Want unlimited superfood supply? Grow a Moringa Tree! Moringa oleifera, more commonly known as the Drumstick tree or Horseradish tree, is a native tree to the Indian Subcontinent and a pretty easy tree to grow if your climate supports it.
The rapidly growing species has incredible drought-resistant qualities and is popularly grown across its native regions for its young seed pods and leaves, prized as nutritious vegetables and herbal medicine.
The wide range of benefits this tree has to offer has earned it the nickname, Miracle Tree. The tree can be grown in a wide range of conditions as long as it’s given ample sunlight and protection from the cold.
Moringa Tree Care
Moringa Tree grows best in sandy or loamy soil that drains quickly. It needs direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day to grow well. Water deeply when most of the soil dries up. Ideal growing temperatures are 77-95 F (25-35 C). The ideal humidity levels for Moringa trees are 65-85%.
The Moringa Tree is famous for its ability to grow in poor soils and can grow in almost any type of soil with adequate drainage. Moringa grows best in sandy or loamy soil. Make sure the soil is light and not too compacted as it is susceptible to root rot in compacted soil with poor drainage.
Moringa is quite a resilient species when it comes to soil tolerance, it can grow equally well in a wide range of soil types and pH levels.
It grows naturally on the alluvial plains of Southeast Asia, Moringa trees can grow in clay to sandy soil types.
Although it can tolerate clayey soil, Moringa Trees will not withstand waterlogged soils and their health will start to deteriorate if left in soggy, compacted soil even for a few days.
If you have clayey soil, special attention must be given to watering as overwatering and heavier soils can be a fatal combination for these plants.
That said, sandy or loamy soil is perfect for growing healthy Horseradish trees. These trees can tolerate a surprisingly wide and extreme range of soil pH levels from 5 to 9.
However, neutral soil pH between 6.5 – 7.5 is optimum. Any well-draining soil mix is good for growing a Drumstick tree. If you feel the soil is too heavy, add a few parts of sand or perlite to improve drainage and aeration.
Exposure to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day is crucial for Moringa Tree growth. Choose a bright location for your Moringa that receives unobstructed sunlight throughout the day. Plants will show signs of distress and even die if not provided with sunlight for a major part of the day.
You can think of the light requirements for a Moringa tree to be similar to the light requirements for a small cactus, direct sunlight, all day, every day.
Moringa trees enjoy basking in the sun and will only grow well if their light-colored foliage is exposed to the direct sun all day.
If you’re planning to grow a Moringa tree plantation, you must maintain an adequate distance of at least 4-5 meters between each tree so that the trees do not face a lack of direct sunlight as they grow.
If you’ve got a brightly lit spot indoors that receives direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, you can successfully manage to grow this plant indoors.
However, a Moringa Tree will not be able to unleash its full potential in an indoor environment, so you are recommended to grow it outside all year round.
You will, however, have to overwinter it in a bright but warm location in the winter if you live in a cooler climate.
Moringa has amazing drought resistance, but only in mature plants. Generally, Moringa will grow best in consistently moist soil so that it has access to ample soil moisture. These trees are prone to root rot and will not tolerate soil that is too wet. Water deeply when most of the soil dries up.
While Moringa trees are not heavy water drinkers, their already rapid growth speed is further boosted when grown in consistently moist soil.
Young Drumstick trees will need to be watered as soon as the top few inches of the soil dry out to ensure the foliage does not wither off and to maintain growth speed.
As the plant grows into maturity, it develops its drought-resistant qualities and can go for many days without water.
For older Moringa plants, infrequent but deep watering is always better than more frequent, light watering sessions.
These plants will grow better if you let the soil dry out mostly between watering sessions. Waiting for a few days between watering sessions encourages the roots to grow deep into the soil in search of water.
When you feel like most part of the soil has dried up, give the plant a hearty drink of water until the water flows out of the drainage hole.
If the soil is not quick draining, you need to be extra careful not to water these plants too much. Overwatered Moringa Trees will develop symptoms of root rot such as yellowing leaves, and premature leaf drop.
Moringa oleifera is native to tropical and sub-tropical regions and prefers warm to hot temperatures. They grow in plains, below 2000 ft altitude. Ideal growing temperatures are 77-95 F (25-35 C). These plants are hardy to USDA zones 9-10 and can tolerate temperatures as high as 118 F (48 C)!
Moringa Trees grow in naturally warm to hot climates. The heat-loving plant species will only fruit in areas with average temperatures between the 77-86 F (25-30 C) range or greater.
They tolerate the extremely hot Indian summer well and are suitable to grow in semi-arid and arid conditions.
On the other end of the thermometer, Moringa Trees do not perform well in cooler climates and will not fruit, or even grow in USDA zones colder than zone 7.
They can take a light frost, but not prolonged exposure to severely cold temperatures. If you live in USDA zone 9-10, you can grow these plants outdoors all year.
