Curry plant (Murraya koenigii) produces aromatic leaves and is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia. Curry leaves are well known throughout the globe due to their unique flavor-enhancing properties for cuisines. It is also known as sweet neem and can grow about 4-6 meters tall and 40 cm in diameter. Its leaves are pinnate and are provided with 11-21 leaflets. Curry tree produces white and yellow small flowers that are capable of self-pollination for the production of shiny black and small drupes containing a large viable and single seed. Its flowering period is significantly shorter but produces partial and cup-like flowers. The produced pulp in the berry is edible and has a sweet flavor.
The curry tree is a perennial and annual green plant and produces silver-gray to silver-green colored needle-like leaves. The structure of its leaves is similar to the rosemary or lavender and contains numerous essential oils that add specific curry fragrance. The fragrance of curry intensifies even more after rain. The stems of curry plants are initially unstable but are stabilized with time. Curry leaves offer numerous health and wellness properties such as wound healing, reducing skin problems, restlessness, hemorrhoids, bruises, nervous restlessness, mild depression, lymphatic vessel disorders, and stress.
How to Grow and Care for Curry Leaf Plant at Home
Curry plant has hardy growing nature and can easily grow well in the USDA Zones 7-10. It requires full sunny conditions for growth and development but should be protected from excessive wetness and winds.
The Curry plant grows well in mildly acidic and well-drained soils. This plant cannot adapt to other soil conditions and therefore growers must have to take proper care to maintain the right mix of different soil mixes. Sometimes it may happen that the structure or quality of soil is not appropriate in the specific areas. In this case, the quality of soil can be easily improved by mixing the well-prepared and good quality compost, peat, muck soil, organic matter, or mineral soil. However, growers must go for soil testing as a basic step to understanding the nature and properties of the soil. This testing helps to reveal all information about soil structure, soil texture, its physical, chemical, and biological health, level of nutrients, presence of contaminants, and beneficial and harmful soil biodiversity. Once the result of soil testing is obtained, growers can easily add the recommended amount of amendments, fertilizers, and organic materials.
Curry plants grow well in the pH range of 5.6-6 and ideal growth can be obtained by the management of soil pH using biological or organic amendments. Although, use of some chemical amendments is also helpful to maintain soil pH according to the requirements of growing plants excessive use of chemicals causes negative consequences on the soil biodiversity. Therefore, growers must maintain the soil pH by the use of organic, safe, and contaminant-free inputs.
Curry plant thrives well in the full sunny conditions but its direct exposure to intense and scorching heat must be avoided as it may cause sun burning.
The curry plant has optimal watering requirements and should be watered only once a week in mild climatic conditions. However, it has high watering requirements during the summer conditions and should be watered after every other day to avoid water stress. Growers must schedule watering according to the prevailing climatic conditions and soil moisture contents in which the plant is being grown. Sometimes the upper layer of soil is dry due to evaporative losses, but the subsurface and lower layer have a significant amount of moisture to support plant growth. Therefore, testing the soil moisture contents in the subsurface layer is essentially important to support better plant growth and development. Over irrigation must be avoided as it can cause excessive wetting that in turn may lead to the development of diseases and insect pest attacks.
Fertilization must be done after pruning even if there are no leaves on the curry plant stems. Fertilization helps plants to survive harsh environmental conditions and this survival in the initial years is greatly important to improve survival and developmental potential in the upcoming years. However, if the curry plant is being grown in the pots the fertilizer should never be applied randomly but at the rim of specific pots. Application of strong fertilizers is not recommended for curry plants after pruning. If a curry plant is growing in the ground, the fertilizer must be applied at the canopy of leaves. Apply fertilizers to the leaves after every 3-4 weeks in the form of liquid fertilizers to support lush and vigorous growth.
Application of one teaspoon of good quality iron chelate and three teaspoons of iron sulfate after every 3-5 weeks is also important to improve the health of the curry plant’s foliage. The faster growth of curry leaves can be supported by feeding the plant with the Epsom salt solution. This solution can be prepared by the addition of one teaspoon of Epsom salt in one liter of good quality and contamination-free water. This Epsom salt application must be done after every three months through fall, summer, and spring. Buttermilk and diluted curd can also be used as homemade fertilizer to improve the overall growth and development of curry plants.
