Curry leaves are something I missed so much when I moved to the USA. Yes, we can PURCHASE them in Indian stores which was a kind of cultural shock for me initially. Of Course because in India, we get fresh curry leaves for free from vegetable vendors or even neighbors who have a curry tree. Now I am not saying buying them from indian stores is wrong, but they go bad after a while. So you either purchase small quantities or freeze them. Either case is not a great option- buying a small amount will make you run out of them easily and freezing them will affect their fresh flavor. So yes, curry leaves were something I definitely missed so much since some of the indian dishes are just incomplete without that subtle curry flavor in it.
Now before you start thinking that missing curry leaves was the reason I started growing them, let me tell you it wasn’t. I bought and used frozen curry leaves for years. In Fact growing curry plants never occurred to me until one day my masi (aunt) gifted me 4 baby curry leaf plants on our housewarming occasion. You can imagine I got really happy and excited. However, I was also a bit scared since I had no knowledge of growing curry plants or let alone gardening. Ofcourse, I wanted to grow these plants but without any knowledge or experience guess what would’ve happened? Yes, two of these baby plants died. But this became my sole motivation to grow the curry plant from the remaining two.
I started doing some homework about how to grow curry plants. I read articles, blogs, joined groups, and essentially use all possible resources that I got. I started implementing things that I felt comfortable or relevant to where I live. And the result is what you see in this picture. A green, healthy four year old curry plant that is thriving with fresh curry leaves and was grown from a baby curry leaf plant. After my recent blog posts on growing tomatoes and gardening tips, many of you asked about my curry plant. This reminded me of my days when I was struggling to keep my curry plant alive. So here I share my journey and tips on how you can grow a curry plant. I take care of my curry plant using these tips and I hope it helps you with your plant too.
As always, I am not a pro yet but learning everyday. So if you have any tips, suggestions about growing curry plants, then please share with all of us. It will help all of us learn more about these amazing plants. And lastly, if I can grow a curry plant then so can you. Yes, growing a curry plant takes a really long time but the results are totally worth it. So I highly encourage you to grow it if you have the means to do so.
What do you need to grow a curry leaf plant?
- You can start a curry leaf plant using either seeds or a baby curry leaf plant. You can buy curry leaf seeds online. But I have read it takes a really long time to germinate them (some articles reported this to be 2 years). So I recommend using baby curry leaf plants since I have experience with it.
How to get baby curry leaf plants?
- You can usually get baby curry leaf plants in your local nurseries that sell other indian herbs. Many temples also sell these plants especially during spring and summer. So check out a temple or local nursery near you.
- Another option is to check on facebook groups. There are special groups dedicated to growing curry leaves. If you are lucky, you can find a curry leaf grower near you who would be willing to provide a baby leaf plant.
How to grow a baby curry leaf plant?
- Once you get a baby plant, what’s next? Do Nothing. Yes, you read it right. Don’t rush to plant it in bigger containers or water them every single day. That is the mistake I made and ended up with two dead baby curry plants.
- Let the baby plant settle down in your home atmosphere for 3-4 days or even a week. Water it in the same container, if you find the soil too dry. Never over water the plant. Poke the soil with your finger and if you find about an inch of soil dry then water it.
- Keep the plant in a shaded place. It needs 3-4 hours of partial sunlight. If temperatures are too hot (above 90°F), keep the plant indoors.
- After a week if you see the baby plant is doing fine (basically healthy and not wilted), then you can transfer it to another pot. Get about 1 gallon container (medium sized container). Transfer the baby plant to this new container. Since baby plants don’t do well in large pots, I suggest avoid using big pots for growing them. For the soil, use an organic potting mix. I use Miracle Gro Organic potting mix. I recommend not to mix anything to this potting mix since it has everything that is required for plant growth initially.
- During summer, I keep them in a shaded place. Around 3-4 hours of direct sunlight is enough for the plant. Water every alternate day or when soil feels very dry. It is more important that you don’t over water them.
- Once temperature starts to drop or at night when it is lower than 55°F, keep the plant inside. These plants don’t like extreme temperatures but flourish in moderate temps.
- In the first year, you will not see a lot of growth or even no growth at all. The key here’s to just let the plant settle down. Curry plants take a long time to grow.
- During the first year, the only thing you have to do is keep the plant in partial sunlight, water when soil is dry and make sure the plant does not die.
Second year of curry leaf plant
- After almost a year, you may find the plant has not grown at all. Don’t get disappointed. This is completely normal. The important thing is to keep it alive for one year.
- Once the temperatures are above 55°F at night, move the pot outdoors. Keep watering the plant as you did before.
- You can start pinching the top of the plant as shown in the picture. This will help with the plant growth.
- Pinch the top where you see 4-5 leaves coming out. Trust me that will help plant to get bushier. The more you pinch the more you will see new growth.
- Curry plants love washed uncooked rice and dal water. So start feeding them that water.
You will start seeing new growth in a few weeks.
- Once you start seeing new growth and feel the container is small, transfer it to a little bigger container. Best time to transfer curry plant is in spring. I suggest not to transfer it in summer. If you missed the spring time to transfer then let it be in the same container. Wait for the next spring to transfer it.
- Delaying the transfer process may only affect its growth a little bit which is completely OK. But transferring it in summer may actually kill the plant due to the high temperatures.
Third year of curry leaf plant
- Finally during the third year of the growth, it is safe to transfer the curry plant to a bigger pot. Your curry plant is mature, has a hard stem so it can thrive in a big pot.
- After winter you may see leaves discolouring and wilted. This is completely OK.
- Now is the time to do pruning. This is important to get a bushier and healthy curry plant.Pruning should be done during Spring time. Start pruning by removing old, discoloured leaves. Remove stems that have lost all the leaves
- Make a clean diagonal cut with a sharp pruner, at least 1/3 from the top of the plant. This may seem harsh or uncalled for, but it is necessary for the plant’s size and make it bushier. If the mature plant has developed thick branches, they can be cut back by ½ to ⅓ of the length. See picture below.
- Within 2-3 weeks of pruning, plant will start showing multiple branches. More branches means more leaves and a bushier plant.
- Initially you will see dark pink color leaves which is normal. New growth is usually of that color.
- Again feed rice/dal water when soil is dry.
- You can also use coffee/tea grounds once every season. So if you are repotting, I suggest adding coffee/tea grounds at the bottom of the pot before transferring the plant.
- Below is the video of how I do it.
- Harvest from the bottom stems first. Bottom leaves are more matured.
- More the harvest more the growth.
- Cut the whole stem along with leaves.
- If you don’t harvest from bottom leaves with stem, the leaves fall off gradually by turning yellow.
- Once temperatures start going below 55°F at night, move the pot indoors.
- Place them in the corner where they can get atleast 2-3 hours of sunlight.
- Water only when soil is completely dry. It might be once in 3-4 days or sometimes even once a week.
- No pruning at all.
- You might pinch the tops once in a while but I avoid doing that. Since there will not be much growth during winter time.
So this is how I was able to grow a curry leaf plant and continue to take care of it. The basic idea is to let the plant settle down for the first two years. Water the plant only when soil is dry and lighter, never overwater it. After two years, pinch the tops and prune to keep the plant bushier. Feed coffee/tea grounds once in a while and use rice/dal water.
Curry leaf plants love it 🙂
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