How to Grow Kratom
Copyright JP Edley, JUNE 2005
Kratom comes from a warm, tropical part of the world, and therefore prefers warm tropical, even swamp-like conditions. For this reason alone, it makes growing Kratom naturally from seed outdoors a problem, at least if you want to see the kind of growth that Kratom is capable of. Even greenhouses, which specialize in not only creating the kind of conditions that plants can thrive in, but in growing plants from seed, have had a difficult time sustaining Kratom trees that they have started from seed. This is further hampered by the fact that Kratom seeds only remain viable for a short amount of time, so even if one were to get their hands on some seeds while traveling in parts of the world where these trees grow naturally, getting ones fresh enough to get into suitable soil by the time you get back home can be a problem.
I have been growing Kratom from seed for years, but to be honest, cultivation of this incredible plant is sketchy at best. More often than not, if I start from a cutting or from seeds, my “trees” end up being gangly creatures that are as wide as they are squat, with so much space between branches and leaves that harvesting of any more than a couple leaves might actually kill the entire plant! – I’ve met with success, and because this plant is so important to me, it has been worth every agonizing moment waiting to see if my seeds will sprout at all, much less turn into the trees I see in my dreams…figuratively, of course.
So, to maximize your chances, I offer these few tips which have helped me find reasonable success with this plant that I could not imagine my world without:
Only VERY fresh Kratom seeds will work, and even vendors with the best of intentions, even those who sell enough seeds to always have a fresh stock, may not be able to get them to you fast enough. Another thing to keep in mind is that the seeds are TINY little slivers, and that you need A LOT of them, to even get a single plant. We would recommend an online shop to buy the seeds from, but honestly, none have consistently given me a consistent or reliable pattern of germination success, so try anyone who has them and simply do your best, and then hope for the best.
You need humus–rich, fertile, wet soil that drains well, but not so much that the soil will not remain damp virtually all the time. One of my earliest discoveries is that no matter how much water I gave my little seedlings, they always wanted more. And actually, when one of my pots got clogged at the bottom, I left it as an experiment, just to see what would happen. What happened is that the one that had poor drainage grew faster than all the others…progress!
I expanded this “testing” and found that if I completely stopped the soil from draining, it worked great for a while, but then all kinds of strange fungus and bugs appeared at the top of the soil. I couldn’t find a way to fix this; I tried fungicide and pesticide, but it eventually just ended up killing the poor little guy. Maybe a heartier plant could stand more harsh chemicals, but, for me, the hardest part is just to get this plant past the seedling stage.
So for me, the #1 Rule for soil is this: Initially, try to keep the soil continually moist, but not flooded while trying to germinate your seeds. Allow drainage, but pretend that your pot is a swamp, while watching carefully for fungus. Some fungus is O.K., but too much will kill everything except itself.
WEATHER: The seeds, while in germination stage, do not need full sunlight. In fact, from the research I have done, it seems that direct sunlight is BAD for germinating the seeds. I would love to get more verification of this, and if anyone knows the answer, please write me to tell me.
O.K., so once you are lucky enough to get some sprouts…the real work is finished! – First, seedlings need to be protected from the COLD. Assume that anything under 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celsius will kill your plants within a couple of days, so if they’re outside, watch the weather closely. The great thing is, is that once you manage to get your plants past the seedling stage, Kratom is quite sturdy, quite hardy, and can take more abuse than you might imagine. Trust me; I’ve sometimes done my best to kill these guys, just to see exactly how much abuse they can take.
The Kratom plant is a heavy feeder in more ways than one. Really, it’s a tiny tree that hopes to grow up into a 100-foot-tall giant, so just like the big-pawed puppy, it will soak up more water and plant food than you might expect or imagine. Plant food that’s rich in nitrogen will be your best bet, especially if you keep the soil quite wet.
Once you’ve made it past the seedling stage (congratulations!), you can breathe far more easily, knowing that you’ve made it past the most difficult hurdle; getting a Kratom plant to grow in the first place! – Keep the soil moist, keep the plant warm, never worry about overwatering, and then follow the standard rules for growing plants, and for diagnosing plant problems, and do your best to fix them the moment they occur.
FAKE KRATOM SEEDS
Reportedly, some unscrupulous Indian seed distributors have sold Mitragyna parvifolia seed intentionally mislabeled as Mitragyna speciosa (Kratom) seed. They have so permeated a market that is hungry for this plant, that it’s difficult to find a REAL Kratom seed anywhere. As I said above, there are some highly reputable vendors with real seeds (like IAmShaman and Shaman’s Garden), but even best efforts can get you seeds that are difficult to impossible to sprout.
BEST WAY TO START
In my opinion, the best way to get started is to find a rooted clone that can be purchased from the only place I would ever buy plants from; Theatrum Botanicum (also known as “The Green Stranger”. They can be VERY slow in shipping, and they often leave you wondering if you’ll ever get your plants, but they eventually will. Click the Kratom plant link, and it will take you to a page where you need to scroll down until you find “Mitragyna speciosa Mitragyna speciosa Kratom Tree – Rifat Strain) $50.00” at the time of this writing.
CLONES & CUTTINGS
Cuttings typically do not root well and are vulnerable to infection, but the most troubling thing I have found with cuttings, is that they make even GANGLIER trees when they are small! – I have no idea why this is, but I have found that I need to take cuttings from the STRAIGHTEST branches, or the resulting plant that grows from that cutting will be strangely curvy and weird…not much resembling the giants that are found in the forests in Thailand. The absolute BEST way I’ve found to get plants that you buy online to grow successfully once they’re in your home, is to follow the steps outlined in the Kratom Plant Secrets article.
If you are growing this plant to get powerful Kratom incense, it has been suggested on multiple occasions that there is actually a simple way to stimulate the production of Mitragynine in the leaf: A fan. Yes, wind has been said to trigger increased levels of Mitragynine in Kratom trees.
Another tip is to mimic the plant’s native environment as much as possible. Simulate the sun and its hours as best you can. Keep a light close to the plant to both increase the level of light and to keep the temperature a few degrees higher near the plant. Make sure it’s always moist by keeping a humidifer next to the plant year round.
WHEN TO HARVEST
If your Kratom seeds are lucky enough to have grown into full-size trees, then you might need a few tips on how to sustainably harvest the leaves of this precious plant. It is a well-known fact that Mitragyna speciosa are most potent in the late autumn, just before the leaves fall off naturally on their own. Typically, plants in the region of the world where they flourish, bear the juiciest fruits and strongest alkaloids in late summer to autumn and even as late as early winter. A flowering Kratom tree is no indication of potency in the leaves, and if you are lucky enough to get your plant to flower, harvesting the seeds is a rare and precious treat.
If your seedlings do well, you will have your first full harvest of Kratom leaves within about a year. By then, many leaves will have fallen off, and some you couldn’t resist picking to make some tea or a resin ball out of, so you will have been given glimpses of what your first Kratom harvest might be like. Really, one of the most amazing ways to feel connected to Mother Nature, for me at least, is to grow my own food and psychoactive herbs. I adore this plant in so many ways, and all the trouble, effort, time, and money that got put into getting my Kratom seeds to grow into trees is nothing more than a distant memory. Some dreams take work, and having a sustainable crop of Kratom leaves that I grew from seed was one of mine.
The more research I do, the more different growing options I experiment with; I will post them here. My last update to this document was on 1.23.08. – JP Edley