The chia plant is native to central Mexico and Guatemala. Indigenous peoples there and in what is today considered the southeastern U.S. used the plant as food and medicine since before Colombian colonization. Many different people have taken care of chia and still do. The Nahuatl, Maya, Inca and Aztec people developed the varieties of chia that we know today. The Native American root word for chia, chian has different meanings among different people. In Maya cosmology, chian means power, while in the Nahuatl people it means oily.
Chia grows up to 6 feet tall annually and spreads 18 inches wide. The 1-to 2-inch wide leaves grow like those of plants in the mint family, opposite the central square stem. They are covered with small hairs. In after spring to early summer, chia flowers bloom in shades of sapphire. The petals form half-flowers that attract native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Flowers are self-pollinating. As the flowers bloom and die, the seed heads dry out and the White and brown seeds grow inside. When the petals are away from the plant, the small seeds are ready to harvest. Like other plants of the mint family, chia roots are shallow. And self-sown chia seeds, which return year after year.
Types Of Chia
There are clear Botanical differences between Salvia hispanica and columbariae. While the hispanica Variety has years of flowering, columbariae has 1 to 2 clustered flowers that closely resemble Bee Balsam. The color of the seeds of hispanica is usually black and brown. These are the organic chia seeds that you will probably find at the health food store. The seeds of the Golden species are brown and gray. Another clear difference is the climate in which each species prefers. While hispanica will thrive in wetter areas, columbariae prefer dry desert conditions. Both plants have nutritional benefits and can be used to support blood pressure and equally well in chia pudding. As for the use for both types of chia seeds, they are almost the same plant. White flowers are also found in hispanica species. Golden varieties tend to have small heads of sapphire to purple.
Growing chia plants is easy as long as you have been able to get them through chia seeds. To begin with, plant chia seeds in the fall. You can start them indoors or outdoors in your garden bed. The trick to germinating chia seeds is to moisturize them enough so that they form the gelatinous shell for which they are known. Then use an ice stick to spread some seeds evenly over the soil surface or on clay soils outside or in small pots. You can plant the seeds yourself, but germination will take much longer if they are not fully hydrated. Keep the soil moist and they will germinate in a few weeks. When growing chia and starting seeds indoors, transplant them if they are small plants 3 inches tall. They will thrive when planted in an area where they have enough space to grow into a large shrub or small tree about one and a half meters high. Most guides recommend plants at a distance of at least 6 centimeters. Give them an area with good drainage, full sun and soil that retains some moisture.
Sun and temperature
Chia plants enjoy areas with direct sunlight, about 6 to 8 hours a day. Chia plants also enjoy USDA zones 8 through 11. Temperatures from 61 degrees Fahrenheit to 79 degrees are optimal for growing chia plants. Outside their USDA areas, chia plants can be grown in greenhouses and indoors. Chia plants can also tolerate temperatures up to 51 degrees and up to 96 degrees. Freezing temperatures are harsh on the chia plant, and extensive frosts will finish outdoor plants. However, they will self-sow and return the following spring, when they had a chance to form seeds. In high three-digit heat, chia will galvanize and slow down flower production. A shade cloth can help chia plants at times of greater heat.
Water and humidity
For chia plants, water regularly in the morning, especially in warmer seasons. When the chia plant is well established, you can reduce regular watering. Since these plants are drought tolerant, they do well once they are established in their new home. The best form of irrigation for growing chia seeds is drip irrigation. Soaking hoses are also satisfactory forms of watering. If there was an additional amount of rain in early summer or after spring, do not add more water that can rot the roots of chia plants.