Tips to care for your Curry Leaf Plant in winter

Fall seemed so short this year!
It feels colder than last November as far as I can recollect and I couldn’t help turning the heater on rather early as opposed to Thanksgiving last year. Winter is undeniably here already and it is also that time of the year to care for our garden plants, especially the vulnerable tropicals like the Curry Leaf plant.
Curry leaf is synonymous to, as much it is in-disposable in South Indian cooking where almost every seasoning starts or ends with it. That said, a curry leaf plant in the garden be it in the backyard or the balcony, is quite a handy and precious possession. Nothing comes close to the satisfaction of growing one’s own herbs and using them fresh from the garden as and when the need arises. It is the kind that belongs to the tiny joys of life..

With the kind of simple pleasure one gets to enjoy during spring, summer and early fall having a curry leaf plant potted in the garden, comes the responsibility of caring for its survival through the American winter. Being a tropical/sub-tropical plant/tree, it wasn’t meant for cold climates and hence, we need to go the extra mile for it.

Here are a few tips from my learning and experience with the curry plant:
Because it needs full sun, it is well suited to grow outdoors. However, even if you have a huge backyard garden, it is better to grow it potted as it is conveniently movable indoors away from the harsh weather during the winter months.
Place them in the sun during the day and move indoors before it gets dark and colder.
Pour warm water instead of cold.
Occasionally sprinkle salt water on the leaves to wash away dirt, bugs and mites or mold if any.
Place indoors in a warm spot away from the draft or windows
Make sure there is plenty of light wherever you place them indoors. White light works well if you do not have enough sunlight coming  in.
If you must leave them outside for whatever reason, cover the plant with black trash bags and secure them around the pot. Few support sticks about the height of the plant inserted into the pot can help hold the trash bag in place. Plastic acts as a barrier to the cold winds and keeps the plant warmer by about 5°-10°F
If you are travelling, request a willing friend or neighbor to routinely water the plant and move it outdoors and indoors during daylight and at dusk respectively.
In the absence of another caregiver, they can be placed in the bath tub with some water filled in, for the roots to absorb. Do not forget to leave the lights on.
Follow this routine especially strictly around february frost or freeze. No matter how much you care up until then, if you give in for one day on the frost, the plant might slip away from you forever
Do insert plant food sticks if the plant has been potted for more than 4-5 months.Even though the plant might seem to shed all its leaves (which is natural for the season), just let it hang in there. Once the plant survives past couple or more winters, it will be strong enough to withstand the weather.
If you haven’t potted the plant, do so next spring and preferably in a wide pot with a spout at the bottom, so it can hold extra water for the roots when you are travelling.

NOTE: Most or all of these tips are equally applicable and helpful for the Tulsi plant or “The Indian Holy Basil”
culinaryherbguide and mylogmyblog have useful information on growing herbs and winter care for tropical plants respectively
Do you have any special tips to share?

Summer 2013 Update: This summer, I have had the biggest revelation for a prolific curry leaf plant. It seems that bath salt or Epsom salt is the magic potion that makes them grow like bushes. Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate which is great for plants. It can be used for most plants including vegetable, fruits and flowering plants.

Which reminds me, we had a curry leaf tree in my grandfather’s house and we were told to feed it with sambar and buttermilk and it would grow well. I never understood then. Now I know why!

use a tbsp of salt diluted in a gallon of water and feed it to the plant when the soil is relatively dry and about twice a month, not more than that (or it burns the root)

Try it and you’ll surely come back and tell me tall tales of pride about your great looking curry leaf or any other plant. Good Luck!

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64 thoughts on “Tips to care for your Curry Leaf Plant in winter

  1. i planted curry leaves in the back yard few years ago, it seems to have survived, if u plant it outdoors be aware of freeze warning and cover the base with mulch or decomposable tarp to save the roots from frost bite.

