How to Grow Chinaberry – Melia

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Melia—commonly called Chinaberry—is a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows best in warm-winter regions. It is often grown as a shade tree in poor conditions; Melia is a tough tree that tolerates heat, wind, poor alkaline soil, and drought.

Melia bears interesting star-shaped flowers in spring. Each flower has 5 or 6 spreading petals and 10 to 12 stamens. The flowers are followed by bead-like spherical berries—that are poisonous.

Melia is not hardy. In cold-winter regions, it can be grown as a greenhouse plant. In a large container, it will grow 6 to 10 feet (2-3m) tall.

Melia wood is brittle and outdoors the plant can suffer damage in a big wind or storm.

Yellow fruit of a Melia azedarach
Yellow fruit of a Melia azedarach

Get to know Melia – Chinaberry

  • Plant type: Deciduous tree
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 10 to 12
  • Hardiness: Does not tolerate cold
  • Height and width: 30 to 50 feet (9-15m) tall, spreading irregular habit
  • Foliage: Leaves 1 to 3 feet long divided into many toothed, narrow, or oval leaves 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) long
  • Flowers: Loose clusters of lilac flowers, fragrant in the evening
  • Bloom time: Spring or early summer
  • Uses: Specimen, lawn tree, shade tree; in cold winter regions greenhouse plant
  • Common name: Chinaberry
  • Botanical name: Melia azedarach
  • Family name: Meliaceae
  • Origin: From India to China

Where to plant Melia – Chinaberry

  • Plant Melia in full sun.
  • Grow Chinaberry in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Chinaberry will grow in average soil and can tolerate alkaline soil.
  • Do not plant Chinaberry where there is a prevailing wind; the wood is brittle and branches can suffer storm damage.
Melia azedarach or Chinaberry tree
Melia azedarach or Chinaberry tree

When to plant Melia – Chinaberry

  • Set container-grown Chinaberry in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Melia – Chinaberry

  • Space Chinaberry 15 to 25 feet (5-8m).

How to water and feed Melia – Chinaberry

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Chinaberry in spring with an all-purpose, organic fertilizer.

Melia – Chinaberry care

  • Where Chinaberry is not hardy grow it in a greenhouse in full light.

Melia – Chinaberry pests and diseases

  • Canker, dieback, anthracnose, powdery mildew, mushroom root rot, spider mites, and scale insects can attack Melia,
Melia azedarach
Melia azedarach

Melia – Chinaberry propagation

  • Sow seed at 55° to 64°F (13-18°C) in spring.
  • Root softwood cutting with bottom heat in summer.

Melia – Chinaberry varieties to grow

  • Melia azedarach, Chinaberry: Deciduous tree grows 30 to 50 feet (9-15m) tall with an irregular spreading habit; leaves 1 to 3 feet long cut into narrow or oval leaflets 1-2 inches long; bears loose clusters of night fragrant lilac flowers in spring and early summer; berry-like yellow fruits follow flowers—fruits are poisonous.
  • M.a. umbraculiformis, Texas umbrella tree: Grows to 30 feet tall with dense spreading dome-shaped crown and drooping leaves.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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