Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is a medium-size tree grown primarily in India, Malaysia and China. It can grow anywhere from 25 to 60 feet tall. It produces small fruits that are believed to be beneficial when ingested. It is a rich source of Vitamin C and is believed to promote intellect and longevity, and to rejuvenate the body. Amla is used all over the world in hair products, as it is believed to promote strong hair growth and rich color.
Check with your local garden centers to see if they are growing any amla trees or if they know where to order one. As amla is typically grown in tropical Asia, finding the tree may be extremely difficult. Search online if you cannot find any trees in your area. It may be easier to obtain amla seeds, but it is very difficult to successfully germinate them. You will need to buy at least three different tree varieties to ensure pollination. "NA-7," "Krishna," and "Kanchan" are the most popular varieties.
Find the permanent location for your amla trees. They do well in full sun, but will crack and break under excessive heat and sunlight. An area with full sun for no more than 4 or 5 hours a day is best. Amla also grows in thick, wet soil and will not tolerate any sandy soils.
Prepare the soil in the trees' permanent location. Measure the height and width of the trees' root ball and multiply each measurement by two. Dig a hole to match these measurements. It is easier to break up the soil using a post hole digger or rototiller before shoveling. Each hole must be 20 to 30 feet apart.
Remove all soil from the holes. In Asia, decomposed farm manure is used to enrich the soil before planting trees. Manure is easily obtained from any farm or ranch. If you cannot find manure, a rich and heavy compost can be substituted. Mix a 2:1 ratio of compost to native soil and add two to three handfuls of fertilizer high in phosphorus.
Fill 1/4 of each hole with the mixture and water thoroughly. Wait for the soil to settle, eliminating all air from the mixture. Separate the roots of each tree and sprinkle them with water if they are dry. Gently place each tree into its hole and fill the hole with the soil mixture. Water heavily, wait for the soil to settle and cover any exposed roots.
Build a water barrier by making a 2- to 3-inch high and wide line of soil encircling each tree at a diameter of 4 feet or 2 feet away from the tree on all sides. Lay a soaker hose within the circle and cover the area inside with mulch. Amla trees require much watering after planting, as they are generally planted at the beginning of the monsoon season in Asia.
Use the soaker hose to keep the soil around the trees moist at all times. However, do not allow the tree to stand in water. Once the water barrier you have built disappears, consider the tree established. Continue to keep the trees' soil moist until winter. Once winter arrives, allow the soil to dry a bit before watering again.
Protect your trees from frost by wrapping them in blankets any time the temperature falls below 30 F. The leaves will fall off and the tree will appear to be dying but this is a natural reaction. The trees will need protection during the first three years.
Apply a slow-release fertilizer high in nitrogen around the trees at the beginning of each spring season.
Harvest the berries every late summer and throughout fall or whenever the berries turn from yellow to light green. The berries will not fall from the tree and may need to be removed forcefully. Vigorously shake the tree branches to loosen the berries and pluck them directly from the tree. Your trees will not bear fruit until after the second year and may take up to seven seasons before a harvest is successful.
Prune each tree at the end of fall. Remove any dead, damaged and diseased branches. Remove any limbs that have grown crisscrossed against each other or any sucker limbs growing down and away from the tree. Always leave four to five strong branches to maintain adequate fruit production and an aesthetic shape.