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Propagating Curry Leaf Plants from Cuttings

One of the most popular spices used in South Indian cuisine is the curry leaf. This should definitely not be confused with the common ‘curry plant’ (which is not edible but smells of curry powder) often seen in garden centers here in the UK. The curry leaf plant or ‘Murraya koenigii’ to give it it’s full name adds an unmistakable fragrance to Indian dishes. It can be used fresh or dried and is usually fried off early in the cooking process along with your spices (such as mustard seeds or cumin seeds) and onions.

I’ve yet to find a curry leaf plant for sale here in the UK – I’m guessing because they are not too keen on our cool climate. As a result, curry leaves are usually sold pre dried in supermarkets in tiny packets for extortionate prices. If you can seek out a local Indian or Asian supermarket you’ll sometimes manage to find fresh imported leaves for sale in large bunches. It is from such a bunch that I’m currently trying to propagate some cuttings.

I tried to take some cuttings from some fresh curry leaves a couple of years ago with little success. Last time I tried it was the autumn time so the weather wasn’t really on my side. One of the cuttings appeared to have taken and survived for a few weeks before dying back. Hopefully by starting in Spring the warmer temperatures will help get the plants established.

If i manage to succeed I’m guessing the plant will have to live in the conservatory during the summer and our warmer living room during the winter. I’m told by a friend that the plants can be quite vigorous once they get established and require regular pruning in order to ensure a constant supply of fresh young leaves.

Fresh Curry Leaves

Propagating Curry Leaves

The potting mix I’ve used is a mixture of multi purpose compost, sand and horticultural grit. The key to taking any cuttings is to supply them with a free draining medium (hence the grit) that will supply the developing roots with lots of oxygen. As with all cuttings I’ve placed each one around the edge of the pot (4 in each). I used rooting gel on 4 cuttings and nothing on the other four.

Cuttings of any sort need to be kept out of direct sunlight and in a humid atmosphere for the first few weeks if they are to succeed. As a result it’ll be keeping them on our north facing kitchen bay windowsill, inside an unheated propagator. I’ll mist the plants once a day to keep the humidity levels up. I also removed some of the leaves from all of the cuttings, reducing the amount of foliage on each stem. Doing this means the cutting has less foliage to support and keep alive meaning it can concentrate on producing and establishing healthy roots.

Drying Curry Leaves

As for the rest of the bunch of leaves, they have been happily drying away for a couple of days (pictured above) in the conservatory and will be added to the store cupboard and eaten over the winter by which time hopefully I’ll have a supply of fresh leaves with which to replace them.

So, wish me luck. I’ll report back in a few weeks with my success or failure. Meanwhile if any of you have any experience in taking curry leaf cuttings please feel free to leave me some tips in the comments below.

8 comments… add one
  • Pete Singh May 6, 2015, 7:04 pm

    I did air layering( propogation) on my curry leaf plant and I succeded. I live in sunshine State Notheren California where the weather is 100 plus in summer time. Good weather for growing almost any thing all it needs little TLC.

    • The Chilli King May 9, 2015, 2:12 pm

      I’m very jealous…I’m trying again this year but I may have to concede that it is just too cold here in the UK for curry leaves 🙁

  • SusanM June 7, 2013, 8:17 pm

    I haven’t managed to grow any yet – but have a friend who has a little potted plant that is quite bushy now – it’s about 15 months old. I have read that mid to late summer is the best time to take cuttings with a ‘heal’ and that covered and kept damp and warm in a light place they take 3 weeks to root up !! Some people even just put theirs in a glass of water on the windowsill till the roots grew and then potted them up. THAT is what I did with some of the Lemon Grass you get in the supermarket in little ‘sticks’ with virtually no roots. I put them in glasses of water in the spring – and then thick roots grow and a I pot them up. Which is great as now I have several large potted plants of them – about 18 inches tall and with plenty of new growth – to the point where I think I might have to split them up soon too !

    • The Chilli King June 8, 2013, 9:18 am

      SusanM – I may try some more heal cuttings if this batch doesn’t work. Regarding your idea of rooting cuttings in water I do this regularly with basil plants. Because basil are soft plants they root incredibly quickly so it only takes a few weeks to go from one plant to 10. You’ll never need to buy ready made pesto again!

      • SusanM June 8, 2013, 7:46 pm

        Now THAT is interesting – as in the past I tried that with Basil – and it all rotted! Hmm.. perhaps I shall try again ! I have got a whole load of Lime Basil coming up – once it’s big enough I will try rooting some in water. [BTW grew this Lime Basil last year – it was wonderful ! ]

  • plummymummy June 4, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Oooh I’ll be watching your progress with interest – I love limda which have the most amazing smell. I have found a few sellers of curry leaves on ebay but they are quite expensive especially compared to the bunch I can buy at my local Asian shop.
    Curiousplants which is UK based seem to sell seeds but aren’t in season at the moment. Will have to try next year.

    When I get a bunch of stems, I take the leaves off the stems, give them a good wash in cold water then freeze them. Whenever I make a dhal or some shaak (curry) that needs them, I can easily take a few leaves out of the box.

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