We often get asked about some of the less common herbs and whether it is ‘worth’ growing them at all. My answer is always 100% yes and the curry plant is a lovely example, so I thought I would share a bit more to help convince you to grow your own too.
The Curry Plant Helichrysum Italicum is native to the Mediterranean, therefore it loves good drainage and semi-fertile soil with plenty of full sunlight. It is an evergreen perennial and will benefit from protection against harsher frosts in the UK or USDA zones 8-11. You can propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late Summer.
There is a little bit more to it then that so I will go through the first year of growing and how to nurture your plants before a harsh winter as well as propagation for the following Summer.
Growing A Curry Plant
There are two main ways to grow curry plants; from seed or by cuttings from a mature plant. I will show you both, but be prepared to have a little wait on your hands for flowering.
Growing a Curry Plant Helichrysum Italicum From Seed
- Use a tray of well watered potting compost. Make sure to have a heated propagator if sowing outside of Spring – Autumn. The ideal sowing period for curry plants can be all year with this hardy perennial, as long as you keep the temperature between 16-21 C during germination.
- Sprinkle the tiny curry plant seeds, available here, over the surface of the moist compost. Dampen off with a water spritzer.
- Cover and leave in a sunny spot with plenty of warmth. Curry plants will germinate within 3 weeks of sowing.
- When the curry plant seedlings are large enough to handle transplant them to a 3 inch pot with plenty of drainage added.
- As far as soil quality goes, curry plants are not really fussy, they will need adequate drainage and plenty of sunshine. They are frost tolerant and drought tolerant, but we would recommend watering during extended periods of dryness.
- Whilst generally pest free, curry plants are susceptible to powdery mildews and protection or awareness may be required.
- From sowing to full maturity your curry plant will take between 2-5 years, depending on how you prune. To encourage a bushier shrub, cut back in Summer after flowering. However your curry plant will grow to around 0.5 meters high and almost 1 meters in spread. Perfect for borders and midway in any flowering herb bed.
How To Propagate Curry Plants From Cuttings
Let’s start off by answering the question, where can I buy a curry plant ? You will be able to grow your curry plant from seed or by purchasing a 9cm plant available here. As it is an unusual herb a specialist online nursery is often the best option.
- Take a semi-hardwood cutting of your curry plant at around 4 inches in length. Mid-Summer should be the right time for this. Choose healthy stems, free from any signs of damage. Ideally no buds as yet either.
- Remove the lower 2-3 inches of leaves and allow the leaves to sort of take a bit of the outer skin of the curry plant stem with them. This will be where the roots start to emerge.
- Prepare pots of 9cm (3inches) in diameter with a 50:50 mix of potting soil and perlite. Water well and put to one side.
- Use an organic rooting gel, available here, to dip your cuttings in to. This is to limit the chance of root rot. You are going to leave your cuttings in a suitable location over winter, so you need some protection.
- Using a stick make a hole in the potting compost mix and then put your curry plant cuttings into each hole. Using a finger either side of the cutting, firm it down in place. You can fit around 5 cuttings into a pot this size.
- Make a little wooden frame from some larger twigs and put a clear plastic bag over the pot. The wooden frame should stop the bag from touching the curry plant cuttings as this would encourage rotting and mold.
- Leave in a cold frame or suitable greenhouse for overwintering. You will need to check back occasionally, however Spring is when the curry plant cuttings will need moving to a sunnier spot.
- Come Summer you can transplant your curry plant cuttings to larger pots or plant directly. They will need adequate sun, a little water and not too much wind.
The flowers are particularly nice when dried and put into a herb wreath. They retain their gorgeous yellow intense color and a little of their smell. Curry plant leaves are not suitable to be added to curries in the way you may be thinking. A sprig of this herb can be added in the same way as a bouquet garni, but it will only add a strong bitter flavor. Not a curry flavor as you may think.
Let’s look at more detail as to where the confusion comes in.
Curry Plant vs Curry Leaf Plant
There are many notable differences between the two plants. From general appearance to how to grow. They are also used in completely different ways. Curry plant would most likely be stewed in a Mediterranean style dish, where as curry leaves would be used in ghee to make complex curries.
A Curry Plant ;
- Asteraceae family
- Native to the Mediterranean and Adriatic.
- Medium shrub growing to up to 60 cm in height.
- Other names include Italian strawflower and immortelle
- Producing bright yellow flowers in clusters.
- Can be propagated by cuttings or grown from seed
- Used rarely in cooking, as although it smells of curry it tastes bitter like wormwood.
- Silver foliage similar to lavender, until it comes to aroma, as it smells like curry
A Curry Leaf Plant
- Rutaceae family
- Native to the Indian subcontinent.
- Small tree growing to 4-6 meters in height.
- Other names include sweet neem and Murraya koenigii
- Produces white flowers that then produce the sticky seed
- Can be grown from the seeds or by using leaves or cuttings.
- Used widely in Indian cuisine, by frying in ghee or using like a bay leaf
- Green foliage similar to bay leaves in robustness, but leaves grow from one branch
- Curry Leaf Plant – A Complete Guide
- How To Grow Angelica In The UK
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – A Grower’s Guide To Success
Why not give this little herb a go? A hardy perennial that is also evergreen can never be wrong, surely?
Please let us know if you do decide to go for it.