Situated in the diverse neighborhood of City Heights, City Farmers Nursery specializes in herbs, vegetables, and methods that other stores in the area don’t offer. Sam and Rebecca Tall are second-generation owners, picking up the reins from their dad, legendary Bill Tall, who started the business in 1972. The educational nursery features goats, chickens, a cow, made-from-scratch soils, succulents, fruit trees, and more. 

Each year, City Farmers Nursery showcases a tea plant section so San Diegans can build the tea gardens of their dreams. 

“Just about everything will grow here,” says Sam Tall. “There’s such an overall huge list of plants you can grow.” 

Most of the plants below need full sun unless specified and grow well in San Diego.

Mark Your Calendars

February through March

Find starters at local nurseries to plant. “If it’s too hot to dig a hole, it’s too hot to plant,” Sam Tall says. He recommends planting when it’s less than 90° out to prevent the starters from drying out. “Plant for the space that you have,” says Sam Tall. “Look at how big plants will be when they mature or how small you can keep them.” 

April through September

Harvest and dry leaves and berries in a food dehydrator or spread on a baking sheet in the oven under the pilot light for a few days. Store teas in dry tins or sealed glass jars.

October through December

Make your own tea gifts using personal blends. 

Grow Your Own Tea

“We’re here for all kinds of growers,” Sam Tall says. “You don’t need a lot of space. If you have a small patio or a stoop, you can have a tea garden.”

*Grows well in containers.


Monarda fistulosa 

Combine with Betony (below) to make Earl Grey tea.

Betonica officinalus. Image: 13threephotography.


Betonica officinalus

This hardy perennial grows well in rock gardens and can be used in place of black tea.  

Camellia sinensis. Image: duranteillustrations.


Camellia sinensis

Makes green tea and grows well in San Diego (note: Los Angeles is too cold of a climate for this plant). 

Comfrey is a garden darling in the permaculture realm. It's nitrogen-rich properties are beneficial to soil health when later used for mulch or compost. Image: ivan-96.


Symphytum officinale

This versatile plant doesn’t need a lot of space—it does well in containers or in the ground. The flower is pretty so it’s a great addition to any garden. 

Corsican mint*

Mentha requienii

This aromatic variety only grows a quarter-inch tall and the leaves are the size of a lentil so you don’t need to break it up to make tea. It grows well in the shade and the leaves taste great atop vanilla ice cream.


Echinacea purpurea

This herb is commonly used as a cold and flu remedy. Steep ¼ cup of dried or ½ cup fresh Echinacea leaves and flowers in 8 ounces of hot water.


Zingiber officinale

Used to combat nausea and decrease pain and inflammation.

Gotu Kola. Image: Supersmario.

Gotu kola

Centella asiatica

This large-flowered herb can be used for upset stomach and many other ailments. It’s low-growing, can be used as a ground cover, and grows well in the shade.



Lavender itself has long been used to relieve headaches and soothe bites and cuts. The tea is often used to calm and aid sleep. 

Lemon verbena

Aloysia citriodora

Can be used as a substitute for lemongrass and doesn’t add bitterness. It is traditionally used for indigestion, gas, constipation, and joint pain. 

Mexican elderberry

Sambucus nigra

Be careful to use only the ripened blue-black berries in teas made from this plant. They have a sour and tart flavor so add honey. 


Agaricus bisporus

Sam Tall recommends trying mushroom kits to make teas, like MUD/WTR’s hen-of-the-woods pack.



“It’s nice to have a few rose petals to add to teas,” says Sam Tall. Miniature roses only grow to a foot tall by two feet wide.

San Miguel Savory

Clinopodium chandleri

This shrub of the mint family has small white flowers in spring and summer and grows well in containers and in the shade. 


Stevia rebaudiana

Dry its leaves or use them fresh to sweeten tea.

Woolly Blue Curls

Trichostema lanatum

This native California plant has been used for thousands of years for colds, flus, and headaches. It tastes good as a tea on its own or combined with lemon verbena, rose, and other flowers. Sam Tall says it tastes like berry mint, with a little sweetness. If planting in a container, use a lighter potting soil because it needs more drainage.

City Farmers Nursery

3110 Euclid Ave., San Diego

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About the Contributor
Hannah Wente
Hannah grew up as a 4-H kid showing dairy cows. That grew into a passion for sustainable agriculture and public health. Today, she is a communications professional and freelance writer, and has held communications roles at several nonprofits including REAP Food Group, a Farm to School pioneer. She gardens a large community plot with her husband and grows enough raspberries, peppers and tomatoes to feed a small village. On weekends, you can find her at the nearest farmers' market or in the water.