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Whenever you order yellow dal from your favorite restaurant, have you ever noticed a flavor you couldn’t quite pinpoint in the background?
Do you want to add some of that herbaceous flavor to your cooking? As a result, cultivating your own curry leaf tree at home could be a good idea.
The leaves may be used in cooking, and the plant itself is beautiful enough to display as a houseplant.
In the garden, it stands out with its bush-like growth pattern and its pungent, spicy perfume is released when you brush the leaves.
Native to India and Sri Lanka, the curry leaf tree is a tropical plant. The leaves are pointy and oblong and grow in pairs.
And in the summer, its tubular white blossoms are extraordinarily fragrant, with a pleasant, citrusy aroma.
Plants like these can thrive in a container indoors and outside at specific times of the year for gardeners who don’t live in tropical locations.
For years, I’ve kept it as a houseplant that occasionally lends a hand in the kitchen.
Join the ranks of curry leaf plant devotees now! Read on then!
What Is the Curry Leaf Tree?
Before we get started, let’s clear up a few misconceptions.
Ornamental curry plants, Helichrysum italicum, are sometimes mistaken for curry leaves, Murraya koenigii. This is not the case when manufacturing curry powder, a British creation that includes no “curry” at all.
H. italicum, a member of the daisy family that resembles lavender in appearance, grows throughout the Mediterranean region. It has a strong aroma and little yellow blooms that make it a lovely addition to the garden, but there is nothing edible about it.
Known by several names, the curry leaf plant is native to India and belongs to the Rutaceae family, which also includes the sweet neem, curry tree, and kadi Patta.
In its natural habitat, the tropics, it may reach a mature height of up to 20 feet, but in cultivation, it is generally much smaller. Variety abounds, as do the options for ordinary, dwarf, and microscopic sizes. They’re all perennials.
It may be grown outside in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-12 in the United States. If your environment isn’t sweet and neem-friendly, you may grow dwarf and tiny plants inside.
An ornamental garden will appreciate its beautiful, open growth style. In the early summer, the plant produces stunning white blooms, and in the months of July and August, it produces dark, tasty, lustrous fruits.
It’s a common ingredient in Yunani, Ayurveda, and homeopathic treatment, however, the seeds are toxic.
Leafy M. koenigii is a frequent ingredient in dishes from all around Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It has long been prized in its home region for both its flavor and therapeutic properties.
Sri Lanka and other countries of Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands are now commercially cultivating it.
Plants might be found at a nursery or an Asian market. Seeds and plants can also be purchased online.
There are several ways to cultivate M. koenigii, however the most common method is to root cuttings.
Seeds can be used to grow curry leaf trees, but be aware that this is a lengthy process. When your plant is well established, you may begin harvesting the leaves on a regular basis.
For the highest possibility of germination, choose fresh dried seeds. There is a problem with older seeds germinating.
Using your hands, massage the seeds, which are the berries’ pits, to remove the hard outer shells. Put the seeds in a plastic bag and roll a rolling pin over them if that doesn’t work.
Make sure to soak the fruit for 24 hours to remove the seed. Gently brush out the pulp and flesh that surrounds the seed after it has been soaked.
For indoor seed starting, put the seed in the potting soil and keep it damp. The container may be turned into a little greenhouse by covering it with plastic wrap punctured with small holes to assist retain moisture.
A heat mat may be essential if the soil temperature drops below 68°F.
Plant many seeds in each tray cell to increase your chances of getting a healthy plant from these seeds.
If necessary, thin down the seedlings to one seedling per cell.
When the daytime temperature is constantly over 65 degrees Fahrenheit, straight plant your seeds outside.
Four to five feet or the equivalent distance away from any buildings is recommended for standard-sized plants. Soil moisture should be maintained until the seedlings begin to emerge, which should take two to three weeks.
You may begin trimming your curry leaf plant after it’s six months old.