Curry plants grow well in the USDA zone of 7-10 but they can also be grown in slightly warmer and cooler conditions as well. Growers can easily grow it in outdoor conditions if they are living in the 7-10 zone, but it can also be grown in indoor conditions followed by the right management. The curry plants must be grown in the sunny spots in the gardens and lawns. Pinching off white flowers helps to accelerate the growth and development in the initial two years. The plant can grow quickly followed by the right management and initial vigorous settlements.
Gardeners living in the USDA zones below 9 or harsh and colder conditions should grow curry plants in the containers in indoor conditions. Curry plants can be grown in the spring season in winter conditions. It must be grown in a container of 5 gallons or even bigger as the plant will grow in size with time. Curry plants can tolerate mild cold or freezing temperatures but much more care is required to take off the plant in harsh conditions. Usually, curry plants shed their leaves in cold temperatures and go under dormant conditions until the spring season. However, the curry plant can easily resume its growth in the spring followed by the right care and management.
The curry plant grows well in humid and warm growing conditions, so the management of appropriate humidity levels is essentially helpful to support its growth and development. The humidity level in the surroundings can be easily maintained by the right irrigation in growing conditions. However, the humidity levels in indoor conditions can be properly managed by the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers. There are different kinds of sensors available in the market and online stores and growers can easily get any desired sensor for humidity management.
Changing Pots for the Curry Leaf Plant
Spring is the best time for transplantation of the curry plant to a larger pot. Even it is also an ideal season for changing the soil in the previously growing pot. Some people are not aware of the significance of changing the soil in the pots where plants are already being grown. Soil is a good source of nutrients and there is no need to change or replace the soil in agricultural lands, gardens, and lawns. Whereas the nutrients level is significantly depleted in the pots and therefore soil must be replaced to provide the best growing conditions for curry plants.
Pruning the Curry Leaf Plant
Pruning practices are essentially helpful to improve the growth and development of plants. Typically, there is a recommendation of one pruning per year for curry plants. Pruning practices can be easily done by pinching off the branches and dead leaves on curry plants. Curry pruning must be performed in the spring season but if the plant is not doing well growers can prune the plants 2-3 times a year to support healthy and vigorous plants growth.
How to Grow Curry Plant from Seed
Curry plants can be easily grown from the seeds with the right care and management. Following are some essentials to grow curry plants from seeds.
- Harvest ripened and good-quality seeds from healthy and contaminant-free parent plants.
- Full ripened seeds can be easily identified due to the development of black color on their outer skin.
- Gently press the skin from the outer side and carefully extract the seeds.
- Carefully wash the seeds and dry these in indoor conditions for further processing.
- These seeds can be grown in good quality soil, compost, peat, and grow mix. However, the management of soil pH and drainage is significantly important to get good germination and vigorous growth.
- The use of sand is essentially a good alternative to support excellent drainage in rainy conditions.
- Take any bowl, or pot provided with the optimal size hole for drainage.
- Fill it with the soil or grow mix and add the seeds in the grow mix or soil.
- Maintain a minimum distance of about 2 inches among the individual seeds to support effective germination.
- Gently cover the seeds with the potting mix, soil, peat, or compost.
- Place the pots in the full sunlight in the winter conditions and partial sunlight conditions in the warmer climatic conditions.
- Regularly irrigate the pots but avoid moisture stress. Growers must avoid both over-irrigation and under-irrigation to avoid quality losses and compromised growth and development.
- Always keep the soil moist to support proper water uptake by the developing rooting systems.
- Curry plant is easy to handle after the development of true leaves and growers can easily transplant the seedlings at this stage.
- Seedlings after the development of true leaves can be transplanted both in the containers or in the gardening soil.
- Growers must prepare the growing soil by the right mixing of half compost mix, half cocopeat, half sand, and one part of the soil to support better plant growth and development by the efficient functioning of the rooting system.
- Properly cover the drainage hole of the pots and fill it with a good quality potting mix.
- Carefully plant each curry seedling in the central place.
- Growers must remove the seedlings with the soil from germination places to avoid transplantation shocks.
- Irrigate it properly and place the plant in shade for 1-2 days.
- The pots containing transplanted seedlings must be placed in sunny conditions after the stabilization of seedlings in the pots.
- Cut the seedlings from the top when these reach 5-6 inches in height. This cutting above the leaf nodes is helpful to develop more branches.
- Must add organic fertilizers on monthly basis to get better soil quality, health, and fertility to support the best growth of plants.
- Spray 5 ml liquid soap and neem oil after every 15-20 days to avoid insect pest attacks on the growing plants.
