From Seed or Plant
Start your tree either by purchasing a young tree or by ordering seeds from an Internet source (see Resources). It's easiest and faster to buy a tree but starting one from seed is possible.
Cover seeds with about 1 inch of potting soil in small pot(s) or a nursery flat if you want multiple trees. If you begin in the spring, temperatures should be warm enough to promote germination. Otherwise, it can take a long time for the seeds to sprout. Keeping your pot in a warm, sunny place can encourage the seeds to grow faster.
Plant a young tree in a large pot with a drainage hole using good potting mix. Give it plenty of indirect light at first, but avoid long periods in the hot sun until the tree begins to show signs of new growth.
Plant young trees in the garden by digging a hole larger than the root system and then mixing in one shovelful of compost. Fill in the hole after you set your plant into it and then pat down the soil firmly around the trunk.
Caring For Trees
Water young trees once each week with a mild solution of fish emulsion. If the label instructions say to mix 1 tablespoon of the brown liquid with 1 gallon of water, cut the amount in half, to 1/2 tablespoon.
Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, whether your tree is in a pot or in the ground.
Move your potted tree indoors to a place where it will receive plenty of warmth and light. If you don't have a sunny window, consider setting up grow lights.
About this Author
Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.