Healthy and vigorous nursery plants should be selected for field planting. In warm climate, plants raised from cuttings and vigorous seed stocks of the large-leaf Assam and Cambod races of tea attain a height of 30-35 cm or more in seven-eight months if nursery technique is not faulty. Such plants can be planted in the field but a longer period of about 12 months in the nursery is generally preferred. By the time well grown plants attain a minimum height of 40-50 cm. The extra period in the nursery helps the plants for hardening with gradual exposure to the sun. In cold climate, where the growth is slow and extension growth virtually stops during the long, cold winter, plants may have to be retained in the nursery for two full growing seasons (18-24 months), depending on the time of propagation and the kind of plant.
Plants with at least 12-15 leaves or 45-60 cm in height having a stem thickness of 0.5 to 0.8 cm (pencil thickness) are ideal. Sub-standard plants and those with damaged branches or leaves should not be used. Plants of uniform height should be used for planting in the same field as far as practicable.
Young plants are sometimes tipped, plucked or pruned in the nursery to encourage spread. However, this is not a sound practice as it reduces vigour of the young plants which affects their subsequent growth in the field. If some reason or other planting is delayed, growth of such plants has to be controlled judiciously. It is advisable to prune the plants in the second year instead of tipping and plucking them. For stimulating the growth of auxillary shoots, debudding or decapitation is done in some areas. However, utmost care should be taken not to cause any damage to the plants while transporting. Secondly, bushy young plants are more prone to suffer from any deficit of water in the soil until they are firmly established in the main field than less leafy plants.