- A jet water sprayer can be used to spray on both sides of leaves for the most effective results.
- Wash growing plants every 7-10 days to remove the dust from the leaves and above the nodes.
- Provide support with the sticks so that growing plants cannot lean on any side.
- Support provision with the sticks helps plants to grow in the straight position and thus breakage losses due to weight on the stem will be significantly reduced.
- Curry plants easily go dormant in the colder and harsh conditions in the winter season, so the plants must be placed at a point where they can get maximum sunlight during the daytime conditions.
- However, if there are no sunny conditions in the winter the plants must be placed in indoor conditions, and an artificial lighting system should be used to support ideal growth.
- Growers must properly prune the fully grown and mature plants to avoid the development of fungal diseases and other problems due to poor air circulation.
How to grow the Curry Leaf Plant from Propagation/ Cutting
Curry plants can be easily started from the cutting, but the selection of vigorously growing and disease-free plants is greatly important to get the best growth and good quality leaves. Curry cuttings can also be obtained from neighbors, friends, colleagues, and can also be purchased from nursery, and markets. However, the selection of the right source is greatly important to get good results. For this purpose, growers need potting soil and a minimum of about 4 inches of pot or growing containers. The use of rooting hormone is also important to promote rooting development, but it is an optional choice and growers can also skip it if not easily available in the nearby stores or markets.
The followings are some important points to grow curry plants from stems or cuttings.
- Select healthy growing, sturdy growing, and a flexible stem. This flexible stem can be easily found on the side of the selected plant and is known as the sucker. This growing stem has 3-4 compound leaves growing on it.
- Selection of overly wooden stem must be avoided.
- Younger and semihard wooden stems are essentially important for the propagation of curry plants.
- Cut the selected stem about 2-3 inches below the nodes of third and fourth leaves.
- Cut the stem by using sharp, and contaminant-free scissors for a smooth cutting experience and avoiding improper cuts on the leaves.
- Cut all the leaves lying below the selected nodes so that the bottom 2-3 inches of the cutting is bare and without plants.
- Peel off the skin of the selected cutting for about 2 inches by using a sharp knife.
- This peeling can be much similar to that of carrot peeling to ensure a good propagation experience.
- Dip the cutting in the water cup immediately for prevention of drying during the pot preparation period.
- Fill the pot with good quality grow mix, compost, peat or much soil, and organic material to support the goof soil biodiversity.
- Avoid using clay-based and heavy soils because this soil is not efficient for supporting fast drainage and the presence of excessive water in the surface and subsurface soil may favor root rotting.
- Properly moisten the soil before inserting the cutting for smooth insertion and better-rooting development.
- Gently push the fingers in the downward direction in the center of potting soil until a 2-3 inches wide and deep hole is created.
- Remove the cutting from the soil and shake the excess water from the cutting.
- Dip the cutting in the rooting powder if a good quality rooting hormone is available.
- Carefully insert the cutting in the hole to avoid separation and falling off of the rooting hormone from the cutting.
- Properly fill the hole with the created soil and firmly press the soil around the cutting to ensure that it will stay at its place.
Managing Pests and Diseases of the Curry Leaf Plant
Growing curry plants are prone to scales, spider mites, black spots, whiteflies, butterflies, leaf roller, bark borer, citrus black fly, mealybugs, and Fungus Gnats. Usually, the insect pests such as aphids and scales feed on the newly emerged leaves and tender branches. The problem of insect pests can be avoided by using appropriate management measures. Spraying neem oil on the plants after every 7-10 days is helpful to reduce infestation. Spraying neem oil is essentially helpful to reduce the populations of harmful pests and to protect the plants from bacterial and fungal infections. Hose down the plant at least 1-2 times a month and use sharp water spraying to reduce the pests. However, if still there is the problem of bug infestations growers must try some other alternatives such as the use of synthetic chemical pesticides.
Asian citrus psyllid bugs are known to cause the most damage to the curry plants and are regarded as most dangerous due to their potential capability to carry huanglongbing deadly disease that affects all forms of growing citrus. The probability of these pests and diseases can be reduced by the implementation of proper quarantine measures. These bugs have a similar size to that of aphids and have brownish body color, red eyes, and proper wings. Its adults and nymphs both feed on the curry leaves. The leaf damage can be observed in the form of deformation of leaves and growers must take preventive action at this stage to avoid further spread of the problem. The populations of these pests can be reduced and controlled by the use of systemic insecticides and foliar sprays. The foliar spraying of insecticides is significantly effective for killing adult psyllid bugs. Whereas the application of systemic insecticides to the soil is essentially helpful for controlling the nymphs.
