Hidden beneath the forest canopy of Hawaiiʻs endemic Ohiʻa forests grows a plant native to Hawaii, the Mamaki plant.  If you are lucky enough to find one, youʻll be happy to know that youʻve come across one of Hawaiiʻs most favorite plants for making into tea to drink.

But you donʻt have to only find it in the wild.  You can learn to cultivate mamaki of your own to have as much supply as you would ever need, putting less pressure on the wild sources that do exist.

Mamaki is pretty easy to grow, it can be propagated from seeds or cuttings, and once established it grows quickly without much attention. 


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Growing Your Own Mamaki: A Brief Introduction       

Mamaki is an endemic plant to the islands of Hawaii.  It loves moist areas of the island and can grow in full sun to almost full shade, but a happy mix of both would be best.  

Mamaki was traditionally used as a medicine for a sore throat or when a person was just feeling “a little run down.”  It was often brewed into a tea with lemongrass to aid flavor.

Like most plants in the tropics, you will want to have fresh seed to sprout with or fresh Mamaki cutting material.

Seeds should be sprinkled on top of well-draining potting soil.  Be patient and keep watering those pots, they can take about 25 days to germinate!

Cuttings should be placed in rooting hormone, then into well-draining potting soil. If you have a misting system for propagating cuttings, that would be best, but setting a hose nozzle to mist and spraying the cuttings 2-3 times per day is a close second.

When it comes time to transplant, Mamaki grows best in the shade with moist, fertile soil. 

Although it sounds simple enough, there are several factors that can help or hinder the growth of mamaki. Pests, nutrition, sun, water, and soil, all play a major role in the health of your plants.

How To Grow Mamaki: Step By Step Guide

20 day old mamaki sprouts. Original photo – Angel H

I want to make sure that you know exactly what you need to know in order to be successful at growing Mamaki.  After all, it is the perfect understory plant for a tropical food forest.  So letʻs dive a little bit deeper into what we need to know:

Growing Mamaki By Seed

  1. Mamaki seeds are extremely small and should be sprinkled on top of a well-draining potting mix. 
  2. To protect the seeds and keep the soil moist, cover it with a clear plastic container, like a humidity dome.. 
  3. Lightly water the seeds as needed until they begin to sprout in about twenty-five days. 
  4. The seedlings are tiny and easily damaged, be sure to gently water them, a light mist spray should be fine.  They will also need protection from direct sun and wind. 
  5. Several weeks after sprouting, the seedlings should be large enough to separate or start thinning out. Avoid disturbing the root system when separating the mamaki seedlings. 
  6. Continue growing them out for another 6 months to 1 year when you can transplant them out into their permanent location.

Growing Mamaki By Cutting

  1. Gather up several hardwood branches of mamaki about four to six inches long. Green tip cuttings have the lowest survival rate, so selecting older branches helps guarantee you’ll get a few plants.
  2. Remove all the leaves
  3. Place the bottom inch of the cutting in rooting hormone
  4. Press the bottom into a pre moistened potting mix. 
  5. The cuttings must be covered with a plastic container to retain moisture and will begin to form roots in about a month. 
  6. Make sure to water with mist 2-3 times a day or as needed until roots grow.  This will ensure survival.
  7. After about six months you can plant your mamaki outside, but still in the shade, or transplant it into a larger sized container. 
  8. Fertilize mamaki trees with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer, and water them every other day, especially during droughts. 

Pests That Love Mamaki

Unfortunately, humans are not the only ones that like Mamaki, many insects do as well.  There are a few pests that can cause damage to mamaki plants like spider mites, spit bugs, mealy bugs, aphids, root fungus, and viruses. Learn more about these pests in this post.

These pests can be managed with good practices. I believe that a healthy plant can withstand problems with pests, and a healthy plant starts with good soil. Use high quality compost and fertilizers to keep the plant healthy as it grows.

Always use new potting soil when sowing seeds and transplanting. Treat for ants, they burrow in the soil causing root damage, they bring in mealy bugs, and guard pests against natural predators. For heavy infestations of mites and aphids use neem oil or garden safe soaps, or simply spray them off by hand.

Year old Mamaki tree in a one-gallon pot. Original photo – Angel H

When Can I Harvest My Mamaki Trees?

Under the right conditions, mamaki leaves can be harvested when the plant is about three to six months old. 

I like to harvest the younger leaves for the best tea, the tips plus 3.  That is a little thing I tell myself, trim the growing tip and the 3 leaves down the stem from it.  These always seem to be the best leaves to harvest no matter what youʻre harvesting.

If you harvest with hand pruners, you spur on more leaf growth that will be ready for another round of harvesting within 2-3 months’ time.

The leaves can be dried and stored for later or used fresh to brew mamaki tea. 

Where Can I Find Mamaki Seeds or Cuttings?

Mamaki seeds are not that common to come by, but luckily for you, I have added them to our Seed Store.  The seeds are only available during certain times of the year, but you can place a special pre-order, and theyʻll be sent right out to you as soon as they become available.

Fresh mamaki cuttings are hard to come by unless you know someone who is growing them in their garden.  Or you can try out that new wonder of the modern age, the internet, and reach out through social media to see if anyone has any that they could take a few cuttings from.

So if you live in the tropics, and especially if you live in Hawaii, you should put Mamaki on your list as a plant that you must be growing in your food forest.

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