I have discovered the wonderful properties of the moringa oleifera plant. I was not able to grow it in my previous home because of the cold winters, but now that I’m in Central Texas I have more options and moringa is on the list of plants to try.
This wonderful plant can reach heights of 35 feet and is commonly harvested so it grows as a shrub or hedge. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach and are dried and crushed into a powder to use in soups, sauces and smoothies.
As with most foods, heating moringa above 140 °F destroys some of the nutritional value.
You can find out more about the healing properties of moringa in this previous post.
Moringa Growing Conditions
It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, but prefers a neutral to slightly acidic (pH 6.3 to 7.0), well-drained sandy or loamy soil. In waterlogged soil the roots have a tendency to rot. Moringa is a sun and heat-loving plant, it will not tolerate freezing or frost. Moringa is particularly suitable for dry regions, as it can be grown using rainwater without expensive irrigation
Moringa can be grown as an annual or perennial plant. In the first year, all pods are edible. Later years also bear inedible bitter pods and the seeds can be replanted.
Grow Moringa from Bare Root
My friend Karen at Blue Yonder Urban Farms sent me two moringa roots to start here at home. They arrived securely packaged and I was surprised how big the roots turned out to be. The largest one is 12 inches long.
That was at the end of March. What did I do with them?…nothing for about a week (fortunately, they survived.)
Finally I decided it was time to plant them and I purchased two large pots for growing. Remember, they don’t like to be waterlogged, so I picked pots that I thought had good drainage. I soaked the roots for a few hours and planted them with leftover soil from my new raised beds. With the addition of some organic mulch to lighten it up, they are ready to go.
I gave them a good watering and waited. Two weeks later, no shoots are starting. By the end of April there was still no growth and I got worried. It has been one of the wettest seasons on record in Texas. I was afraid they had rotted, so I dug them up to take a look. The roots were OK, a few new root hairs are growing and there were no bad areas on the roots at all.
I decided not to risk it and transferred them to a shallow trench in my wheelbarrow so I could keep a better eye on it. I used what is called the heeling in method to replant the roots. That way I can easily see their health without digging up the whole plant. This method works well as a temporary “nursery” for all kinds of root stock until you can plant them in their permanent home.
Ten days later my large moringa root has a visible shoot of new growth, Yay!
Even though we’ve had a TON of rain, it survived. Not the small root though, it has mold on it and cannot be saved. Five days later the large start is well established. On the first dry day I went ahead and dug it up and replanted it back into the pot.
As you can tell in the photo the new shoot is growing sideways from the root. Not to worry, once you plant it upright the shoot will straighten itself.
Generally it will not be necessary to transplant – and spend so much babysitting time – to grow moringa from bare root stock. If the conditions are reasonably dry you should be able to plant in a pot, or directly in the ground, and see new growth within 30 days. My conditions were extreme because of the excessive rain.
- // Unpack your bare roots and soak them in water for at least 2 hours so they rehydrate.
- // Prepare the pot with soil that will drain well and is even on the sandy side.
- // Place the root in the soil so it sits with the top at least two inches above the ground level.
- // Water well and give enough regular water so the root does dry out. Caution: You do not want it sitting in soil with pooled water or you will have the problem I did with my small root.
- // Use an organic fertilizer every month or two.
- // Once the plant is established it should only need water about once a week. It is very drought tolerant.
How is my plant doing now? Wonderful! After 2 months it about 4 feet tall and thriving in its pot until I can get it planted in a permanent location. I am considering pinching out the main tip so the plant will start bushing out. I can’t wait to harvest some wonderful moringa leaves this fall.
You may want to check out Karen’s post about Growing Moringa Seedlings from Blue Yonder Urban Farm and see how she grows her plants as annuals.