How to Grow Catha Edulis—Khat, Qat, Gat or Miraa
Catha edulis is the name of a shrub or tree that grows in Africa. It is known by other names, including khat, gat, qat, and miraa (although, it has many more names in other languages).
Catha edulis is slow-growing, evergreen and requires a tropical or subtropical climate in which to grow, although it can be grown as a large houseplant in cooler areas.
Ideal temperature ranges to grow the khat plant are 5°-35°C (41°-95°F). They will not tolerate frost, though all may not not be lost if frost gets your qat plant (if the roots were not frozen). In this case, it will lose all its leaves, but they may well return as the plant recovers.
They like full sun, but will also tolerate partial sun and even shade. They like loamy, free-draining soil, and minimal watering. Over-watering kills them off very quickly. They will simply drop their leaves and die when given too much. Catha edulis can often be seen growing alongside coffee plants, as both like similar conditions.
The flowers of khat are greenish-white to cream and small, and appear in clusters on the leaf axils in spring. By autumn, they have fertilized and turned into reddish-brown three-lobed seed pods that split open to reveal winged seeds that are carried away in the wind, ready to find a new home where they can hopefully grow into new plants.
Catha edulis Propagation
Growing from Seed
- Plant one seed ¾" deep in a flowerpot filled with vermiculite, sand or cactus compost, or a mixture of all three.
- Cover the seed with the potting mix.
- Use a handspray to spray the surface with water, and repeat as required to keep the surface moist but not wet.
- Place the pot in a bright area that is out of direct sunlight. The seedling should germinate in about a week.
- Catha edulis seedlings are prone to damping off, so it is a good idea to spray with an anti-mould compound.
- When seedling appears, gradually move into a sunlit area, turning the plant pot daily to keep the plant growing upright. It will continually stretch towards the sunlight.
- Re-pot into a larger pot when the roots appear at the bottom of the pot's drainage holes.
Growing from Cuttings
- Take 2"-6" semi-ripe cuttings from the tips of branches and place in the same potting mix you would use for seedlings, in pots and trays.
- Water in well, then allow to dry out completely. Khat cuttings hate water and are very prone to rot.
- Then simply leave in a light place out of direct sunlight, and give them a spray with water now and again, if you remember.
- Look for signs of new growth and increase waterings if any appear.
- Cuttings can take months to root.
Saplings and Suckers
- Catha edulis shrubs frequently throw out suckers and shoots from the base of the main stem, and these will root readily, or can be dug up with roots attached.
How Catha Edulis Got Its Name
Catha comes from the Arabic word khat, which is the local name for this plant. Edulis comes from a greek word meaning edible.
While edible may not be the exact term for it, khat is certainly chewed by its users, much as cows chew their cuds. The leaves and stems are all chewed, and up to 10 million people per day chew khat daily. This includes men, women, and children, through Africa and Asia. Khat even featured in ancient Egyptian culture.
Khat contains a stimulant called cathinone, which acts like an amphetamine giving rise to anxiousness and irritability, after a period of excitability and euphoria. The World Health Organization defined it as a 'drug of abuse' in 1980, despite it being believed to less addictive than either alcohol or cigarettes.
While Catha edulis is legal in plenty countries throughout the world, it is illegal in some. If you plan to grow any, check your local laws first.
Catha edulis flowering plant
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.