Pinch back or prune two of the seedling’s six or more branches with many developed leaves on each to stimulate bushier development.
In order to encourage the plant to become a shrub rather than a tall and lanky one, we need to provide it with the right nutrients.
At least three sets of leaves should be removed from a mature, well-cared-for plant in the spring.
Cut the base of the branch at a 45-degree angle and clip the branch as near to the main stem as feasible. Drop rooting hormone powder into the soil below the lowest set of leaves and let it soak for a few minutes.
Soilless potting soil should be poured into a container. Because they’re so easy to move, I prefer to use a 4- or 6-inch biodegradable pot.
CowPots from Arbico Organics are a good option if you’re looking for containers. Environmentally friendly and derived from renewable resources, they are biodegradable (cow poop).
The cut end of the stem should be placed into the potting mix. Do not bury it any deeper than one inch. A minimum of six hours of indirect sunlight per day should be available for the container when it is placed there.
Every day spritz the cuttings with water to keep the potting material wet.
The plant will be ready for transplantation when you can gently tug on it and it resists, usually after approximately three weeks.
As long as the overnight temperature is above 40°F, you may harden it off outside.
Hardening off your rooted cutting before moving it outside is a good idea if you live in a climate where temperatures are warm enough.
Give the plant one hour of direct sunlight on the first day. Spend two hours outside the next day. Three hours on the third day and so on.
Whether it’s in the ground or in a container outside, it’s ready after a week.
When fully grown, standard plants range in height from six to fifteen feet, with a spread of four to eight feet. Keep them four to five feet apart from one other and any other plants or buildings.
Indoor plants need at least five hours of direct sunshine each day if they are to thrive. Put it there, but don’t do it immediately.
During the course of a week, gradually expose your cutting to direct light by providing an hour of direct light on the first day, two hours of direct light on the second day, and so on.
How to Grow
Curry trees may thrive in a variety of conditions, from full sun to partial shade. It’s best to give it full light if you’re growing it in a container in a colder area Temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit are dangerous for this plant.
Under one-year-old plants should not be exposed to full light in excessively hot climates. Keep them in a somewhat shaded area if the temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plants require loose, rich, and well-draining soil in order to grow and thrive. Earth’s pH should be between 5.6 and 6.0. Wet feet aren’t good for curry leaves.
To enhance poor soil drainage, add sand to the mix before planting. Aside from that, it doesn’t seem to mind if you neglect it.
When planting, I like to include well-rotted manure or compost into the soil so that the bush may get off to a good start under its ideal circumstances.
Before you plant, test your soil to see whether it needs any additions. Then, test it again in the midst of the growing season to confirm your findings.
In order to promote leafy development, it is necessary to provide the plants with an abundance of nutrients, notably nitrogen.
Iron sulfate should be added to the soil once or twice a year in the spring and/or fall, especially if you see yellowing leaves with dark green veins. Iron deficiency can be caused by eating curry leaves.
Liquid fish fertilizer can be applied to established plants every four to six weeks throughout the summer months.
Apply three teaspoons per gallon of water to the plant’s root system.
Make sure to water your plants at least once a week, but don’t overdo it. Ideally, the soil should only be slightly dry between waterings.
Once established, curry leaf plants can withstand periods of semi-drought and will do better in dry conditions than in extremely wet ones.
To avoid it bending or breaking in high winds, anchor your plant if you reside in a windy place. If your plant is higher than two feet, you should use this.
Insert the stake carefully six inches away from the plant stem with a stake that is at least two-thirds the bush’s mature height.
The bigger roots may be damaged if you face opposition and must be avoided at all costs by moving the stake. For maximum stability, the stake should be buried at least one-third of the way into the earth.
Use twine or hook and loop tape meant for staking to loosely attach to the stake in many locations.
Your plant’s leaves may turn yellow and fall off if the weather turns cold in your location. This does not indicate that it is dying, but rather that it is entering a state of dormancy.
