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Growing the Malunggay (Moringa Oleifera) in a Container

Known locally as the malunggay,  this rather humble low-maintenance tree is a native of the tropics so it is usually not a problem to grow this in the Philippines.  However, a typical tree can easily grow more than 20 feet tall.  So if you live in an apartment, townhouse or condo with limited grounds or open space, having a fully-grown tree may not be your most  ideal set up.  Fortunately,  this plant can be “trained” to grow in a pot or container.

Long before it was recognized as the “super food”,  the moringa oleifera had always been a mainstay in  most Filipinos’  cuisine. Not only for its being a cheap source of vitamins and minerals, but also because this tree is easy to propagate in any backyard garden here in this region.

How to Start a Malunggay Seedling

The malunggay can be propagated either from seeds or cuttings.  Sow the seeds in a seed tray or seedling pot,  filled with soil or potting mix.  Place the seed tray in an area that has natural light but is not exposed to direct sun. Water regularly to ensure that the soil is consistently  moist.  You can transfer the seedlings to a bigger pot after 2-3 weeks or when the seedlings are at least 6 inches tall.    Gradually expose the newly transplanted seedlings to direct sunlight.

The malunggay can also be started from cuttings if you have access to a fully grown tree. Cut a healthy woody branch that is at least 1 inch thick.  The cutting should be at least 3 feet in length.  Trim all the side branches and leaves of the cutting. Bury the thicker part of the cutting into the soil up to about 1/3 of the branch. Water generously.

Growing Moringa  Oleifera in a Container

A fully grown tree can typically provide your family’s nutritional needs with a daily harvest of  malunggay leaves.  When potted however,  expect your malunggay to provide a limited harvest, probably down to once/ twice a week, depending on the size of the pot.  According to some online sources, the ideal pot should be at least a 7-gallon container, although bigger is better.

If grown from seed, cut off the top part by at least 1/2 of its original size when the plant is at least 3 feet tall.  If grown from a cutting, prune the new main branch/es by half, as they reach 2 – 3 feet in length.     Make sure to leave a few healthy branches at the bottom. This encourages new branch growths in the sides.  With regular pruning,  the plant will be forced to grow more branches and leaves, rather than grow taller.  One web article even suggests cutting the main tap root to encourage the growth of shallow roots to make the plant suitable for container gardening (Source:

Provide good soil drainage, and water when the top soil feels dry. Expose the plant to a minimum of 6-hours of direct sunlight per day. To encourage more leaves,  apply a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer every 2- 3 months. A regular dose of magnesium  from epsom salts every 2 months helps maintain the dark green lush in the leaves.

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Tags: Vegetables

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