What is a tea garden?
A tea garden is one dedicated to herbs and flowers known for its medicinal and healing properties. While some people like to have their tea garden separate from the rest of the landscape, others interplant tea plants within the rest of the garden.
A tea garden is the most soothing garden you would ever have. Most tea herbs are aromatic and attract pollinators with their scented flowers.
How to set a tea garden?
Before setting up your tea garden, you should make a list of your favorite herbal teas, then try to educate yourself on their growing conditions and care. Here are some important points to consider before planting your tea garden.
- Sun exposure: Most herbs require full sun to reach their optimum growth. However, there are some that do just as well in a part shade situation.
- Drainage: A well-draining soil is crucial to have a healthy garden. In general, herbs do fairly well in most soil conditions, but having good drainage reduces soil-borne fungal diseases.
- Growth pattern: Not all plants are created equal. Some herbs have a spreading habit and tend to take over the garden. Other herbs grow in a mounding form barely reaching one foot high. And there are herb plants that are erect and can reach three feet high.
- Size at maturity: When making your selection, also take note of each plant’s maturity size. This will help you plan your garden better and void overcrowding.
- Perennial or annual: Perennial herbs will need a permanent spot in the garden. Annual herbs grow from seed and can be started prior to their growing season.
Easy to grow tea plants
To get you started, here is a list of plants that are easy to care for and make delicious teas.
Basil is an annual heat-loving herb. It grows easily from seeds, which you can start three to four weeks before your last frost. It will grow all the way through the first frost. Pinching the tips will encourage side shoots for a bushier and sturdier plant. Other than the well-known Italian basil you can try Thai basil, purple basil, cinnamon basil, and lemon basil just to name a few.
Bee balm or Monarda is a herbaceous perennial plant with very attractive flowers. It enjoys full sun and well-draining soil. Once established, it does not need any special care except for harvesting its leaves for a flavorful tea. It is known to be very soothing for the digestive system and helps with colds.
Blue butterfly pea flower
Blue butterfly pea flower is not common in home gardens. It is an annual plant that grows in the warm season. The seed is similar to the sweet pea flower but takes a bit longer to germinate. The plant itself is a climbing vine with leaves that resemble star jasmine. The flower is a show-stopper with its royal blue color and layered petals. In India, it is considered a holy flower and used in their rituals.
Steeping the flowers in warm water makes a blue-colored tea with a not-so-impressive flavor. It is rich in antioxidants which can slow down aging and improve skin and hair. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which could help reduce pain, migraines, and body swelling.
Calendula is a pretty daisy-like flower that comes in different shades of yellow and orange colors. The plant reaches about a foot in height and two feet wide. It grows best during the cool season, fall to late spring in Austin, as it tends to get powdery mildew once the warm weather settles. It is very easy to grow from seed, though.
Harvest the flowers at their peak of bloom after the morning dew dries on them dries out. You can use them fresh or dried in teas. It has been grown for medicinal purposes all around the world. It is commonly known to soothe irritated skin, but it is also used to calm upset stomach and heartburn.
Mint is the most used tea herb in the world. It grows pretty much everywhere with no effort. Some gardeners hate it for its invasive growth habit. For this reason, many prefer planting it in containers. More than a dozen varieties of mint are worth a try: spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and so on. Local nurseries are the best place to explore new varieties.
Mint leaves are used in many ways around the world in teas, salads, soups, and cold drinks. It is well-known to subdued nausea and calms an upset stomach. According to healthline.com, mint could improve brain function.
Oregano is another common herb used mostly in Mediterranean cuisine. It is an easy-to-grow evergreen perennial plant. It has more of a spreading growth habit without being invasive. Keep harvesting the fresh leaves to prevent the stems from turning woody.
Use fresh or dried oregano in teas to soothe a sore throat and upset stomach. You can also use it as a vapor for congestion and allergies. WebMD states a long list of oregano health benefits if you want to learn more.
Rosemary belongs to the mint family and is famous for its strong aromas. It is another easy evergreen, but make sure to get the right one for your garden as there are two types: an upright and a creeping one. No matter the type, rosemary needs plenty of space. You can use the upright one as a hedge and the creeping one as a ground cover. Rosemary tea is good for indigestion, colds, and sore throat.
Roselle is in the hibiscus family. It grows in the tropics but does well in central Texas. It is a warm-season annual. Start the seeds eight to ten weeks before the last frost, but be patient as they take up to twenty days to germinate. Roselle prefers well-draining soil and thrives in full sun, and it’s pretty drought-tolerant. The plant grows into a small shrub quickly, so give it ample space. It will die completely at the first frost, and you will have to start over the following season.
To make Roselle tea, wait about two weeks after the flower fades to harvest the red calyces. Simply peel them off the seed ball and dry them on a rack. Steep a few in a cup of hot water for fifteen minutes. The tea is red in color and has a citrusy flavor, and pairs well with raspberry leaves.