Dormancy may be induced in plants by temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the temperatures rise in the spring as a result of this, the leaves will reappear. Maintain a one-inch depth of soil between waterings by reducing irrigation. Root rot may be prevented by doing this.
The temperature can also be raised to avoid leaf drops if the plant is being grown inside.
It’s not required to prune for the health of the plant, but it can help you get more fruit out of your plants. If you want to keep an eye on the size of your plant and encourage bushier development, do your pruning in the spring.
Pinch off the developing buds on the plant if you’re going to harvest the leaves. Keep a watch out for them throughout the spring, summer, and fall, since the plant’s blossoms might appear at any time.
In time, these blossoms will turn into a stunning display of color and scent, but this comes at a price.
I let my plant blossom because I don’t use a lot of leaves in my cooking. I don’t want to miss out on the beauty and scent of the blooms.
It’s easy to grow your own curry leaf plants because they are self-fertile. Plants planted outside in Zones 9-12 will bear fruit in July and August if you let the blossoms flourish.
For medicinal purposes or to conserve seeds for sowing, I like to clip off the blossoms before they grow into fruits with a good pair of scissors.
In general, a plant will cease growing leaves as soon as it starts producing flowering and fruiting structures.
To attract birds, the blossoms have a strong, sweet perfume, and the seeds they produce are eaten by them.
As previously said, you can cultivate curry leaf trees in a container. Keep in mind that when your plant grows, you’ll need to report it in a larger container.
A 30-gallon pot should be able to hold a full-sized standard tree after ten years. When miniature or dwarf plants are completely grown, they can be planted in three-gallon or five-gallon pots, respectively.
Choosing a tiny or dwarf variety if you want to transfer your plant within in the winter and back out again once the risk of frost has gone is the best option.
There is no way I’m lugging around a 30-gallon container!
During the spring, summer, and fall, fertilize container-grown plants every six weeks with a fertilizer designed specifically for those containers.
In the spring, if you keep your curry leaf plant home during the winter and bring it outdoors when the weather is warming up, make careful to expose it to the light as you would a fresh seedling.
- Plant in well-draining soil
- Provide full light for mature plants, or shade throughout the heat of the day in hot climates
- Fertilize as needed, throughout the year
- Water sparingly, and prevent oversaturating the soil
Varieties and Cultivars to Select
Curry leaf trees come in three typical sizes, known botanically as “morphotypes,” with a variety of cultivars available in each.
Typically, large or conventional curry trees are grown for commercial purposes. Curry leaves purchased from a shop are almost certainly from a common plant.
The delicious leaves of large trees develop quickly. Zones 9-12, where they may be grown year-round, are the greatest places for them to thrive.
Some cultivars of the typical size are available, although most are sold as M. koenigii, which is a generic species name used by nurseries in the United States.
Compared to the full-size plant, the dwarf variety’s leaves are longer and lighter in color. At maturity, they may reach heights of 12 to 24 inches and widths of 12 inches.
Containers or frequent trimming of the suckers may be essential to keep them from becoming invasive in the correct conditions. In Zones 8-11, the dwarf variety may be cultivated outside year-round.
Miniature variants feature thick, aromatic leaves that develop slowly. This is a good plant to cultivate in a container inside since you can pick the leaves and use them as a herb.
On Amazon, you’ll discover a three to four-inch Hilltop Fresh plant.
The leaves of this smaller variety, which matures to a height of six to eight inches, are even tastier than those of the bigger varieties.
Gamthi, like dwarf varieties, does best in Zones 8-11, although it may be cultivated year-round indoors in colder climates.
Managing Pests and Disease
Combating vermin and sickness is something I despise doing. In my opinion, a plant isn’t designed to grow in my garden if I have to battle it to keep it alive.
Those are only two of the many reasons I like curry leaf. Almost no pests or illnesses may harm it, unlike many other plants.
There are, however, a few things to be aware of.