But in zones 7-8, they will only grow if you get warm summers and successfully manage to overwinter the tree in a warm and bright location.
Moringa plants thrive in high humidity, conditions similar to hot jungles and sub-tropical regions. The ideal humidity levels for Moringa trees are 65-85%. These plants will grow the fastest in high humidity. Humidity should be a special consideration when trying to grow Moringa as a houseplant.
Although the Drumstick tree can withstand severe drought periods, as in lack of soil moisture, they will not take well to dry air. These trees need moderate to high humidity to grow well.
If you are growing Moringa outdoors, there’s not much you can do about the atmospheric humidity, and will have to make do with whatever humidity nature gives your trees.
When growing the Moringa oleifera indoors, adequate humidity is the second most critical factor after adequate light levels for the plants.
Without the special humidity needs being met, Moringa plants will not live more than a few days indoors. Using a pebble tray is a recommended method to notch humidity levels up for growing Moringa indoors.
The Moringa Tree can grow 40 feet tall when mature. The tree has an upright growing behavior and does not spread a lot laterally. With deep growing roots and crooked trunk shape, foliage is sparse with tripinnate leaves with small, ovate leaflets. The ends of the branches are green and feathery.
Moringa Oleifera is a deciduous, fast-growing species with feathery leaves and grey, corky bark. The tree predominantly grows more in height than it does in width.
It does not have a heavy shade because the foliage is sparse with small leaflets, arranged in 4-6 pairs on tripinnate leaves. The leaves are alternatively arranged on green, feathery stems.
Only the old wood, such as the trunk and primary branches of the tree are woody. New, actively growing stems are green and still herbaceous with a feathery texture.
Moringa can start blooming as soon as 6 months after plantation and produces fragrant, yellowish-white flowers.
Pruning is an essential part of Moringa Tree care. Being a single-stemmed plant, it will grow very tall if not pruned to maintain a broader shape. Pruning keeps the plant in good health and induced denser foliage. Due to their fast growth, you will have to prune twice a year.
Pruning your Moringa Tree is the most fun part of Moringa Tree Care. Unlike other plants, Moringa Tree pruning is not at all a wistful or regrettable chore.
On the contrary, it’s what we grow Moringa for! You can harvest the foliage and use it in a range of different ways to utilize its nutritiousness.
Moreover, the hard stems can be propagated to grow new Moringa Trees!
Pruning should be done frequently to prevent the Moringa tree from growing too tall. Deadhead the taller stems to induce denser foliage growth.
Always use sharp and sterilized shears to prune off Moringa foliage.
Moringa Tree Propagation
Moringa Tree propagation is as easy as it gets. It can be propagated either through seeds or through stems cuttings. The latter is recommended, plant the cuttings in a moist, sandy mix and place them in bright indirect light at a warm temperature. New growth will sprout in a few weeks.
To grow Moringa from seed, you should bear in mind that these plants will not withstand transplantation at a young stage. So, sow the seeds directly in a bigger pot.
Moringa seeds can germinate within 3-14 days but need to be placed in a moist starting mix at warm temperatures, ideally between 75-90 F (24-32 C).
To propagate cuttings, obtain hardwood stems by making slanting cuts. You can successfully propagate Moringa stems as think as an inch in diameter.
Plant the cuttings in a moist, well-draining mix and keep them in bright indirect light.
To prevent the cuttings from drying out, you can create greenhouse-like conditions by covering the pot or container with a clear plastic bag.
Let the cuttings grow in place for a few months until the root systems have developed well. Still, you are advised to move the cuttings with utmost care as the Moringa does not tolerate transplant shock very well.
Common Problems with Moringa Trees
The Moringa oleifera is a remarkably disease and pest-resistant plant species, one reason why the tree is being popularly cultivated all over the world as a superfood.
While common houseplant pests and diseases can’t harm these trees much, primarily due to their rapid growth pace, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for potential pests and diseases.
Although Moringa can tolerate all kinds of abuse and is not bothered by pest infestations, root rot is one disease that can kill a pretty healthy tree in a matter of days.
That being said, you need to avoid it at all costs. Plant Moringa tree in only well-draining soil and keep special care not to overwater the tree.
If diagnosed early, you might be able to save your Moringa Tree through root rot treatment. Regulate watering immediately and place the plant in a warm, lightly shaded place to recover.
Spider mites, aphids, and hairy caterpillars are common Moringa pests. But worry not, they can’t possibly harm this tough tree.
These pests can be easily dealt with with mild sprays of Neem oil solution every two weeks until the insects are eradicated.
If you can provide this tree with sunlight, warm temperatures, and regulated watering, there’s nothing else you need to do except watch the Moringa tree turn into a beautiful green tree with incredible nutritional value.
Frankly speaking, the care this tree requires is nothing compared to the dozens of incredible health benefits it has to offer. Harvest the leaves or cook the young seed pods as a veggie, enjoy growing Moringa along with consuming valuable vitamins!