Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is a woody perennial herb that is mostly grown for its powerful and enticing scent. Growing patchouli plants from seed and sometimes from cuttings over the past few years has become a common practice in most parts of the world.
This comes as a result of discoveries made on various benefits associated with patchouli oil. Essential oil from patchouli plant is a natural insect repellent.
Moreover, chemical components in it have therapeutic benefits that give patchouli oil the reputation for being a grounding, soothing, and peace-inducing oil.
In today’s article there are several tips on how to grow patchouli be it indoor or outdoor. Read through and you’ll be amazed on how easy it is to grow this versatile herb.
Without much ado, let’s get into it.
7+ Effective Tips for Growing Patchouli Plants from Seed
1. Get patchouli seeds and planting trays
Purchase quality seeds from your local nursery or online from a reputable garden retailer. Seed viability, germination and seedling emergence is determined by the quality of the seeds you buy.
In addition to the seeds, you should purchase wide and shallow bottom holed planting trays. Alternatively, you can use recycled plastic containers, such as yogurt containers with punched holes at the bottom.
Wide planting trays prevents the plants from overcrowding and the holes at the bottom aids in drainage.
You can learn more about pot drainage by reading this article – How to improve drainage in potted plants.
2. Select a suitable site for growing patchouli
Patchouli thrives well in an area of full to partial sun exposure.
So choose a space which offers both sun and shade. It also does well as a house plant under a semi shade on a windowsill or under fluorescent lights.
3. Use suitable soil/ potting mix
Grow your patchouli in moist and well-draining soil. Patchouli is susceptible to nematodes hence the need for keeping the soil moist and not water logged.
Mostly, soil conditions along the entire west coast of the country are ideally suited for patchouli cultivation.
Soil pH between 5.5 and 6.2- 7 is ideal for good performance. Carry out a soil test to confirm the PH level before planting.
You can also choose to use a commercial soilless mix or prepare your own from equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite with a teaspoon or two of lime added to give a pH of about 7.
4. Germinate your patchouli seeds
Step 1: Fill the planting trays with soil or potting mix and place them in a warm place like in front of a window, or under grow lights.
Step 2: Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the trays to fall on the soil/ mix. Gently press the seeds to be barely covered by the soil/ mix.
Step 3: Apply a fine mist of water using a garden sprayer without dislodging the seeds from the soil. At this point you can apply a thin layer of a mixture of 50% milled sphagnum and 50 % starter chicken grit to help prevent pathogens and diseases like dumping-off .
Step 4: Put a plastic wrap over the seed tray to create a humid environment. Water your seeds every time the soil feels dry. Test for soil dryness by putting your finger an inch into the soil and if it feels dry, your plants need to be watered.
Step 5: Make sure that the trays are placed in a place with good air circulation to prevent diseases.
Step 6: After seed germination which should take approximately between one and three weeks, transplant the seedlings into four-inch pots.
Leave them to grow until they fill the pot with roots (look underneath the four-inch pot and you should be able to see the roots through the water holes at the bottom of the pot).
Your seedlings are now ready to be put into a larger pot or in the ground outside.
5. Prepare the land before planting (for outdoor growing)
Prepare your land to a good tilth by ploughing and harrowing. Apply 10 to 20 tonnes of farmyard manure or compost during land preparation.
Broadcast a suitable nematicide, insecticide like viz., Furadan @20 kg/ha. (a.i. 30%) or Dasanit @ 150 kg/ha (a.i. 5%) and mix well into the soil a few days before transplanting.
Lay out the land into 20-25 cm high and 18-22 cm broad ridges with a spacing of 60 cm between the rows.
Irrigate the land a day before you transplant the seedlings.
6. Plant your patchouli seedlings (indoor/ container growing)
Check the depth of the container in which the seedling is growing and dig a hole through the soil/mix equivalent to its size.
Carefully remove the seedlings from the containers and place them in the holes you had earlier dug. Firm the soil/mix down around the herb to remove any air pockets and water thoroughly.
Apply a thin layer of mulch around the patchouli plant to retain moisture.
Pro tip: Patchouli plants are quick to grow, so it is always advisable to have a big sized pot that will offer enough room for plants to grow.
7. Care for your patchouli Plants
Water your plants
Water the plants daily for the first 3 to 4 days after transplanting and subsequently on alternate days for the next 10 to 15 days.
Provide sufficient moisture in the early stages of the plant growth for survival. Water frequently until the plants establish. Subsequently, you only need to water once or twice a week for a period of three weeks.
