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How to Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Garden is a step-by-step guide to growing brew-friendly herbs and flowers at home, a list of easy tea plants to grow, and recipes to brew your own tea.
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It isn’t difficult to grow your own tea garden, it doesn’t require large spaces or sourcing hard-to-find plants and seeds. It’s a simple, healthy, and rewarding endeavor that results in delicious, soothing, restorative teas made from your own garden.
In this post, you will read about the origins of tea gardens, learn how and where to plant, and how to harvest and dry the herbs and flowers. Following there is a list of easy and surprisingly common tea garden plants and flowers to grow, including a growing guide and recipes for making tea from each.
Tea Garden Roots
The tea garden is typically a smaller plot or even a container garden dedicated to growing herbs and flowers for steeping in hot water. Thus, herbal tea.
Did you know that herb gardening has ancient roots in modern botany? In fact, The New York Times says that according to “The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants,” the “study of herbal medicine can be traced back 5,000 years, to the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia, who listed the names of hundreds of plants — including fennel, mint, thyme, sage, myrtle, and marjoram — on clay tablets that were later rediscovered in what is now Iraq.”
If you’re interested in medicinal gardening, you may enjoy my series of Medicinal Herbs.
How to Plant a Tea Garden
“While it is possible to grow your own black tea (camellia sinensis) in northern climates, without the warmth and abundant sunlight the plant needs to thrive, the effort is unlikely to be worth the negligible yield,” writes Aimee Farrell for NYT.
By comparison, an herbal tea garden is far more manageable, especially in small spaces.
If you’re new to gardening and love herbal tea, a tea garden is absolutely the best place to begin. If you’re a pro at gardening but haven’t grown a tea garden, this just might be your year.
I love the idea of growing my own herbal teas, making tea blends, and infusions that can last into the winter.
Choose Your Location
The most important tip for growing a successful tea garden is deciding where to plant.
“Many herbs are Mediterranean, and so they need at least six hours of sunlight a day and they want to be dry,” says Deborah Needleman, tea gardener in New York’s Hudson Valley
Growing Tea in Containers
If you’re planting in pots, make sure they have drainage holes or stones at the base and, if they’re outdoors, Needleman advises moving the herbs to sunny windowsills during colder months.
Create a Pleasing Tea Garden
When arranging pots or when planting directly in the soil, Needleman suggests utilizing corner plots. And to design the tea garden as you would a floral display; “juxtaposing the various colors, shapes and textures of different species. Low-lying plants such as lemon thyme look nice along a border, while the chartreuse tones of lemon verbena create a vivid contrast against dark leaves.”
Harvesting a Tea Garden
Herbs grow best when they are trimmed. The more they are trimmed, the more they will grow. Investing in trimming scissors is a great idea, like Joyce Chen’s Original Unlimited Scissors.
Harvest leafy herbs like mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and thyme before they flower. Needleman says that “once a plant blooms, the leaves lose freshness and become bitter.”
Floral herbs, like rose, lavender, and chamomile, are best for tea when dried. She says,
“It’s good to harvest in the mornings, after the dew has dried, but before the plants get stressed by the sun — that’s when they’re at their most fragrant.”
The rule of thumb is to collect around 5 percent of a plant’s total volume each time you trim. Carefully wash the harvest under running water and gently pat dry with paper towels.
Drying the Tea Garden Harvest
When the garden is flourishing, making tea from fresh snipping of herbs is simple. But when the nights cool, having a storehouse of dried herbs and flowers for tea is a treasure.
My post on Preserving Herbs has more helpful information about drying herbs.
Needleman likes to gather herbs into small bunches and hang them upside down in cool, darker areas where there is good air ventilation.
For preserving flower heads, like chamomile, she spreads them in wicker trays or baskets and rustles them up periodically to get air into the leaves. The drying process, she says, can take up to a few weeks. When they are crumbly, they are ready to store.
