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How to Care for a Tea Plant

American colonists threw it into the Boston harbor a couple hundred years ago, and the iced version was first introduced to the world at the St. Louis World's Fair; tea has played a significant role in American culture. Although there are other varieties of tea plants, Camellia sinensis is the tea plant from which we get oolong, white, black and green tea. The tea plant is an evergreen shrub, that blooms in the fall with small, white, fragrant flowers. In its natural habitat the tea tree thrives in high elevations with warm temperatures that receive 80 to 100 inches of rainfall per year. The tea tree has adapted well to growing in varied environments and is easy to care for. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9.

Choose a site in your garden that gets sunshine all day. The tea tree will tolerate a bit of afternoon shade, but requires temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dig the planting site to a depth of 6 inches, turning the soil and breaking up any large clods of dirt and removing any old roots, rocks and other debris. Add a 2-inch layer of compost, a 1-inch layer of peat moss and a 1-inch layer of sand and mix well with the existing topsoil.

Dig a hole the same depth and width as the planter in which the tea tree is currently contained. Remove the tree from the container and place it in the hole. Backfill with the amended soil. Press firmly around the soil at the base of the tree. Water the tree well.

Water your tea plant frequently, at least once or twice a week, especially during dry periods, but cut back in fall and winter.

Fertilize the tea plant every two weeks in the spring and fall with an acid fertilizer, diluted to half the recommended strength. Down To Earth makes an organic fertilizer, high in acid, called Acid Mix, that will work well for your tea tree.

Check the plant for pests, such as aphids, caterpillars and scales. The tea plant is also susceptible to several diseases: blister blight, anthracnose and rust. The Cooperative Extension in your area will be able to help you identify any pests and diseases and recommend treatment for them.

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