Can You Grow Moringa in Cold Climates?

Moringa Oleifera, also known as the drumstick tree, is native to India and the Indian subcontinent. Over the past several centuries, Moringa has spread across the world, from Africa to the Philippines to South America.

In fact, if you live anywhere even remotely near the equator, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve unknowingly seen Moringa trees growing all over the place. In other words, we know that Moringa does a pretty good job of growing where it’s warm. But will Moringa grow in cold climates, too?

Can you Grow Moringa in Cold Climates?

Moringa is a tropical tree, and it grows much more easily in warm climates than it does in cold ones. However, while the Moringa tree will die in snow or if the ground freezes, by taking a few precautions–insulating the roots, creating microclimates, or keeping your trees indoors–there are ways to keep your Moringa tree alive even in cooler climates.

Growing Moringa is a fascinating thing, especially when you take into account where this plant originated from.

More information about growing moringa in colder climates is below.

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Want to know where to find the right gear to grow your Moringa? Or the right Moringa Product to buy? Check out our Buyer’s Guide, we review it all there!

Moringa’s Ideal Growing Conditions Are In Warmer Weather

If you’re at all familiar with gardening, you probably already know a lot about hardiness zones. If you don’t know what your zone is, don’t worry! Those of you who live in the US can find your hardiness zone here, on the USDA website. Those based outside of the US can instead find your hardiness zone here.

Moringa grows best in Zones 9-11–in other words, in climates that most mimic northwestern India, where Moringa comes from. It’s an extremely hardy plant; it can survive triple-digit weather, periods of drought, and dry soil. But because its adaptations are more suited for hot climates, cold ones can be dangerous.

Moringa can absolutely grow in cold climates and can survive short periods of freezing (or even below freezing) weather. They go dormant in wintertime, leaves shriveling and falling once the weather drops below 40 F or so. Once spring comes, however, new shoots begin to form. In other words, if you live in an area where the temperature rarely drops below 32 F, your Moringa will probably survive without too much action on your part.

If you live in a climate where the temperature does drop below freezing, though, you do need to take steps to ensure your Moringa continues to grow.

Method One: Protect the Roots (Best for Climate Zones 7-10)

There are a few different ways you can keep your Moringa trees alive in colder climates, but this is the one you’ll probably see talked about the most. The goal of this method is to keep your Moringa’s roots warm enough that they stay alive during the coldest parts of the year; that way, not only will you not have to start over, but your Moringa tree will also grow much faster, come spring.

First, if you haven’t already done so, harvest your leaves. For instructions on how to do this, check out Morning Garden’s Guide to Processing Moringa and Making Moringa Powder. I typically wait to do this until the daily temperature regularly drops below 40 Fahrenheit or so.

Once your leaves have been harvested, cut down the tree to about three feet. Doing so won’t kill it! You’re actually helping to keep it alive, and you’re also making it much easier for you to harvest your Moringa leaves and seeds next year. If you don’t cut your tree to about 3 feet, your Moringa will continue to grow until you’ll need a ladder to reach the branches.

After your tree has been cut, cut about 5-6 feet of chicken wire. Make sure the chicken wire is at least 3-4 feet tall; you’ll be using it to help insulate your tree, and the more insulated the better.

Wrap your chicken wire around the perimeter of your Moringa trunk as if you’re fencing it in. Make sure the chicken wire is securely tied down; I normally use a combination of zip ties and anchors.

Now, fill up the fence.

The goal here is to keep your tree trunk and roots warm by surrounding them with insulating material. You have a couple of different options. In the past, I’ve used:

  • Wood mulch
  • Fallen tree leaves
  • Tightly packed hay (my preferred option)
  • A bunch of old blankets (not recommended, but you do what you gotta do)

Method Two: Creating a Micro-Climate (Best for Climate Zones 8-10)

If you’ve ever wondered how your aunt up in Pennsylvania is somehow able to keep plants originating from Africa alive, this is probably the answer.

A micro-climate, according to Wikipedia, is “a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas, often with a slight difference but sometimes with a substantial one.” Mountains can cause micro-climates. Valleys, and lakes can cause micro-climates. And if you plan a bit before planting your Moringa tree, you can engineer one, too.

