Curry in a Hurry

In central Pennsylvania, blogger Kenny Point’s garden is already waking up, and here in Brooklyn, seedlings are popping up in my window sill seed-starter kit. But as I await my usual springtime plant shipment, I’m thinking about planting something I’ve never tried growing before: Murraya koenigii, a.k.a. curry leaf. Since I cook Indian food regularly, I’m constantly schlepping to a not-so-local Indian grocery to pick up fresh curry leaves. A plant would save me some time and money, but I had to do some research to figure out how curry leaves grow.

For anyone else who is interested, they grow on smallish subtropical/tropical trees, which are native to India (duh). Apparently, theses trees have grown successfully in Southern California, and one GardenWeb user from Arizona says her curry leaf tree grew from 12 inches to 8 or 9 feet tall in the span of two years (scroll down for photos—this gal won’t be schlepping to the Indian grocery anytime soon). Another GardenWebber claims that her potted Murraya koenigiihas gone nuts” and outgrown her apartment, so she is wondering how to root the thing to grow smaller plants from it. One commenter claims that it’s so easy to root that you can grow plants from the curry leaves you buy in the spice aisle:

I have started this plant from leaf cuttings I purchased at the grocery. I just strip the lower leaves & put it in the ground in moist dense soil. The density & consistency resembles a ‘dry mud.’ If the soil is too porous the leaves will drop … I use a chopstick to make the hole, put the cutting stem in, & tamp down the soil. … Within a short period of time I have a small tree.

None of the other GardenWeb users is backing up this claim, so sticking a curry leaf in your garden may not result in a 10-foot tree. Mae of Malibu, from the UBC Botanical Garden forum, can’t seem to get her curry plant to grow taller than 2 feet. (Another user suggests pumping it up with some high-nitrogen fertilizer, which is often sold for azaleas.) For anyone else who wants to take his or her chances with a curry leaf plant, they’re available in 2.5-inch pots from Logee’s Tropical Plants for $11.95. And if you’re a proud cultivator of Murraya koenigii, please don’t hesitate to share some gardening tips.

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