The moringa plant, usually describes the moringa oleifera, a quickly growing, drought-resistant tree that calls the foothills to the south of the Himalayas its home. This edible plant is commonly cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide, and in the past decade has begun to be grown commercially in Hawaii.
Growing your own moringa plant is not difficult, and can be quite rewarding. Therefore, here is a brief overview of the plant, its’ uses and how you can cultivate your own.
What Is the Moringa Plant and What Are Its Main Uses?
The moringa plant belongs to the genus Moringa, in the family Moringaceae. It is often grown in tropical and subtropical regions the world over for its’ edible seed pods and leaves as well as a variety of uses including water filtration and hand washing.
Components of the plant are sometimes used in herbal medicines as well. (See: Moringa Oleifera: A Food Plant With Multiple Medicinal Uses) The moringa plant is quite easily cultivated. It can be grown both indoors and outdoors in the proper hardiness zones and is reasonably forgiving.
The 2 Main Varieties of Moringa Plant
The genus Moringa contains thirteen species ranging from large trees to small herbs. Of these thirteen species however, only two, moringa oleifera and moringa stenopetala are commonly cultivated.
- The moringa oleifera is the most commonly grown variety. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree, native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India, widely cultivated for its edible leaves and pods and medicinal uses.
- The moringa stenopetala, commonly called the cabbage-tree, is a variety native to Kenya and Ethiopia. It shares many of the same gastronomic and medical uses as its Himalayan relative. The other eleven members of the moringa genus are not commonly cultivated enough to merit mention in this article.
Growing the Moringa Plant Step-by-Step
The moringa plant is native to semi arid, tropical, and sub tropical regions. This needs to be taken into account by the aspiring cultivator, as it will determine whether you can grow your moringa plant outdoors or not.
1. Choose Your Location Wisely
In the United States, moringas can be cultivated outside in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and 10. Moringa plants tolerate an array of soil types, however they prefer well draining, sandy or loamy soil. Soil that retains too much moisture may cause root rot. If your chosen spot doesn’t have well draining soil, it may need to be dug out and replaced with good mildly acidic potting soil. Moringas thrive in sunlight, heat and moisture. Also note that moringas can grow over 20 feet in the first year, so be sure to mind your overhead space.
2. Planting Your Seeds
Starting moringa plants from seed is quite simple. The seeds need to be planted in about an inch of soil, covered over, and lightly tamped. Furthermore, newly planted seeds need to be watered thoroughly. Whether planted in pots or directly into the ground, they will need to be well watered daily, until you see the seedlings sprout. Once they break soil, watering can be cut back to every other day, until the plants are roughly 18 inches tall. Then, watering can be further diminished to about once weekly.
3. Know Your Expectations
When the seeds or started seedlings are being placed into their final home in the ground, give thought to your purpose in planting moringas.
If planted as a hedge, plant about 1 foot apart. Next, prune back every other new leaf growth forcing the tree to grow like a bush. If the edible leaves and seed pods are what you’re after, keep the tree pruned to a manageable height, so that you may reach your harvest.
4. Planting Indoors
When planting moringa plants indoors, the same rules apply as outdoor cultivation. The soil needs to drain well and be slightly acidic, and the plant needs sunlight (or artificial plant light), and warmth. Moringa plants won’t survive sub freezing temperatures, and need to be moved indoors during cold seasons. Note that moringas may be grown as an annual in colder climates that experience freezing temperatures.
Finally, moringa plants are an easy to grow edible and medicinal plant in tropical and sub tropical zones. Even beginners in cultivation should have little problem, as long as its’ simple environmental needs are met. If you’re looking for an exotic and healthy plant to grow give your green thumb a go with moringas!
Image from depositphotos.com.