  2. Kathy & Manju,
    If you are keen on planting one, chances of finding the plant are high in Indian temples or bigger Indian grocery stores or world food markets. That is where I found mine. If you happen to know someone who owns a decently tall curry leaf plant, a stem cutting can be used to propagate as well. In any case, spring will be your best bet..
    Good luck with the hunt Kathy :)

  3. Hi Radhika,
    This is an awesome post…i’m on hunt for curry leaf plant for so long but cudn’t find it. Plesae let me knw where exactly i can get it. Will a stem frm grcocery store be successful in a pot, if transplanted ???? thanks and enjoy ur holidays, sonia !

    • Sonia,

      So glad you found it useful. I’m afraid a curry leaf stalk from the grocery store (if that is what you meant?) will propagate into a plant.
      You’d need a stem cutting from a healthy plant for that. South Indian temples, Indian grocery stores or world markets like I said in the post are some of the likely places to find one.
      Good luck!

    • I have about 20 plants,I live in Michigan which has some of the coldest winters.I am happy to inform that my plants are thriving and anyone who wants one can write to me..this year there were flowers and seeds on the plant and now I hv so many more growing,dont have the heart to pluck them out,but my house is full of the potted plants.Also have kanagambaram,tulsi,jasmine(fragrant ones),mogras,hibiscus,gardenia,all types of herbs,haldi,ginger

      • Hi Ranjini,
        We are going to buy a house and first thing I want to plant is curry plant. But I don’t know where to get one. Can you please be able to ship it to MA and I would be happy to pay you the plant and shipping price.
        Thank you,
        Susmita

      • Hi Rajani, I just accidentally lost my 8 year old curry plant and the seeds never sprouted. I live in Ann Arbor, anyway I can get a plant from you?

      • Hi! I just now read your post about you having many curry leaf plants. I live in MN and I know now would not be a good time to mail a plant. I would be interested in obtaining a plant or seeds from you later in the Spring if you still have extra’s. I had one and it died. I got another one and over the winter it is not looking real healthy, but I am hoping that once Spring gets here that if I repot it and put it out in the sun maybe it will survive. What is kanagambaram and also tulsi and mogras and again haldi. I think I will look those up as I have not heard of those and I love herbs and unusual plants. Thanks Dorothy

      • i have one curry leaf plant in my kitchen.some one advised me to cut the top part of the plant, so it will grow new branches from the bottom part of the plant.is that right? mine is only 1 and a half year old plant.please advice.

      • Hi Ranjini, Read your message about the curry leaf plant and I am in Awe. I live in sunny Ca but I have managed to kill 2 plants so far. I am back with a vengeance to grow one this year. I have bought a curry leaf plant , about 6 inches tall. They are outside now.. Can you give me pointers on fertilizers, when to prune etc and when I should bring them inside.

  4. Oh plants propagate from a cutting? Great!

    I have several plants in pots. One got far too dry this winter and I thought it had died. I cut it back quite hard, and come Spring, it sprouted new leaves. Now it is the healthiest of my four plants! :) [It is summer here now.]

  5. You have a Curry Leaf plant Ganga? How nice!
    Yes, it needs a good amount of cutting and pruning to keep it growing through spring and summer. A good healthy plant is a thing of pure joy, no doubt :)
    Enjoy your summer! Brrr… it is cold here..

  6. Thanks for the tips, Radhika. I will see if the leaf stalks from a grocery store will grow roots when placed in a glass of water next time I get hands on them. However, as you said, I also doubt it will work out. I’ll let you know :-)

  7. Thanks. Any special tips for re-potting the volunteers at the base of a Curry Leaf Plant? Any special soil I should use? Should I wait until spring? Help!

    • Pam, think you could wait until spring as they’d have little chance surviving the feb frost on their own..
      Potting mix worked fine for me, just gotto make sure to re-vitalize it every 3-4 months with either liquid plant food or pellets, sunshine and water should take care of the rest :)

  8. can u plz tell me how to grow a curry leaf plant (is it a seed which has to be planted or is it a plant which has to be planted I would love to have a plant and I live in canada so plz let me know regards pervin a

    • You can grow curry leaf plant from seeds, from clipping off a sucker plant from the roots of an existing tree or propagating a stem. I find it easier to grow from seeds but there is a specific procedure to prepare the seeds for germination. If you want to grow from seeds then the seeds have to be ripe on the tree or recently fallen off the tree. It needs to be planted right away. Keeping the seeds for too long will reduce its chances of germinating. In USA and Canada the seeds become ripe in late October. Since its winter you have to germinate it indoors at temperatures over 70 degrees F unless you have a climate controlled green house.