Aphids like young plants because they are a prime food source for parasitic insects. The leaves are covered in clusters of small, wingless insects that range in color from yellow to brown to pink to black to gray to green.
It is possible for them to spread illness by sucking out the plant’s fluids. Leaves can curl and become yellow as a result of their damage, and honeydew, a sticky substance they leave behind, can lead to sooty mold.
A cold water burst on the plants is the first line of defense. To get rid of them, you may only need to shake them loose so they may find a new home. Dust your plant with flour if that doesn’t help.
A weekly application of neem oil may be necessary if an infestation is particularly serious.
Spider mites can also harm plants. Even if you can’t see the arachnids themselves, the web they leave behind is easy to spot.
They can produce yellowing or necrotic patches on plants by penetrating and draining fluids from them.
Additionally, they can spread illness. In addition, they like hot conditions, like the curry leaf plant.
Dislodging this pest is a simple matter of spraying plants with a jet of cold water. For a week, do this every day.
You may also try introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings into your garden if that fails.
Otherwise, the heavy guns would have to be brought out. Insecticide soap or neem oil can be used to get rid of the pests.
Spray your plants with soap or oil three times a week for the next two weeks, following the manufacturer’s directions.
Mites and aphids sucking plant sap are not the only psyllids at work. The curry leaf plant’s leaves will turn yellow and die if fed over an extended period of time.
There’s a reddish-brown tint to this beetle, which is about one-tenth of an inch long. It can leap great distances and even take to the air. Scale-like nymphs are a frequent plant pest, as are nymphs.
Even neem oil, which has been shown to be effective in controlling numbers, may be used in conjunction with beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings.
You may also use diatomaceous earth to dust your plants and the area around them.
A biological pesticide called BotaniGard ES is particularly efficient against aphids, mites, and psyllids if nothing else works.
Control of soft-bodied insects can be achieved by using this pesticide that contains the beneficial fungal spore Beauveria bassiana.
The term “leaf spot” is used to describe a variety of diseases produced by bacteria and fungus on the leaves of plants. You may expect your curry leaf tree to become weaker and eventually die from this illness.
Tiny brown or black patches can be seen forming on the leaves.
Stop fertilizing unless a soil test reveals a specific nutrient shortage as a means of reducing its impact. Your tree should be watered properly, so spread a three to four-inch layer of grass or leaf mulch around it, leaving two inches of mulch around its base.
Don’t cram too many plants into a small space, and keep them clipped to keep the air flowing.
Apply a broad-spectrum fungicide in the spring if none of the above works and your plants have been infected with leaf spots for several years in a row.
Citrus greening should also be kept an eye out for. Citrus trees in the United States, the United Kingdom, Asia, Africa, and Brazil are at risk from this disease, which is caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus.
It’s spread by psyllids, thus it’s critical to keep bugs under control.
Citrus and other Rutaceae plants are being restricted from being transported in some locations because of this growing threat. Yes, curry leaf plants are included in this.
Fresh curry leaves and plants from outside the EU are prohibited from entering the United Kingdom. The transfer of the plant and its fresh leaves across state lines and inside the United States is prohibited.
The plant should be completely productive by year five, regardless of its size. There will be a progressive rise in the harvest in years one through four.
Within two years, most standard types should reach a height of six feet, at which time you may begin harvesting on a regular basis.
Smaller varieties, such as dwarfs and miniatures, can take up to five years longer to attain a harvestable height of half their mature height.
There are two methods for harvesting:
Leaves are always there for you to take when you need them. Alternatively, you may reap a greater crop two or three times every year.
Second, throughout the growing season, you may take branches out every two months by cutting them off.
Cut back the branches using a pair of scissors or a pair of pruners. Each branch should have a few inches of slack at the base. At no point should you remove more than half of the leaves?
Don’t be afraid to scavenge for food. Instead, it encourages bushier growth, making it easier to collect leaves on a more frequent basis in the years to come.
