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Are Tea Leaves Good For Plants?

Whether you have indoor or outdoor plants, they can bring the same calm, inviting feeling you experience from having a nice cup of tea. Plants can even help to create cleaner air throughout your home.

With that said, you might wonder what you can add to keep your plants thriving, possibly without adding chemicals. No one wants to use harsh chemicals on their plants.

Tea leaves can easily better your indoor house plants, potted plants, outdoor plants, and garden beds. Some plants will not do well with the higher levels of acidity, although most plants will thrive.

There are many different ways to use tea leaves for your plants. Some people pour leftover brewed tea on their indoor plants while some like to make their own compost to fertilize their soil.

Is Tea Good for Plants?

Tea leaves contain tannic acid, nitrogen and other valuable nutrients that are released into the soil as they decompose.   Tea leaves also can be an excellent mulch and can increase soil acidity for acid-loving plants. Watering your plants with leftover tea can not only hydrate them, but also increase nutrient levels in the soil.

Read on to find out the best way to improve plant health with both used tea leaves and leftover tea.

What Do Tea Leaves Do To Soil?

Tea leaves contain tannic acid and other valuable nutrients that are released into the soil as they decompose.   

Increase Soil Acidity

The tannic acid in tea leaves increases the acidity of the soil, lowering the pH, which is great for acid-loving plants.  

Acid in soil can be measured with a hand held device
Your garden soil can be easily tested to determine its acidity.

Keeping Pests At Bay

Tea leaves sprinkled around your plant can also help deter any pesky pests that could potentially destroy your plants. Mice, cats, and different bugs hate the smell of tea. You can spray brewed tea on your plant, place it in the soil, or on top of the soil.

Using tea around your plant roots is an easy way to control pests while you limit pesticide use.

Preventing Weeds

Tea is also said to help prevent and keep weeds at bay. As mentioned above, a tea mulch will help to keep weeds away from the tea itself.

Preventing & Controlling Fungus

Plain tea brewed and then sprayed on the leaves/plant itself can help prevent mold from forming on the leaves. Teas can help to ward off different diseases and fungi that would kill your plants.

Adding Nutrients Into The Soil

Tea is great for many plants—the tannic acids and nitrogen naturally help fertilize and add extra nutrients to the soil. Dried tea leaves will start to break down in the soil and release even more of its properties into the soil, improving the soil’s nitrogen level and acting as a non-toxic plant fertilizer.

Adding tea leaves into your soil will also help with the growth and health of your plants, and is a great way to increase moisture retention and benefit the soil structure.

Are Tea Leaves Good For All Plants?

There are definitely some plants that do not do well with tea leaves. While the average indoor and outdoor plant will benefit greatly from adding tea into the soil, some don’t. Keep in mind that even the plants that can benefit from tea can sometimes have their ph level messed up if you use too much tea.

Blue hydrangeas benefits from the acid in used tea leaves
Blue Hydrangeas love acid soil so they also love used tea leaves.

Which Plants Like Tea Leaves

Plants that do well with a higher level of acid in the soil are the ones you should fertilize with tea.  Plants that do well with a slightly acidic soil are:

  • Azaleas
  • African Violets
  • Camellias
  • Daffodils
  • Heathers
  • Hydrangeas – Blue
  • Rhododendrons
  • Shrubs
  • Maidenhair Ferns
  • Some Berries
  • Most Veggies
  • Many Herbs

Which Plants Should Not Be Fertilized with Tea Leaves

Many plants won’t do well with the added acid because they need a more neutral ph balance. It’s a good idea to always test your soils ph levels just to be sure they are at a good level. There are many places to buy a fairly inexpensive test online. If the leaves start to yellow, that can mean the acid level is too high.

The type of plant that needs lower levels of acid:

  • Baby’s breath
  • Carnation
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Dahlia
  • Daisy
  • Geranium
  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangeas – Pink
  • Iris
  • Marigold
  • Peony
  • Poppy
  • Sunflowers
are tea leaves good for plants

What Kinds of Tea Leaves are Best For Plants?

This may be one of the first questions that popped into your mind. After all, tea comes in so many different flavors, strengths, and added ingredients and can contain different chemicals and from many different places around the world. So, do they all do the same thing when it comes to plants?