How to Store Dried Herbs and Flowers
Once the herbs and flowers are completely dry, the storing process can begin, which involves striping leaves and flowers from their stems and stalks.
Store dried herbs and flowers in airtight glass jars.
Top 5 Leaf Tea Plants to Grow
These 5 common herbs are not only delicious but healthy when using their leaves to brew tea. Here are some growing and brewing tips.
Zones 5 to 9
Lavender mint has a rich lavender flavor and floral scent. It also produces blooms from June to September. It’s fast-growing and prefers full sun to part shade. Plant in moist, well-drained soil.
Both the leaves and the flower can be used for tea.
Zones 3 to 7
Lemon Balm is a perennial herb with a lemon scent and mild citrus and minty flavor. It’s part of the mint family.
The low-growing herb spreads and is perfectly suitable for growing in a container. Plant in full sun and water often. Helpful in stress reduction, and anxiety, and helps promote sleep.
Brewing Tea: Lemon Balm
Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon balm leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep 15 minutes. Strain before drinking.
Zones 3 to 7
Related to oregano, this Mediterranean herb has a delicate flavor and is well suited to tea. It can be beneficial for cold symptoms, digestive, and heart health.
Marjoram prefers full sun and neutral soil. It’s a low-maintenance plant, low growing plant that tolerates heat. White to pale pink flower in summer. Harvest the leaves before it flowers.
Brewing Tea: Marjoram
Add 1 teaspoon of fresh marjoram leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.
Zones 2 to 11
Parsley is an often-overlooked herb that is delicious and healthy. With a light, fresh flavor, this Mediterranean herb is high in antioxidants. It’s not advised for pregnant women. All parts of the herb can be used for tea.
Grow in full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil. It can wilt in hot, humid environments.
Brewing Tea: Parsley
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley leaves to 1 cup of warm to hot water. Let steep 2 to 3 minutes. Parsley loses its flavor when exposed to heat over time. Strain before drinking.
Zones 5 to 9
Spearmint is a delicate, sweet-flavored herb belonging to the mint family. Its flavor is lighter than Peppermint.
This fast-growing perennial ground cover prefers sun or part shade and medium to wet soil. Perfect for mint juleps and tea. The flavor is best when the leaves are fresh.
Top 4 Flowering Tea Plants to Grow
These blooming plants are not only beautiful but delicious too when brewed into tea.
Zones 2 to 8
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbal teas. Its daisy-like flowers have white petals and a yellow center and bloom from June through August. Tea is made from dried flowers.
This annual plant tolerates poor soil and is easy to grow from seed.
Brewing Tea: Chamomile
Add 1 tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers to 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep at least 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.
Zones 9 to 11
Hibiscus is a tropical flowering plant with large blossoms ranging in colors from white to orange. Flowers often last only a day. Tea brewed with the antioxidant-rich flowers is tart in flavor and benefits from adding lemon juice and honey. It can be brewed for hot or iced tea.
Hibiscus can grow up to 6 feet and should be planted in full sun to part shade.
Brewing Tea: Hibiscus
Add 1 cup of fresh hibiscus flowers to 10 cups of boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain before drinking and add sweetener to taste.
Zones 5 to 8
Lavender is a perennial Mediterranean herb sweetly scented with a cross between rosemary and mint flavors. Often considered with its spicy floral flavors is excellent with chamomile, lemon herbs, or bergamot.
Lavender is best suited to full sun and well-drained soil. But it also tolerates poor soil.
Brewing Tea: Lavender
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lavender flowers to 2 cups of boiling water. Let steep for at least 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.
Zones 2 to 8
There are more than 4000 named species of roses. Regardless of the species, roses can be temperamental, but very worth it with their beauty and fragrance. If growing roses for tea, be sure to use organic pest controls.
Rose tea is made from rose petals and has subtle floral fragrance and flavor. It’s especially delicious when added to green or black teas or mixed with herbs like mint and chamomile.
A Pink Rosa Damascena is commonly used for making tea but other varieties are delicious too.