Of course, this will depend on the prevailing weather conditions as well as the soils’ capacity to hold water.
NB: Patchouli crop is highly susceptible to water logging.
Feed your patchouli plants
Patchouli requires proper balanced feeding in order to obtain optimum yield and quality oil. Feed a basal dose in form of Superphosphate, Muriate of potash and Urea (25 kg N, 50 kg P2 O5 and 50 kg K2 O per hectare).
Top dress the plants with 25 kg N in the form of urea after about two months and likewise for each harvest apply 50 kg N in two split doses (first dose just after the harvest and the other about two months later).
In case the soil is zinc deficient, it is recommended that you apply 25 - 50 kg zinc sulphate per hectare.
You can also spray micronutrients and growth regulators after every harvest BUT only after you have conducted soil tests.
To avoid all this hassle, consider using a formulated patchouli plant food that contains all the necessary nutrients.
Give your crop a clean growing environment
Keep your crop free of weeds during the first 2 – 3 months of crop growth either by hand weeding (mostly for container plants) or by 2-3 times of wheel hoeing (for outdoor plants).
Weed twice before each harvest and perform one weeding cum hoeing after each harvest.
Pruning and pinching back
Patchouli plants can take hard, frequent pruning especially when you want to reduce the plants’ size. So don’t feel afraid of cutting-back each stem to the desired height through the growing season.
Pruning also helps you get rid of dying, diseased or damaged leaves thus preventing your patchouli from leaf blight infection.
Pinch off the leaves at the top of your patchouli’s branches to encourage the plant to become bushy. You can pinch the plant back as soon as one month after you plant it.
Always ensure that the shears are sterilized prior to pruning in order to curb spread of the diseases.
Overwinter patchouli plants
As winter approaches, it is recommended that you move your container grown patchouli plants indoors for protection during harsh winters.
Remember to first acclimate the plants by setting them in a shady area for a few days prior to bringing them inside. This will prevent shock caused by the sudden changes in temperature.
Also reduce watering in order to allow the plants to go into dormancy.
8. Pests and Disease Management
Patchouli is susceptible to Root-knot Nematode (Meloidogyne Incognita) attacks.
Infected plants show symptoms like stunted growth and wilting. The infested plants later droop and perish within 2 to 3 months of infestation.
As I had earlier mentioned, application of an insecticide- nematicide at recommended rate for example Furadan @ 20 kg / ha (3% a.i.) or Dasanit 150 kg /ha (5% a.i.) helps in dealing with the infection.
Grow periwinkle on borders of the field to protect the crop from nematode infestation biologically (if you are growing patchouli outdoors).
Although patchouli resists most insects, sometimes you might come across whiteflies.
In case of mild infestations, shower the plants with a strong jet of water to wash off the insects. If infestation persists, spray patchouli plants with an insecticidal soap spray until the leaves are completely coated.
Reapply the spray whenever the whiteflies return.
Use can also use diatomaceous earth to keep off insects.
Leaf Blight (Cercospora sp) is a very common disease in patchouli plants.
The plants shows signs such as appearance of brown spots near the margins or at the apical region of the leaves when they are almost one year old.
These spots enlarge irregularly, coalesce, and cover the entire lamina and the leaves gradually dry up.
To control infection, apply two sprays of the recommended fungicides for example Dithane Z-78 0.5%, at one-month interval.
9. Harvesting patchouli leaves
Start harvesting your patchouli 4 to 6 months after transplanting with subsequent harvest intervals of about 3-4 months depending upon soil fertility, climate and management practices.
Harvest your plants in mid-morning, after the dew dries when the essential oils have peaked to get maximum benefit from the plant.
Avoid premature harvesting as it gives less yield and oil of inferior quality. A good crop should yield about 2 tonnes of dry leaves per annum.
Expect good yield and high quality oil in the first 2 or 3 harvests of newly planted plantation.
The crop can be maintained for up to 3 years.
You’ve just read some of the most effective tips for growing patchouli plants from seed.
To recap, you need to assemble everything you need beforehand. Things like high quality seeds, planting trays, as well as appropriate potting soil.
Make sure that you get this from credible suppliers.
Next, you need to start your seedlings and then transplant once they’ve grown a bit older. Take care of your patchouli plants by watering correctly, feeding, and watching out for pest and diseases.
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll produce healthy, high quality, and good yielding patchouli crop.
Now it’s your turn.
If you’re already growing patchouli plants successfully, I’d love to know what else you’re doing. Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share this article.