Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis), a member of the Holly family, is an evergreen tree that is commonly found in the subtropical regions of South America. Its caffeine-infused leaves have been used for centuries to make a brewed beverage similar to tea. The plant can grow up to 15 meters in height and has thick, dark leaves that provide color and interest year-round. Small white flowers blossom in late fall and early winter, while small red berries appear on the tree in late spring and early summer.
Yerba Mate can be grown successfully indoors in pots, but outdoor planting requires specific requirements. Unless you live in a hot and humid region that receives plenty of rainfall, it may not be suited to your garden.
Yerba Mate thrives in full sunlight but can also cope with partial shade if the temperatures are right.
The plant prefers a rich, loamy, well-drained soil that absorbs and retains moisture well.
Consistently moist conditions are necessary, and the soil should never be allowed to dry out.
Temperature and Humidity
Yerba Mate likes to be warm, and it will only thrive if temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year. It can tolerate slightly lower temperatures, but this should only be for short periods. If winter temperatures go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this could kill your plant. The plant prefers a humid, moist heat and cannot survive in overly dry environments.
Regular fertilization is recommended when establishing seedlings.
Propagation and Pruning
Propagation of Yerba Mate can be challenging, and it’s best to select a mature cutting during late summer. Controlled pruning is necessary to encourage full and healthy growth, and the leaves can start to grow excessively if not cut back.
Yerba Mate is known to be packed with vitamins and minerals, and it could have a multitude of health benefits. If you’re growing your Yerba Mate plant from seeds, be prepared for a few years wait before it’s mature enough to harvest the leaves for tea. Dried stems, as well as the leaves, are usually added to the mix to create a slightly softer flavor.
Growing From Seeds
Growing Yerba Mate from seeds can be a challenge, as they need to be planted quickly after harvesting to prevent them from losing their ability to germinate. Seeds aren’t readily available in garden centers, so they’ll likely have to be purchased from a reputable online specialist. Germination begins in a sheltered and warm environment, and transplanting should not be done until the seedlings have had at least 12 months to start rooting. Don’t expect any flowering until a few years after germination.
Yerba Mate is a fascinating plant with specific requirements for growth. It’s a great addition to any garden if you have the right climate and growing conditions. Whether you choose to grow it from seeds or cuttings, it will provide color and interest year-round, and its caffeine-infused leaves make a delicious brewed beverage.