[2023] Can Tea Grow in North Carolina?

Quick Answer

Yes, tea can grow in North Carolina. The state’s climate and soil conditions make it suitable for growing tea plants, particularly Camellia sinensis, the plant used to make black, green, oolong, and white tea. With the right care and cultivation techniques, tea enthusiasts in North Carolina can enjoy homegrown teas that rival those from traditional tea-growing regions.

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Quick Tips and Facts

  • Tea can be grown in North Carolina due to its suitable climate and soil conditions.
  • Camellia sinensis is the primary tea plant cultivated for making various types of tea.
  • The best time to harvest tea leaves is during the new growth in March.
  • It takes three to five years for tea plants to mature before they can be harvested.
  • Tea plants can be grown as hedges in residential gardens or alongside fields, forests, or fences.
  • North Carolina has small farms, such as RambleRill Farm in Hillsborough, that are starting to grow tea.
  • Homegrown teas from North Carolina can yield delicious flavors and be enjoyed year-round.


Tea has a rich history and is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. While countries like China, India, and Japan are well-known for their tea production, tea can also be grown in other regions with suitable climates and soil conditions. North Carolina, with its diverse climate and fertile soil, is one such region where tea cultivation is possible.

Tea Cultivation in North Carolina

North Carolina’s climate and soil conditions make it an ideal location for growing tea plants. The state’s moderate temperatures, ample rainfall, and well-drained soils provide a favorable environment for tea cultivation. The primary tea plant grown in North Carolina is Camellia sinensis, which is used to produce various types of tea, including black, green, oolong, and white tea.

Tea plants thrive in regions with a temperate climate, and North Carolina’s climate falls within the suitable range for tea cultivation. The state’s average annual temperature ranges from 55°F to 65°F (12.8°C to 18.3°C), which is favorable for tea plant growth. Additionally, North Carolina receives an average annual rainfall of 40 to 60 inches (101.6 to 152.4 cm), providing the necessary moisture for tea plants.

Tea Plant Varieties

There are two main varieties of Camellia sinensis that are cultivated for tea production: Camellia Sinensis var sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var assamica. These varieties have slight differences in their growth habits, leaf characteristics, and flavor profiles.

  • Camellia Sinensis var sinensis: This variety is commonly grown in regions with cooler climates, such as China and Japan. It has smaller leaves and is known for producing delicate and aromatic teas, such as green and white tea.

  • Camellia Sinensis var assamica: This variety is typically grown in regions with warmer climates, such as India and Sri Lanka. It has larger leaves and is known for producing robust and full-bodied teas, such as black and oolong tea.

In North Carolina, both varieties can be grown successfully, depending on the specific microclimate and growing conditions of the area. Tea enthusiasts can choose the variety that best suits their preferences and the local climate.

Tea Cultivation Techniques

To successfully grow tea in North Carolina, it is important to follow proper cultivation techniques. Here are some key tips for tea cultivation:

  1. Site Selection: Choose a location with well-drained soil and partial shade. Tea plants prefer acidic soil with a pH range of 5.0 to 6.0.

  2. Planting: Plant tea seedlings or cuttings in early spring or fall. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball and place the plant at the same depth it was in the container. Space the plants about 3 to 4 feet apart to allow for proper air circulation.

  3. Watering: Tea plants require regular watering, especially during dry periods. Provide enough water to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

  4. Fertilization: Apply a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for acid-loving plants, such as azalea or camellia fertilizer, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fertilize in early spring and again in late summer.

  5. Pruning: Prune tea plants in early spring to remove any dead or damaged branches. This helps promote new growth and maintains the plant’s shape.

  6. Harvesting: The best time to harvest tea leaves is during the new growth in March. Pick the young, tender leaves and buds, as they contain the highest concentration of flavor compounds.

  7. Processing: After harvesting, tea leaves can be processed to make different types of tea. The processing methods vary depending on the desired tea type, whether it’s black, green, oolong, or white tea.

Pros and Cons of Growing Tea in North Carolina

Like any agricultural endeavor, growing tea in North Carolina has its advantages and challenges. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


Suitable Climate: North Carolina’s climate provides favorable conditions for tea cultivation, with moderate temperatures and ample rainfall.

Diverse Tea Varieties: Both Camellia Sinensis var sinensis and var assamica can be successfully grown in North Carolina, allowing for a wide range of tea varieties to be produced.

Homegrown Flavor: Growing tea in North Carolina allows tea enthusiasts to enjoy the unique flavors and aromas of locally grown teas.

Sustainable Agriculture: Tea cultivation promotes sustainable agriculture practices, such as organic farming and biodiversity conservation.


Pest and Disease Management: Tea plants can be susceptible to pests and diseases, such as aphids, mites, and fungal infections. Proper pest and disease management practices are necessary to ensure healthy plant growth.

Labor and Time Intensive: Tea cultivation requires regular care and maintenance, including watering, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting. It can be labor and time-intensive, especially for larger tea gardens.

Market Competition: The tea market is competitive, and establishing a niche for North Carolina-grown teas may require marketing efforts and building relationships with tea enthusiasts and retailers.

Despite the challenges, many tea growers in North Carolina have successfully established tea gardens and are producing high-quality teas that are gaining recognition in the industry.


Blackened tea leaves

What states can you grow tea?

Tea can be grown in several states across the United States, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington. These states have suitable climates and soil conditions for tea cultivation.

Read more about “… What Environment Does Tea Need to Grow? The Ultimate Guide”

How far north can tea grow?

Tea can be grown as far north as the 45th parallel in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the specific climate and microclimate of the region play a significant role in determining the success of tea cultivation. In North America, tea cultivation is most common in the southeastern states, where the climate is more favorable for tea plants.

Read more about “How Many Years Does It Take to Grow Tea? …”

What zone does tea grow in?

Tea plants are typically grown in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9. These zones have the right combination of temperature and climate conditions for tea cultivation. In North Carolina, tea can be grown in zones 7 and 8, which cover most of the state.

Read more about “How Long Does It Take to Grow a Tea Plant? …”

Where is the best place to grow tea in the US?

The southeastern states, often referred to as the “Camellia Belt,” are considered the best places to grow tea in the United States. This region includes states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, where the climate and soil conditions are most suitable for tea cultivation.

Read more about “… How Hard is it to Grow Your Own Tea?”


Tea cultivation in North Carolina is not only possible but also rewarding for tea enthusiasts. The state’s climate and soil conditions provide a favorable environment for growing tea plants, particularly Camellia sinensis. With proper care and cultivation techniques, tea growers in North Carolina can produce high-quality teas that rival those from traditional tea-growing regions.

Whether you’re a tea lover looking to grow your own tea or a farmer interested in diversifying your crops, North Carolina offers a promising opportunity for tea cultivation. By following the right practices and embracing the unique flavors of locally grown teas, you can contribute to the growing tea industry in North Carolina.

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