Citrus leaf fly causes leaf damage by feeding on the leaf saps. Growers can easily identify the presence of insect pests due to the degree of damage caused to the leaves and plants. The presence of honeydew on the leaves is also an indication of insect pest attacks. Whereas boring insects bore the curry plants at larval stages. The presence of boring pests is not a well-known problem for healthy curry leaves and therefore the presence of these pests can be reduced by maintaining the good health of curry plants. However, disease development and insect pest attack is not a significant concern for indoor growing curry plants. Growers can minimize the problems of insect pest attack and disease development on curry plants by using the following management measures.
- Place the curry plants near the windows so that growing plants can get enough sunlight the survival. If sunny conditions are not available in the winter, the use of indoor grow lights is also the perfect alternative to keep the plant growing healthy.
- Regularly water the growing curry plant but avoid over-irrigation and under irrigation.
- Overwatering causes the growing plants to be more susceptible to root rot so growers must check the moisture contents in the soil before the next watering.
- Pest attack is a rare concern for the indoor growing curry plants, but indoor growers may have to encounter a mealybug population on the curry leaves.
- Although mealybugs are smaller insects these can be easily identified on the leaves of the curry plants. Moreover, mealybugs also leave sooty mold on the honeydew.
- Mealybugs can be removed from the curry plants by spraying the streaming water and by rubbing alcohol-dipped cotton on the curry leaves.
- Insect pest infestations can also be reduced by treating the growing plants with oil sprays and insecticidal soaps.
- The use of chemical insecticides and chemicals is also effective to reduce insect pest attacks, but the use of synthetic chemicals is strictly prohibited for the indoor growing environment.
Companion Plantings of Curry Plants
The best companion plants for curry include basil, tomatoes, garlic, onions, borage, marigold, chives, lavender, tickseeds, Shasta daisy, cotton, creepy thyme, coneflower, California poppy, and rosemary. Curry plant should only be planted with the recommended companion plants as otherwise its growth and development will be negatively affected.
How to Prune and Harvest the Curry Leaf Plant?
Curry plants must be pruned in the fall or spring season and pruning in winter and summer conditions must be avoided. The use of sharp pruners is essentially important for a good pruning. Removal of old leaves must be prioritized for making clean diagonal cuts to make the plant bushier and stronger. Growers can pinch the top leaves when the leaves of curry plants are small. Repotting of curry plants before pruning is essentially helpful to encourage better growth and development. The provision of enough space is also important to improve its growth in all dimensions.
Curry plants must be planted in the ground after pruning as the plants growing in the ground can grow bigger and better in the size. Bigger plants produce more branches and leaves and therefore there are more pruning requirements for the ground growing curry plants. Pruning is also important for the pot-growing curry plants and thus growers must consider the pruning requirements according to growing nature and prevailing climatic conditions.
Plucking the flowers buds after pruning gives more energy to the growing plants and curry leaves. If these flowering buds are not properly removed plants will spend more energy on the flowering and thus the growth and development of leaves will be affected. Growers must have to take good care of growing plants after pruning because curry plants go to dormancy or resting state in the cold season that is also known as winter dormancy. The yellowing of curry leaves is known as chlorosis and it is one of the biggest indications of winter dormancy. All curry leaves may fall from the growing plants during winter dormancy and there is no specific need to worry about this condition.
The curry plant can be prepared for winter dormancy by cutting down the water application to the plants by the end of the winter season. This will be helpful for the curry plant to shift from the growing period to the resting state. The leaves on curry plants can be saved in the winter by moving these plants to indoor conditions and by improving the temperature in the indoor growing conditions.
The harvesting of curry plants is a simple and easiest approach but most people make a general mistake of harvesting leaves and curry leaves skeletons on the branches of the trees. These plants only harvest the bottom of plants and leave the skeletons of leaflets on the plants.
Can you grow the curry leaf plant indoors?
The Cury tree is a frost-tender plant but can be easily grown in indoor spaces. However, growers must try to grow it in the outside growing environment if conditions are feasible. The plant should only be grown in indoor conditions if the outdoor environment is too harsh to support the growth. It is important to note that the best growth in indoor conditions can only be supported by the right care and proper management measures. Feeding the plant with diluted seaweed fertilizer solution is significantly important to get better growth and development.
