Kava – Healer and Houseplant!

Posted by on Apr 18, 2010 in The Mind of Makaira | 4 comments

Kava - Healer and Houseplant!Aloha everyone!

I spend so much time on my blog talking about kava root and its consumption, that I’ve never really spent much time talking about the kava plant itself. This is despite the fact that I spend almost all of my time around these beautiful plants! So I wanted to write a little something about the kava plant, and to encourage people to perhaps try growing your own kava plant – even if you don’t use the roots, they make beautiful house plants.

Kava, or Piper methysticum, seems to have originated somewhere in the New Guinea area, where the entire plant is used both recreationally and medicinally to this day. It was likely spread from there to the rest of Oceania by early Polynesian travelers. Now kava can be found in most of the Pacific Islands, with the exception of a few such as New Zealand.

Kava, or as we call it, Awa, came to Hawaii at the end of the 19th century, when it was adopted for purposes of relaxation and ceremony, as it is used today. Everywhere kava has traveled it has become an important part of ceremonial magic and shamanic healing.

There are actually more than 72 cultivated varieties of kava, and it is not known to grow wildly at all! In Hawaii, we have several varieties, including ‘black kava’, which is said to be extremely strong, with leaves that are as powerful as the root of the normal ‘white kava’. Another strain, ‘red kava’, or ‘lehua kava’ is said to be stronger still! I have not had the opportunity to try out these stronger strains of kava, so I cannot speak to the reliability of this information first-hand, and I personally find the ‘white kava’ that we grow to be just strong enough!

Kava is a slow growing vine-like shrub. It can grow up to twenty three feet in height, although this is not too common. Since it is a cultivated plant, the flowers are sterile and therefore we cannot grow kava from seeds. Instead, the root is split up or offsets are removed from the root and these are planted. Kava likes rich soil because it requires a lot of nutrients – horse manure is ideal, but good compost will work well, too! If you want to grow kava in your home, it will want a large container after awhile, although it is best to start it out in a small pot and then transfer it to larger pots as it grows. At first you will probably find it best to replant your kava into a larger pot every year!

Kava usually grows in a tropical environment, so it should be kept under glass or plastic year round in temperate areas. It thrives with regular pruning and regular, deep watering, but it is best only to water the plant when it begins to wilt – kava plants don’t like standing in water!

Unfortunately, it can be pretty difficult to find fresh kava root. However, if you do happen to get ahold of some, or know someone with a plant, I would definitely recommend growing kava as a houseplant. It is a beautiful plant with large, emerald heart shaped leaves, and I always feel more relaxed just being in its presence. If any of you have any kava plants in your home and have pictures you would like to share, I would love to see them!!

Kava - Healer and Houseplant

Aloha no,

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  1. Aloha Aaron,

    Kava is a tropical plant that likes a lot of heat and moisture (and a decent amount of shade). This makes it quite tough to grow in more temperate areas unless you have access to a greenhouse. It is also difficult to keep kava in pots, as they like to spread their roots out extensively, so I’m not sure I would recommend it for a flower shop. If you give it a shot, though, please do let me know how it goes!


  2. I would like to sell kava kava as a plant in our flower shop. We try to carry interesting plants for our customers. I noticed that you mentioned that kava kava should be grown under glass/plastic. Are there any varieties that would be easy to keep? Any information would be appreciated. Our shop has large windows with lots of light.

    Thank you,

    Aaron Haynes

  3. Aloha Sarah Jane,

    I’m so glad you like it! Send me some pictures of your Kava plant when it gets big and healthy – I’d love to see! 🙂 And if you’ve a link to your blog post, I’d love to see that, too. We’ve been considering growing our own coffee here at the farm for awhile now, and any information would be wonderful!

    Aloha no,

  4. This is a great article, thanks! I wrote a similar one last year about harvesting/roasting my own coffee and I plan to grow a Kava plant here in Hana, Maui. Thanks for the info! Sarah Jane

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