Cultural Requirements for Tea Tree
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Barbara Tryfos
Posted: Before April 1998

I would appreciate information about cultural requirements of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia) as a houseplant, especially watering and pruning. Does it prefer to be kept moist, or to dry out between waterings? Will pruning encourage a bushy shape? Or is it more natural for it to grow straight up without branches?

Also, what about feeding? It is in a small pot - not much larger than the one it came in last summer. The roots do not yet fill the pot, and it is putting out new growth, especially since the days are lengthening. I feed it only occasionally - maybe once every couple of months - with a balanced plant food; would you recommend any change? Thank you very much.

Tea tree needs full sun and well-drained soil, not particularly high in nitrogen. It tolerates waterlogged soil in nature, but to be safe, water potted plants moderately, and less often in cooler temperatures. Tea tree is frost tender, so it needs to be wintered indoors.

You can prune the plant to keep it bushy and manageable in size. In Australia plants are harvested before they are six months old to maximize the oil yield, so we know the plant is tolerant of pruning. We do not recommend any change in your fertilizer regime. You will need to move the plant up to a larger pot when the roots fill the pot.

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