Pruning Tea Leaves – When To Prune A Tea Plant

Pruning Tea Leaves – When To Prune A Tea Plant

By: Teo Spengler

Tea plants are evergreen shrubs with dark green leaves. They have been cultivated for centuries in order to use the shoots and leaves to make tea. Tea plant pruning is an essential part of the shrub’s care if you are interested in harvesting its leaves for tea. If you are wondering how to prune tea plants or when to prune a tea plant, read on for tips.

Tea Plant Pruning

The leaves of tea plants (Camellia sinensis) are used to make green, oolong, and black teas. The processing of the young shoots involves withering, oxidation, heat processing, and drying.

Tea is usually grown in tropical or subtropical areas. Plant your tea shrubs in a warm site that gets full sun for best growth. You’ll need to plant them in well-drained, acidic or pH neutral soil some distance from trees and structures. Tea plant pruning begins quickly after planting.

Why do you prune young tea plants? Your goal in pruning tea leaves is to give the plant a low, wide framework of branches that will produce many leaves each year. Pruning is essential to direct the tea plant’s energy into leaf production. When you prune, you replace old branches with new, vigorous, leafy branches.

When to Prune a Tea Plant

If you want to know when to prune a tea plant, the best time is when the plant is dormant or when its growth rate is the slowest. That’s when its carbohydrate reserves are high.

Pruning is an ongoing process. Tea plant pruning involves heading back the young plants repeatedly. Your objective is to form each plant into a flat bush some 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m.) tall.

At the same time, you should think about pruning tea leaves periodically in order to encourage new tea leaf growth. It is the upper leaves on each branch that can be harvested to make tea.

How to Prune Tea Leaves

In time, your tea plant will form the desired 5-foot (1.5 m.) flat-topped shrub. At that point, it’s time to start tea plant pruning again.

If you are wondering how to prune tea leaves, just cut the bush back to between 2 to 4 feet (0.5 to 1 m.). This will rejuvenate the tea plant.

Experts suggest that you develop a pruning cycle; each year of pruning followed by a year of not pruning or very light pruning produces more tea leaves. Light pruning when used in reference to tea plants is called tipping or skiffing.

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Growing Tea: The Complete Guide to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Tea

Bethany Hayes

Bethany is a suburban homesteader who grows over 30 types of vegetables in her garden every year to provide the vegetables needed to feed her family of six for the entire year. She practices organic gardening without the use of any pesticide and chemical.

Tea fanatics can grow tea right at home, which might be a surprise for some people. I always thought that I had to stick to purchasing tea at the store. I had no idea that I could learn the skills for growing tea in my own backyard and that the plants can thrive in many parts of the U.S.

Tea, whether it’s black, oolong, white, or green, comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. It’s an evergreen shrub or small tree, and the leaves look similar to bay leaves. Originally from Asia, it prefers tropical weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work in cooler climates.

You don’t need a large garden to grow your own tea – it can be grown in a container on a patio or a balcony you just won’t be able to produce large quantities.

As with any other plant, tea requires your time and proper care, but that said, growing tea isn’t as difficult you may think. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

One of "Mister Lincoln's" charms is that it's a repeat bloomer. Removing spent flower heads makes room for new growth and signals the plant to continue producing flowers. Cut the stems about 6 to 12 inches to an outward-facing leaf. Keep in mind that you want an even, vase-shaped bush when you're done. Repeat each cycle until late summer. Cutting the flowers for indoor use serves the same purpose and reduces the need for deadheading later.

Make the most of your new pruning skills by feeding your roses each time you prune. A balanced, general-purpose fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, boosts leafy growth and flower production. Apply 1/4 cup fertilizer by scratching it into the mulch above the root zone. Water thoroughly to move the nutrients to the roots. Cease feeding "Mister Lincoln" the same time you stop pruning.

Learning how and when to prune "Mister Lincoln" serves as a primer for pruning all hybrid teas. When discarding diseased or insect-infested plant parts, bag them and put them out for collection. Placing them on the compost pile can spread pests and disease. Keep rose soils evenly moist so there are no interruptions in plant growth. Don't be tempted to double up on feedings to boost growth. Excess fertilizer results in weak, leafy growth and fewer flowers.


Pruning is as easy as pinching with your fingers, to using snips or shears for heavier work. As a rule, when pruning leaves and flowers, a simple pinch of the fingers is adequate. Remember to pinch cleanly through the stem of the leaf, instead of crushing it, for the best results.

Use sharp garden snips if you prefer. They can help prune more exact locations on a bushy plant, and some gardeners simply prefer them.

It is not often that herb gardeners need to haul out the actual garden shears, but it does happen. Use rose pruning shears and stronger garden shears when you need a clean, neat cut through a woody stem. Avoid tearing or ripping off a stem of the plant if possible. This is unsightly and can lead to disease.  


Summer-prune deciduous fruit trees after harvesting fruit. Summer-prune roses. Feed, renew mulches and water well after pruning.

  • Winter-prune deciduous fruit trees, roses, and other deciduous shrubs.
  • Prune summer- and autumn-flowering perennials such as salvia, acalypha, and tree dahlia.
  • Deadhead winter annuals such as poppy, pansy, viola, primula, and calendula.

  • Clip asarina, jade vine, and winter-flowering shrubs.
  • Remove deadwood from deciduous trees.
  • Prune hibiscus, cutting back by a third. Tip-prune native hibiscus.
  • Tip-prune newly planted spring annuals.

  • Prune pyrostegia to shape after flowering.
  • Rejuvenate camellia and winter-blooming shrubs.
  • Tip-prune hebe.
  • Deadhead bulbs and spring-flowering annuals.
  • Prune native grasses.
  • Cut down cannas for new growth and blooms.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love

Watch the video: How to Prune the Tea Leaves