Moringa trees work best in warmer temperatures. Your goal then is to plant your Moringa in an area where you can artificially increase the temperature a few degrees. There are a lot of ways you can do this. Here’s a list of some examples:

  • Surround your Moringa garden with windbreak trees. Windbreak trees are fast-growing and durable, and they grow tall and thick enough to block the worst of a windchill from hitting your Moringa treeline.
  • Plant your Moringa trees against your house or a wall, typically along the west- or south-facing side. The heat from your house will keep your trees a little warmer, and the heat from the Moringa will bounce off the surface and raise the temperature around the Moringa tree a few degrees.
  • Figure out where the sun rises during winter, and then plant your Moringa trees where they’ll get the most of that sunlight. Remember: even a few degrees can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Use heat lamps or large Christmas lights to generate a little bit of warmth for your trees. Make sure to place them carefully; the goal isn’t to burn your garden down, it’s to keep them just a little warmer.
  • If your garden has slopes, plant your Moringa trees near the top of one. The cold air will flow down the slope and away from your trees, keeping them a tad warmer.

Method Three: Keep it Safe Indoors (Best for Climate Zones 1-6)

Unfortunately, a lot of us live in places where no matter what we do, our Moringa trees will likely die if we leave them outside in winter. In those cases, we need to bite the bullet and figure out how to keep them indoors.

The difficulty with keeping Moringa trees indoors is that they’re fast-growing trees, and they can get pretty tall. If you never prune your Moringa, within the year it could hit your ceiling. With a little care, however, you can absolutely grow a healthy, flourishing Moringa tree indoors without it taking over your entire greenhouse (or worse: your entire living room).

Plant your Moringa seeds (or transplant your seedlings) in a large pot, ideally one between 40-60 liters. If you choose to keep your Moringa tree outside for most of the year, bring your pot indoors once the daytime weather drops below 65 degrees.

Make sure to keep your Moringa near windows. Moringa trees require a great deal of sunshine; if you do keep them inside, make sure to either rest them by a window or by plant lights.

There is another type of Moringa tree called the Dwar Moringa Tree, and we get a ton of questions asking about the Dwarf Moringa Tree Height? It does grow a little quicker and easier than traditional Moringa.

In order for this method to work, you’ll need to have regularly trimmed and pruned your Moringa trees. If you haven’t been doing so, they’ll likely be too large to move indoors. So what can you do to keep your Moringa alive if they have grown over large?

Method Four: Take Cuttings and Plant Them (Any Zone)

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Photo by Trees for Life via Flicker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Technically, this method is less about keeping your trees alive, and more about making sure you can propagate them next year.

If your trees are too large to bring inside, and if you know that the temperature is going to drop enough that there’s no way to keep them alive, your best choice is to take cuttings.

First, you’ll want to identify branches suitable for cuttings. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a branch at least 1.5 feet long, and at least 1-2 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife or a pair of pruning shears, cut off the branch at the point where it meets the trunk. You might be able to snap it off instead, but I tend to find the best results from cutting them off cleanly.

Fill a large pot about 2/3rds of the way with garden soil. I like adding a bit of compost to the soil as well, but truthfully Moringa is so hardy that they tend to grow even in drier soil. Carefully push the Moringa branch at least 8-12 inches into the soil; a good rule of thumb is to make sure that at least 1/3rd of the branch is submerged.

Place the pot near a west- or south-facing window, and keep the soil moist. Within a few weeks, you’ll likely see a few shots of green start to push their way from the branch. In that time, the branch will take root in the soil, growing down as it grows up.

Bonus: Tips for Keeping Your Moringa Warm and Growing in Cold Climates

The three above methods will work to keep your Moringa roots alive, but there are still extra ways to keep your trees warmer.

  • Use a portable heat source. This can include anything from Christmas lights to heat lamps to space heaters, although some of your options will be more feasible than others.
  • Pour near-to-boiling water in Tupperware containers. Close the containers most of the way, but leave them open just slightly; otherwise, your containers may break. Then huddle the containers up next to your Moringa trunks. The heat will emanate from the containers and keep your Moringa a little warmer.
  • Mist your Moringa trees with warm water using a spray bottle. As the water evaporates, it creates warmth and humidity for the tree.

One important thing to remember: your Moringa trees are not going to need as much water during winter as they will during summer. Dampen the soil once every other day or so; that should be sufficient.

Ultimately, while it’s easier for Moringa to flourish in warmer locales, you can absolutely grow them in cold climates, too.

By creating micro-climates, insulating the roots, and being willing to bring your Moringa indoors, you can ensure that they’ll survive next year. Just take a bit of care, and your Moringa will continue to grow!

Want to know where to find the right gear to grow your Moringa? Or is the right Moringa Product to buy? Check out our Buyer’s Guide, we review it all there!

Shelby Kaplan

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