Moringa plants (Moringaceae); sometimes commonly referred to as drumstick trees, horseradish trees, or ben oil trees; are native to the Himalayan foothills of India and Bangladesh. Moringa plants have long been used and revered in their native habitat for their amazing nutritious and medicinal qualities. So much so, that the moringa tree earned the affectionate nickname, the “Miracle Tree.”
While moringa plants are accustomed to the South Asian tropical and subtropical climates, they adapt well to growing in other areas of the world as long as they are protected from cold weather and harsh frosts. Learn how to grow these miracle trees and reap the benefits of moringa all year long from the comfort of your home!
|Common Name||Moringa plant, moringa tree, miracle tree, horseradish tree, drumstick tree, ben oil tree|
|Mature Size||40' tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, sandy or loamy soil|
|Flower Color||Cream, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10, 11|
|Native Area||India, Bangladesh|
How to Grow Moringa Plants
Established moringa plants are low-maintenance and require little care, especially if grown outdoors year-round. For those gardeners who do not live in tropical or subtropical climates, moving moringa plants indoors during cool weather will be necessary. Luckily, they adapt well to container growing.
Moringa are fast-growing, deciduous trees that are native to India and Bangladesh. Once established, they are drought resistant, and they can tolerate extreme temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
A bright, sunny location that receives direct sunlight for most of the day is best for moringa plants. Growth may be stunted if the plants do not receive enough light.
Moringa plants are adaptable to a wide range of soils and can survive in poor soils if needed. However, they thrive when grown in well-draining, sandy soils. Moringa plants are sensitive to root rot, so they will not thrive in overly compacted soil or soil that holds too much moisture.
Keep the soil of moringa plants consistently moist, but not wet. Moringa plants do not tolerate ‘wet feet’ and are sensitive to overwatering. Established moringa plants are drought-tolerant, but young plants need more consistent moisture to encourage strong growth. When it comes to watering moringa plants; infrequent, deep watering is better than frequent, light watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Moringa plants grow best in temperatures between 77-95 degrees Fahrenheit, although they can tolerate extreme temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as they are positioned in the shade. These plants do not tolerate cold temperatures as readily, although they can tolerate some light frosts. Moringa plants can grow outdoors year-round in USDA zones 10 and 11 and can be grown outdoors for part of the year in any region that experiences warm summers.
After planting, moringa plants benefit from a light application of a general, all-purpose fertilizer to help support growth. Once established, moringa plants do not require regular fertilization. However, they benefit from having their topsoil regularly amended with compost or manure.
There are over 13 species of Moringa plants, all of which can be used for food or medicinal purposes. However, outside of Moringaceae oleifera most other species are not widely cultivated outside of their native habitat. Other popular moringa varieties include:
- Moringaceae arborea
- Moringaceae borziana
- Moringaceae longituba
Regular pruning helps keep moringa plants healthy and promote leaf growth, curb breaching, and prevent the tree from becoming too tall. If left un-pruned, moringa plants will become tall with many branches, few leaves, and only flower near the top of the branches which makes harvesting difficult. Pruning regularly and encouraging branching also helps to increase the harvest.
Harvesting Moringa Plants
Almost all parts of moringa plants are edible, from the roots to the leaves and flowers, to the large pods and seeds that grow from the branches. The leaves are often cooked like a vegetable or steamed for tea, while the ground pods are used for curries and the oil extracted from the seeds can be used for cooking, and in perfumes and soaps.
The pods can be harvested once they are about ½ inch in diameter and pop off the branches easily. Moringa leaves can be harvested at any point, however, the older leaves are better for making moringa powder than younger leaves.
Growing in Containers
Moringa plants need to be grown in containers unless they can be exposed to tropical or subtropical temperatures year-round outdoors. When grown in containers, moringa plants can be easily moved indoors during the winter to avoid cold winter temperatures.
Growing from Seeds
Moringa plants grow from seeds readily. Moringa seeds have no dormancy period and are best planted as soon as they are harvested from the tree. Fresh seeds retain excellent germination rates for up to one year.
Moringa seeds can be directly sowed into the garden. Choose a location that receives plenty of sun and dig a hole that is 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Backfill the hole with a mixture of soil and fresh compost or manure. After planting, water the freshly planted seed lightly, being careful not to overwater. Moringa seeds germinate readily within one to two weeks.
Luckily, moringa plants are resistant to many different pests and diseases, however, termites can still be an issue with established moringa trees. If you notice termites, mulching around the base of the tree with castor oil plant leaves, mahogany chips, tephrosia leaves, or Persian lilac leaves can help.