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Gardening and More: Want a hot cup of tea this winter? Grow a tea plant

GROW A CUPPA — You can actually grow a tea plant in your house, during the winter. While Sochi tea plants are fairly easy to grow, they do get large – about 6 feet tall. Photo copyright 2013 One Green World.
HAMBURG — The autumn weather is slipping into winter and as we stay inside more, we turn our attention to indoor plants. You’ve probably got a little spider plant. Then there’s the aloe. Oh, and that one your cousin gave you that you don’t know the name of.

What your indoor plants probably have in common is that they stay small, they’re common and you can’t eat them.

Try something new this year. Grow your own tea.

Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg has Sochi tea plants, which grow up to 6 feet tall.

“They’re fairly easy to grow,” said Fred Safford, who is in charge of trees and shrubs at Lockwood’s.

The Latin name is Camellia sinensis, and in the fall, the tea plant gets fragrant, five-petaled white flowers that resemble camellia flowers.

If you want green tea, you pick the fresh leaves, Safford said. For white tea, you pick the buds. For black tea, you need to dry or ferment the leaves.

The plants originated in the Sochi area of Russia and are the tea plants that can be grown the farthest north, but they still aren’t hardy enough for our winters. They can be kept outside through USDA Zone 7, but Hamburg is Zone 6a and Springville is Zone 5a.

In our area, you can grow the plant inside, during the winter. Put it near a sunny window; it won’t tolerate shade. You might be able to keep it in an unheated garage, Safford said, but where’s the fun in that?

In the spring, you can take it outside, once the danger of frost has passed. Safford suggested keeping it in the pot. Some people grow them in wooden planters or whiskey barrels and attach wheels or castors to the planter, to make it easier to move.

Let the plant gradually get used to the more intense outdoor sun. Unlike most other houseplants, the Sochi tea plant can take full summer sun, he said.

Upcoming events

To get you into the holiday spirit, Lockwood’s Greenhouses will hold a Christmas open house from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 16 at the garden center, located at 4484 Clark St. in Hamburg. A gift will be given to the first 100 guests who make a purchase. There will also be door prizes and drawings.

Lockwood’s has also scheduled a series of hands-on workshops. For more information on prices and other details, visit their website at or call 649-4684.

Workshops are:

– Bird-Friendly Seasonal Wreath: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

– Thanksgiving Centerpiece Workshop: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.

– Basic Evergreen Wreath Workshop: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3.

– Winterberry Wreath Workshop: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

– Decorated Boxwood Tree Workshop: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

– Basket of Beauty: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10.

– Williamsburg Style Wreath Workshop: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.

–British-Style Kissing Ball Workshop: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

– Floral Vase Arrangement: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15.

– Christmas Centerpiece Workshop: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Get ready for winter with an open house, hands-on workshops and your own tea plant.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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