Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~10
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Tea? Really? Yes! Unless you're in the really cold parts of the US (New England, Upper Midwest, Rockies, etc), there's a good chance you can actually grow tea! While these seeds come from India (imported by Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY), and are probably only reliably cold hardy into Zone 7, there are actually farmers growing tea in surprising places like Virginia, New Jersey, British Columbia, Washington, and even upstate New York!
It needs little introduction, since this is the same plant that becomes your green tea, black tea, oolong, darjeeling, etc. But for those who have never seen the plant in action, it's also a beautiful plant that would be a welcome addition to any garden. The shiny leaves are evergreen, the white flowers with a yellow heart are stunning, and the large seeds can be pressed to yield an edible oil.
The health effects of tea are well-known — it's one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, after all — but scientists seem to come up with new reasons to drink (or eat) tea all the time.
And for those of you not in Zone 7 or above (though milder Zone 6ers could probably have success in a protected spot near a building), tea can be grown as a houseplant or a beautiful bonsai.
GROWING TIPS: Soak in hot tap water, let stand for 24 hours, then cold stratify for 60 days. Sow seed 3/4" deep in rich soil. Prefers a moist spot in sun or shade.
Images are all in the public domain. Plantation image with black sign is in Kyoto, Japan. Image of plantation on steep slope is Kelagur Tea Estate at Mudigere, Chikkamagalur, Karnataka, India.