      There are a number of websites that sell curry leaf plants for around $10 to $15 which you can order online. You can search for it from your web browser. Best time to buy would be spring time when the dangers of frost have gone by.

      If you want to get some ideas of how to plant I have a facebook page which may give you some ideas. https://www.facebook.com/Mycurryleaf.

      ps: I am not selling any plants or seeds……..

  9. Hi , this post is very informative.
    I heard from couple of my friends, that the leaves cannot be plucked before the plant reaches a certain height. Is it true and how big the plant should grow before I start plucking the leaves. I have planted the curry leaf plant in the ground. I am from Phoenix, AZ…

  10. Hi ,i read your post ,but i had a question i got a plant from my friend ,i planted it all the leaves dried so i plucked them away and the stems are getting dark day by day,i just want to know if these conditions persists will the plant die..

  11. For curry plant, I have question is what size of pot should be required which is ideal for the plant which is almost 1.5′ high and two cold seasons old
    Thanks and have a nice day
    C.C.Udani known as CK

  12. Pingback: Genasaale – Steamed Rice Cakes Stuffed with Coconut & Jaggery, a guest post for Radhika of ‘Just Home Made’ | love food eat

  13. Question, even in winter (non snow days for sure) do u take the plant outside and bring it back in? Will the morning cold / wind not hurt it?

  14. I have my curry plant in my backyard in pot.. Its been now 1& half year.. Suddenly i found that fruits or flower came & now its not growing.. Its stop increasing.. Can u please advise me what i should do?

    • Jalpa,
      That means your curry leaf plant is getting all the sunshine and nutrients it needs. It is not easy for this plant to bear fruits and flowers. so, That’s awesome! But, since you noticed that it has stopped growing now, it may be a good idea to shift it out of the pot into the soil in a good sunny spot, if you do not stay in a cold place. If, you do stay in a colder place, then try feeding it some plant food in the form of pellets or liquids. Let me know how it goes..

  15. my neighbours gave me baby curry leave plant in august and I have had it in my kitchen near the window where the sunlight comes thru but recently I have notice it has something like cobwebs on them and I dont know what to do and why is this happening? can you please help…I live in NJ and am in apartment so I have no garden either..Thanks

  16. I live in San Jose, CA. My curry leaf plant is attacked by some insects. How should I protect them from insects and they are also getting black. How do I protect them?

    • Uma, I feel your pain. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing your curry leaf plant suffer and feel helpless about it.
      Leaves turned black does not sound good. Could you describe the kind of insects you see.
      Is it in a pot or in the ground? San Jose weather should be good for this plant.
      Leaves turned black does not sound good. In the meanwhile, please make sure it is in the sun full time, no over watering. As for the insects, try applying a mix of baking soda, dish soap, salt and vinegar diluted in a mug of water, wiped over the parts of the plant where u see the insects( if clinging) using a tissue. Make sure you are wearing gloves.
      Hope this helps.

      • Thanks Radhika for replying back. I have put the curry leaf plant in a big plastic black bucket. Insects look very tiny and white in color. When I look closely they seem to crawl over the leaves. Can the leaves getting black be due to less fertilizer?

  17. hii…m staying in Arizona & planning to plant curry leaves. but the problem is, m not able to fing curry leaves seeds or small plant…can anyone help me.
    thanks in advance.

  18. I live in San Jose, CA. As the spring is in now, I have put some plants like Squash, Cucumber etc. My problem is squirrels come and eat them up. How can I take care of this issue?

  19. My curry leaf plant is very healthy with lustious green leaves and has been growing very well ever since I changed it to a bigger pot. But today I kept it outside because it started getting warm in Chicago but because of wind it just broke at the bottom. Literally it broke my heart. Wondering if I cut it at the bent point the surviving stem beneath it would sprout or what? also should i plant the stem from the broken side as well? Let me know.
    Thanks a bunch!

