Sweet Neem (Murraya koenigii)
Sweet neem (Murraya koenigii) is also known as kari patta, curry neem and edible neem. While it resembles bitter neem (Azadirachta indica), it is not related and has few if any medicinal compounds. It’s not related to the curry plant either, which is Helichrysum Angustifolium. Instead, it’s a small tree with a distinctive taste and scent that is often used in southern Indian and southeast Asian cuisine. Growers in frost-free or nearly frost-free zones may plant the tree outside but most gardeners should plan on protecting it from cold temperatures. It prefers full to partial sun and is a heavy feeder. If you plan to harvest it extensively in climates north of Florida or southern California, it will need as much sun as possible along with regular fertilization following exact directions. We use a citrus fertilizer with slightly elevated phosphate to encourage growth of flowers and roots. Some growers report better results with Peters brand fertilizer than Miracle Gro, if you prefer liquid fertilizer to granular. Plant in a 8- to 12-inch pot in premium potting soil – not soil from your yard unless you’re an expert gardener — and expect to repot within a few years. Water well, then allow to dry between waterings, but they are not as sensitive to over-watering as the bitter neem trees. Few pests attack the Murraya koenigii in our greenhouses, although there are some reports of scale, mealy bugs and spider mites. We recommend treating those insects systemically with neem cake because it does not affect the safety or taste of culinary herbs. Squirrels also love the fruit and it must be protected from them if you hope to propagate the plant by seed. For best results, grow the plant outside when temperatures are above 50 degrees, then bring it inside to a sunny window for the winter. Reduce fertilization to half or one-quarter strength unless you can provide supplemental lighting, particularly at night. Over the years, we’ve become experts at growing bitter neem, but we’re still newbies at curry neem. Any thoughts, suggestions or comments on cultivating these beautiful little trees will be appreciated!