At least half the leaves will continue to come back as long as you don’t remove more than half at a time.
In a zipped bag, you may keep fresh leaves in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wait until you’re ready to use them before cleaning them.
However, the color and flavor of the leaves may be lost when they are frozen.
To remove the stems, rinse the leaves, and then dry them out. Toss the leaves in a little amount of oil until they are just starting to brown.
For each cup of leaves, I use around a tablespoon of this solution. Reusable plastic bags may be used to keep the leaves fresh for up to six months by pressing out the air.
You may also dry the leaves if you have a very significant crop. Compared to when they are fresh, they will be softer in flavor.
In order to dry the leaves, place one layer on a screen and set the leaves in a well-ventilated location.
A food dehydrator may also be used to dry the leaves. For up to a year, they can be stored in a cold, dark area in a sealed container.
Recipes and Cooking Ideas
Curry tree leaves have a zesty flavor that’s a little bit like a combination of lemon and orange with a little touch of smokey spice, like lemon and an orange.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate the leaves into a dish is by sprinkling them over the top. To add a zesty taste to tortilla soup, I prefer to add a few leaves.
As a Sri Lankan acquaintance told me, they’re also wonderfully cooked in hot vegetable oil with a little salt. It’s possible to use the leaves as an ingredient in aioli, or even as a garnish for curries.
Try adding the leaves to bread dough by cutting them coarsely. Naan and whole wheat bread can both benefit from the addition of curry leaves to the dough.
Toss together a few raw leaves with the lettuce in a summer salad.
Touffee, baked fish, and shrimp curry all benefit from the citrus flavor of lemon wedges.
Use my “curry leaf pesto” recipe instead, which calls for three red chilies (or less if you like less heat), one garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste in addition to one cup of olive oil.
It goes well with sour cream as a dip, spaghetti, pizza, or as a spread on sandwiches.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves of the curry tree have been utilized for millennia. Traditionally, it has been used to treat stomach problems, diarrhea, and bruises in traditional Chinese medicine.
Antioxidants, beta carotene, and vitamins C, A, B, and E are all found in the leaves. Vitamins and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are also present. They have been shown to have antibacterial and antioxidative effects, according to research.
While the berries are edible and have been utilized in Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine, the seeds of the plant are toxic to mammals and humans – therefore avoid eating them!
However, human trials are needed to confirm the potential medical effects of curry leaves that have been shown in promising animal research.
Quick Reference Growing Guide
|Plant Type:||Herbaceous perennial||Maintenance:||Low|
|Native to:||India, Sri Lanka||Tolerance:||Drought|
|Hardiness (USDA Zone):||8-12||Soil Type:||Organically rich, loose|
|Exposure:||Full sun||Soil Drainage:||Well-draining|
|Time to Maturity:||2-5 years for harvest||Companion Planting:||Garlic, mint, onions, sage, tomatoes, zinnias|
|Spacing:||4-5 feet||Avoid Planting With:||Citrus trees, mustard, nasturtiums|
|Planting Depth:||1/3 inch (seeds), depth of rootball (transplants)||Order:||Sapindales|
|Height:||Up to 20 feet, depending on the variety||Family:||Rutaceae|
|Spread:||4-8 feet, depending on a variety||Genus:||Murraya|
|Common Pests:||Aphids, psyllids, spider mites||Common Diseases:||Leaf spot|
A Lot of Impact for Little Effort
Both as a decorative houseplant and as a culinary ingredient, the curry plant is a must-have for every home or garden.
Herb or decorative gardens benefit greatly from the glossy foliage and lush blossoms of this plant.
The taste of the leaves is another consideration. You have no idea what you’re missing until you’ve taken a bite off of a fresh leaf and tasted the sharp green blast of citrus that comes with it.
You can get the benefits of curry leaves year-round if you cultivate them in your own garden.
Have you ever attempted to cultivate curry leaves? Let us know what you think in the comments!