Patchouli and Other Scented Plants in Tanzania
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Meg Joyce
Posted on: March 18, 2001

Greetings from Tanzania. I would be most grateful for some advice. We are medical volunteers here in Arusha, Northern Tanzania, where almost everything grows. The Dutch are working here growing roses for the mass European market and as an adjunct to our medical work, and the Belgians are growing Artemisia for malaria treatment.

We have a hand made soap project for HIV widows, as a desperate adjunct to our medical work (30% HIV rate in our area -- so much desperation). We also have access to 25 acres of land and were thinking of growing some scented plants we could use for that but also perhaps some medicinal plants as a financial venture to support purchase of medicines at some stage. Fortunately, one of our colleagues is married to a horticulturist

I would be interested in acquiring some Pogostemon cablin to experiment with growing, but would also very much appreciate any advice you might have to expand the project. You may find our very simple web site on

Pogostemon cablin is the scientific name for patchouli. Patchouli is listed in our catalogue with the scientific name synonym, P. patchouli (also spelled P. patchouly).

Patchouli should grow very well in Tanzania. It is a heat-loving member of the mint family and is easy to start from seeds. We carry seeds and plants. The seeds are very small, about 11,000 seeds per gram. From one packet of seeds you can establish several hundred plants. Because the seeds are small, we recommend that you start them in a seed flat and not sown directly in the ground. In a seed flat, you can care for the tiny seedlings better until they are ready to transplant to flats, pots or beds. Once they are 3-5 cm tall, you can transplant to the field in rows. The intra-row spacing should be 30-45 cm, and the inter-row spacing should be at least the same, or bigger to allow access for machine or manual weeding.

There are many other aromatic herbs that could be considered also. Some of the lavenders may succeed in your area if roses do. Rosemary may be another possibility. Another may be scented geraniums. On the medicinal side there are even more possibilities.

Each crop though needs to be carefully tested in trial gardens in your area to prove their agronomic and commercial viability. Markets are always a challenge for new herb operations because the markets are diverse and highly fragmented. You may be best to start with crops that can work with the soap-making project: patchouli and other scented crops may be your best bet to start with. Once established, other opportunities, including export markets, will materialize for your aromatic crops. It is wise to begin slowly allowing your project several years to develop and reach profitability.

An excellent start is to read Richters Herb Farming Series e-book, "Getting Starting: Important Considerations for the Herb Farmer". You can order it online.

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