Moringa, the famous “miracle tree,” has many nutritional and medicinal properties and is one of the most efficient and influential plants out there. Even though it grows best in tropical and sub-tropical regions, people in many other climates can also enjoy the benefits of growing moringa in their own home with a few simple tricks.
Moringa trees can be grown from either moringa seeds or branch cuttings from a moringa tree. So unless you have a nearby friend with a healthy, well-established moringa tree who wouldn’t be opposed to lending you a branch, then seeds are the way to go. Moringa oleifera is a common variety of moringa and is a great choice for growing and consuming.
In the U.S., the only places moringa can grow outside year-round are southern areas of Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. Depending on where you live, you may decide to grow moringa trees outside in the ground, in a pot to be kept indoors during the winter months and then to be moved outside during the summer, or in a pot permanently. Growing moringa trees in greenhouses is also an option, and is especially recommended for climates that regularly get below freezing temperatures. The optimal temperature range for moringa trees is 77-95 ˚F, but it can also survive in extreme temperatures up to 118 ˚F in the shade and down to a light frost. Altitudes lower than 1,970 ft above sea level are best, but moringa trees have been able to grow in the tropics up to 3940 ft above sea level. No matter where you decide to grow your tree, try to place it in a sunny location and give it plenty of water.
To plant moringa seeds in the ground, follow these instructions:
There is no dormancy period for moringa seeds, so you can plant mature seeds at any time.
– Dig a few 1 ft. x 1 ft. holes 1 ft. deep, and “back-fill” each hole a bit with soil.
– If you must plant in heavy soil, dig a hole up to three times as big as described in Step 2 and use a 1/3-sand, 2/3-soil mixture to back fill.
– Plant 3-5 seeds in each 1 ft. hole, spaced 2 inches apart.
– Be careful not to plant seeds more than ½ an inch deep.
To plant moringa seeds in a pot, follow these instructions:
Moringa trees can grow up to 50 feet tall, which is less than ideal for an indoor environment. These instructions will teach you how to grow a “dwarf” moringa tree, which is still the same plant that has just been pruned to grow less.
– One pot can usually hold about five dwarf moringa trees, but it is a good idea to initially plant 7 or 8 in case a few seeds don’t sprout.
– Space out ¾- to 1-inch deep holes in the soil.
– Put a seed in each hole and lightly cover them with some soil.
– Once the plants have at least two layers of branches, it is time to start pruning. Cut back the tops of the seedlings and cut the branches back to half their length. When the tree is young, check the tree for new leaves at least once a week – new leaves usually appear on the tops and in a sort of “junction” or fork in branches – and cut these back as well.
– Pruning the tree will keep it small, and will also produce a LOT of leaves, which is all the better for you to use in your food!
If you do have the option to start your own tree from a branch cutting, follow these instructions:
– Use hard wood instead of green wood for cuttings, which should be at least one inch in diameter and at least six feet long. The best branches for cuttings are the ones that need to be cut off anyway after the tree has finished producing fruit for the year and needs to be pruned to promote new growth.
– Dig a 3 ft x 3 ft hole that is 3 ft deep and plant the cutting inside.
– Fill the hole with a sand and soil mixture. Pack soil firmly around the base of the plant.
Here are some general tips for cultivating moringa:
– Even though moringa can grow in a variety of conditions and in poor soil, using compost or manure mixed into your soil will help the tree grow.
– Be generous with watering, but don’t water too much. The soil should not be dry and cracked, but the seeds should not be drowning either. Seedlings also are a bit fragile when they have recently sprouted, so water lightly during this period. When watering a new plant that was started from a branch cutting, try to avoid watering the stem of the plant. Moringa can survive in very dry climates with little water, but regular watering during the first two months of planting seeds helps them develop properly. After the first two months, you can cut water back significantly and only water the tree when it looks like it needs water.
– All moringa trees need regular pruning to promote leaf growth, curb branching, and prevent the tree from being taller than you want it to be. If a moringa tree is left alone to grow, it will become tall with many branches and few leaves, and will only flower near the top, which is very unhelpful. A good height to aim for is 8-12 feet, and if you continue to prune the tree will keep growing lots of leaves and growing branches from the trunk instead of out the top of the tree. To prune, simply cut branches back to half their length and trim the top of the tree.
– The branch parts that you’ve removed can be chopped up into 4- to 10-inch bits and scattered underneath the moringa tree to serve as a natural mulch.
– Most moringa seeds sprout within two weeks of being planted.
– Moringa trees do not usually need fertilizer of any kind, but if yours needs a little bit of extra help, phosphorus will aid root development and nitrogen will help with leaf growth. Ammonium sulfate can also help your tree grow.
– Moringa resists a lot of pests, but termites still might give you trouble. If this is the case, use mulch with castor oil plant leaves, mahogany chips, tephrosia leaves, or Persian lilac leaves.
– If you live in a very wet climate and are growing your tree outside, Diplodia root rot can occur. To avoid this, try planting your tree on top of a small mound so that excess water can run off away from the plant.
– To harvest the pods for eating, pick them when they are about ½ an inch in diameter and come off easily.
– Older leaves are better for making moringa powder.
Here is a list of a few moringa seed vendors in the United States, in addition to online shopping services like Amazon and Ebay. Kuli Kuli does not in any way endorse these vendors, but solely is providing them for informational purposes:
Hendry Creek Hideaway, LLC:
Good luck cultivating your own moringa tree and don’t forget to tell Kuli Kuli about your experiences!