      • Hi Radhika,
        Just wanted to let you know that the stub sprout out :D it is growing really beautifully now. Thanks for the blog I learnt quite a bit about this plant and how strong it is. It took a long while for it to come back but it did. If not for this blog I would have given up hope and would not have waited this long to check on the plant.
        Thanks a bunch!

      • I’m so happy to hear about your plant!
        Really. Because, mine went through that phase once and I know how great it feels to not give up on them when they turn around almost miraculously..
        Yay! To you lovely survivor!

  20. I’m not sure how I came across your utterly beautiful blog, but I’m glad I did. A bit late, I might add — we had a home in Houston until just the other day, and relocated to India after living there upwards of two decades. It would have been fun to meet you, or to connect with the other food bloggers who call Houston home. I write still about Houston some on my blog now, and still miss the place dearly. Ah well, perhaps it’s a sign I ought to organize a retreat in Pondy someday?! On cultivating curry leaf plants in Houston, I found that planting mine in the hot-hot sun never worked (I nearly killed my plant, and they are among the hardiest things around) but part shade did the trick. We soon had a tree that nearly brought the house down. In India, we’re in an apartment, so the potted route might well be mine–just for the simple pleasure of picking the leaves directly from a plant before seasoning anything. Would love to stay in touch!

  21. I brought my curry plants indoor for the winter. It is in a warm place with part direct and part indirect sunlight. Now they are shedding leaves. Is that normal? Also one of them is growing straight, about 4 ft. Some suggest that if the top is trimmed, the branches will grow from the side. Is that true? When should be trimmed? When is a plant ready for picking the leaves?

    • Ranjini,
      Shedding leaves is not uncommon.
      Trimming or plucking the strands helps keep only the stem from growing straight and tall. Yes, it does begin to grow branches off the side. Trim the plant only after the weather begins to be warmer i.e after spring. When the leaves appear mature, dark green in color and the stalks long, they are ready to pick. In fact, picking promotes more growth. Just make sure to not pick the plant empty.

  22. Hi, I recently acquired two small curry plants that are grown in plastic cups. I want to move them to a bigger pot,should i put them together or in a different pot. Which potting soil should i use? My apartment is cold, so how should I take care of it? Also, I was told to not grow them in plastic pot,but to put in clay pot is that true? Does it matter which pot I use? I am in chicago .thanks

  23. Hi,
    I am Uma from San Jose CA. I planted a curry leaf last year and this year that plant gave out some seeds. I just wanted to know whether can I store the seeds and plant it in next year spring or if I plant it now will it germinate. Also wanted to know being the first time that I am grow a curry leaf plant from a seed how to plant them? I would appreciate if you can reply me back.

    Uma

  24. The cold in the Bay Area shocked my Curry Plant which dropped all it’s branches. The main stem is still green and the spots where the old branches existed are still green. Will the plant revive in the spring? The plant is a year old.

  25. Thank you for a very informative article!
    I received a very small plant from a friend during summer months & it grew so well into a nice big beautiful plant with babies until one day cold breeze got it by accident & it turned black & seems to have died on me :( one baby plant in the pot seems green. Is there something I can do to save it & help it grow well! We live in PA, currently it’s snowy-icy winter times so the pot is indoors. Thank you for all your tips!

  26. Hi Radhika, came across this blog today n really liked it. I live in Canada. I have few curry leaf plants in pots.I keep them indoors the whole year through. Was wondering if you have any tips on what soil mix to use when its time to re pot. Thanks

  27. This is a great article, thank you for the information.

    I have a unique (??) curry sapling problem and would appreciate some help. I potted two of these late spring last year. These do not appear to have taken well over winter. They have shed all their leaves. Is there a chance they will come back this spring? Is there anything i can do for them to come back? Thank you so much.

  28. I have a curry leaf plant in a 13″ pot and the plant is about 44″ tall. I have had this over a year. The plant does not look healthy, looks stringy & now I see the leaves are turning black. However I do not see any insects. I do periodically clip leaves from the top for cooking. The pot is in a semi shaded area outside (Dallas area). I do water daily. Could I be over-watering? Please give some tips

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