How Long Does a Curry Leaf Plant Take to Grow?
Usually, the curry plant can grow to its maximum potential in 1-2 years but the growth and development are greatly dependent on the prevailing climatic conditions and selection of the right variety. Proper pinching and pruning practices are also helpful to encourage the growth of multiple branches on the plant. Growers performing right pinching and pruning can get much better growth than those who don’t perform pruning and pinching in the right way.
How to Store Curry Plant Leaves?
Curry leaves can be used for cooking immediately after the harvesting and can also be stored for the latter. Effective storage of curry leaves can be achieved by using the following instructions and practices.
- Cut the curry leaves with great care and avoid breaking and cutting the leaves.
- Wash with clean and good quality water and gently remove the water from leaves by using tissue paper or a clean towel.
- Spread the leaves in a single sheet of newspaper and let the leaves dry in the air.
- Curry leaves can be spinned in the salad spinner for the removal of excess water. These leaves can be immediately stored in airtight containers for later use.
- Curry leaves can be easily separated from the stems and can also be stored and processed by wrapping in the kitchen paper towels.
- These leaves must be properly covered to allow wilting and color changing.
- Drying the curry leaves in these paper towels helps to usually take about 10-15 days for drying.
- Curry plants can also be dried in the sunlight. The dried leaves must be stored in airtight containers for better results and taste.
Storage in Refrigerator
- Curry leaves can be easily stored in refrigerators by wrapping the leaves in a clean and dry paper towel.
- Place the wrapped leaves in the airtight mason jar or container.
- Keep the container in the fridge.
- Wipe away the moisture contents or droplets in the jar and close the lid again.
- These practices are essentially helpful to store the leaves for longer periods.
Storage in Freezer
- Place the curry leaves in the ziplock bag or box.
- Place these bags in the freezer.
- Take out these leaves from the freezer and must lock the bag after taking the desired number of leaves.
- Curry leaves can be placed in the tiffin box.
- It is important to cover curry leaves with a white hanky for better storage.
- Close the box and place it in the freezer for about one to two months and use whenever desired.
Air Drying of Curry Leaves
- Carefully spread the curry leaves on the plate, newspaper, or tray.
- Allow these leaves to dry in the air for about 2-3 days.
- Properly dried leaves appear crispy or wilted. These leaves can be stored in the exactly wilted form or can be crumbled, crushed, or ground to make curry powder.
- These leaves must be stored in an airtight container to maintain the test and freshness of leaves.
Some Facts About Curry Plants
The curry tree is an herbaceous shrub and is known to be originated from Turkey. This plant is well known in all regions of the world due to its unique taste and aroma. This plant can grow well in different geographical locations and can grow well in arid areas, rocky cliffs, and hillsides. Although this plant grows well in the well-drained, sandy, and nutrient-rich soil and the properties of soil and growing media can be greatly improved by the addition of organic fertilizers and composts. The Curry plant is also an essential source of good quality nutrients and essential oils and helps to improve the overall health and wellness of human beings.
Botanical Features and Growing Conditions
Curry leaves have smaller size, long, oral and slender shape that gets narrow at the specific point. The average size of its leaves is about 1-2 cm in width and 2-4 cm in length. Its leaves are dark green and shiny and grow pinnately on the curry stems. Each branch of curry leaf can hold more or less twenty tight clustered leaves. Its leaves produce a strong aroma and flavor but the extent of aroma and flavor production is greatly dependent on the specific climatic conditions and type of curry variety. Curry plants can also be grown in dry regions and arid, and semi-arid climatic conditions. Better growth and development of curry plants can also be supported by following the above-mentioned right care and management strategies. Curry plants produce a strong smell so curry trees can also be planted to repel, cats, deers, bugs, and other insect pests from gardens and growing spaces.
Antioxidative Properties of Curry Leaves
Curry leaves are easily available throughout the year, but different biotic and abiotic stresses can affect the growth and development of leaves. The growers can harvest and store the leaves for later use because sometimes curry plant goes dormant under unfavorable conditions. The harvested leaves can also be used to make the curry powder and this powder can be mixed with other spices for better flavor addition to dishes. Curry leaves contain rich protective substances such as phenolic compounds, glycosides, alkaloids, alpha-pinene, muurayanol, caryophyllene, mahanimbine, myrcene, alpha terpinene, and linalool. All these plants have powerful antioxidative properties and play a direct role to suppress oxidative stress and free radical damage to the body.