Just about any true tea you can think of comes from the same plant called Camellia Sinensis. They are just harvested at different times and in different ways creating a unique cup of tea. While some companies add different things in with the tea leaves, for the most part, they are all the same.

If you’re an avid tea drinker, it doesn’t matter if you use tea bags or fresh tea leaves from green tea, black tea, or other loose leaf tea. Adding the organic matter from a used tea bag is a great way to change your soil’s ph and add some acid to alkaline soil.

What Is Tea Compost?

Most gardeners and plant owners know how beneficial organic compost can be but might not know that you can compost tea. Along with the usual coffee grounds and banana peels, tea leaves can be added to your compost bin, but it is not recommended to add tea bags. Some tea bags contain plastic, which will not break down in your compost bin.

If you’re sure your tea comes in paper tea bags, go ahead and drop the entire bag into your compost, but if your tea comes in plastic or polyester tea bags, you should cut open the tea bags and just use the tea leaves in your compost.

used tea bags for mulch
Check the ingredients in your specialty tea bags before adding to your garden.

Gardening Know How has a list of almost every brand of tea bag and the materials used to make them. 

Making tea compost is easy. You simply add the tea leaves into your existing kitchen compost. They are full of nitrogen, which helps to break down other materials in your compost bin.

Then, simply add it to your garden bed, vegetable garden, or even your herbal tea garden.

What Is Tea Leaf Mulch?

Tea mulch is simply dried tea leaves laid across the top of your plant’s soil, covering the topsoil. Tea leaves and any type of mulch will help hold in moisture, regulate the soil temperature, and keep the sun from drying out the soil and form a crust.

It also helps choke weeds out too. It is best to add a few inches of the tea mulch (the same with most mulches). If you still have extra tea bags, you can also use tea bags for eyes as a quick soother.

garden compost containing tea leaves
Tea leaves can be easily added to your compost pile.

Is Brewed Tea Good For Plants?

If tea leaves are good for plants, you may be wondering if brewed tea is also helpful. Before you dump a mug of tea into your plant, you need to consider a few things first. 

Here’s what to consider before you start to water plants with leftover tea:

Tea Temperature

Plants can die under extreme conditions, and that includes hot liquids. Dumping boiling tea on your plant is not a great idea. It could scorch and kill your plant on contact. Some gardeners pour boiling water on weeds outdoors to kill them. 

If the water is hot but does not touch any part of the plant (roots, stems, leaves, flowers), it would be ok, but boiling is still too shocking. 

Added Ingredients In Your Tea

Different kinds of milk, honey, and sugars may make your tea taste incredible, but they are not great for your plant. 

Milk can cause the plant to form mold/mildew, which can lead to fungal diseases. Sugar can also cause your plant to die. Plants can produce the nutrients they need in most cases. When you add something like sugar, it can cause wilting and the plant to die.

used tea leaves for compost
Used teabags easily add acid to your garden soil.

Cost & Waste

If you are only brewing tea to cool and toss in your plants, there are not enough added benefits from a cup of tea to make up for the waste. It is a big waste of perfectly good tea that you could enjoy. The price of the tea you are throwing away will add up over time.

Weaker tea can be less of a waste (weaker tea is a tea where the leaves have already been brewed, and when it is brewed a second time, it produces a weak tea) and is not a waste because you would have just thrown the used tea leaves away anyway.

If you are going to use a cup of tea for your plants, make sure it’s room temperature and free of any extra ingredients. It’s even better if it’s just your left-over plain tea to avoid waste.

The Takeaway:  Tea Leaves Are Good For Most Of Your Plants

Tea is in many homes across the world. No matter what type you love to drink, they can all benefit your plants. It doesn’t matter if you are using tea because you hate waste, want a natural fertilizer, or natural pest control.

It works well with almost any plants, indoor or outdoor. Just always remember to keep an eye on your soil’s PH levels.

If you love tea as much as I do, pin this Are Tea Leaves Good For Plants? pin to your favorite tea-loving Pinterest board and pass it on for others to enjoy! Pinkies up!

tea grounds for plants
Pin this to your favorite tea or gardening Pinterest Board to save for later!