Very tall plant in a small pot

I love the tea tree plant, but I have mixed feelings about how easy (or difficult) it is to grow. I suppose I should divide the growing process into two portions: by height.

I’ve never propagated the tea tree successfully using cuttings, whether it’s through the use of growing tips or not, or making the cutting have a heel or not. For me, vegetative propagation has never worked with this plant.

So, all the tea trees I’ve grown over the years have been grown from seeds. The seeds are terribly fine, almost like coarse powder. It is hard to separate them too finely, and when I sow them, I tend to sow about four or five seeds together, also for a just in case the seeds don’t sprout.

However, it’s not the sprouting of the seeds which poses the main problem. The seeds germinate readily and easily without much effort; it is the period between when the seedling has just sprouted, and the time when it has grown at least three pairs of true leaves, which is the most problematic.

During that stage, the seedlings are terribly tiny. I would estimate them to be about 3mm in height. They are extremely delicate. Logic almost dictates that with a root and stalk system that weak, one shouldn’t touch the seedlings to transfer them to pots which would serve as their more permanent homes. But, if one doesn’t, and the seeds were sown in a closed container, then they rot extremely easily.

The leaves and stalk

If one has done in situ sowing, the seedlings prove to be just as finnicky. I have a

few experiences of sowing about five seeds in a pot, having all the seeds germinate, water all the seeds carefully with a syringe, and having most of them dry up, with barely one or two surviving.

So, I think that extra care is definitely needed to protect the seedlings from extreme conditions at this stage. I think that I’d suggest partially shielding the seedlings from wind which would move them even the slightest bit, from hot sunlight (provide bright shade for this period), and from excessive watering or excessive dryness.

If you squint, you can see a slight color difference on the stalk - some portions have peeled off

Once the seedlings grow to a height of about 4cm and have grown about three to four pairs of their adult leaves, the critical period is over. I find that, beyond this stage, the plant seems to have grown resilient to most of the conditions one can give it. I’ve been rough in transplanting the plants at this stage, and they have happily grown; I’ve given them anything from part shade to direct sun, and they are perfectly fine; I’ve severely pot bound them like my current plant, and they will happily grow extremely tall and healthy.

I suppose the real kicks in growing this plant is the thought that I may use the leaves in fashions similar to the essential oil this species is grown for; that I have experienced and learned from the challenges from germination to adulthood and succeeded in growing them well; and that I simply love how the outer bark peels off to reveal the slightly silverish bark beneath it, just like the paperbark trees of its relatives.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Does well with monthly or bi-monthly fertilizing
Sunlight: Full sun to bright shade
Propagation: Easily by seeds; cuttings are hard to strike
Special care: Extremely easy to die off from seedling stage until it has grown its third/fourth pair of true leaves