V. Manjaris, Flowers and Seeds
Srimati Tulasi-devi belongs to a rare plant family which has what is known as a perfect flower, that is to say, the flower contains both the male and female developments which
allows Her to fertilize Herself. In other words, there is no such thing as a
Tulasi's flowering stalks and clusters are the full blown
expression of Her love for Krishna. They are white on Rama Tulasis and purple on
the Krishna Tulasis. After the flowers have all bloomed and gone, the pods (each
shaped like a little temple) nurture four small round seeds which turn a dark brown when fully matured. Manjaris are very intricate, and
because of these fine and fragile features, they require much energy to develop. If your Tulasi is very young or sick, or recently received or repotted, She
should not be allowed to develop manjaris-- only a few manjaris in proportion to
Her health, size, and age. Better to let Her catch Her breath to bloom for
another season, then to let Her attempt to maintain too many manjaris and be
weakened and susceptible to diseases.
To gather Them, follow the same procedure as cited below in pruning, only in the
case of manjari the buds immediately preceding the actual flowering top are
almost always another pair of manjaris which, if left to develop, are a great
drain on Her system. Clip below the second manjari buds, 1/16th" above the next
developing set of buds. Not all of Her flowers will develop at once, so choose a
time when the flowers are about half way up the stalk as that is when there are
the most flowers.
Sunlight, and the correct amount of it to be exact, determines whether plants
will flower or not. If your Tulasi isn't flowering, try to make some adjustment for more light. (She will flower under 14-16 hours of Gro-lux indoor lights.)
Because of the variance factors of climate, age, and other conditions it is impossible to predict the times of Tulasi's flowering periods. We can identify the symptoms and results, however. Some Tulasi plants will produce seed pods one season that are shaped like a small temple, containing four little seeds; another season She produces smaller pods or fruits that also look like a temple, but contain no seeds. As will be explained later, it is not advisable to let Her go to seed unless She is several years old, and in the best of health. Even then, let only a few of the manjaris go to seed.
The process is to let the stalks stay on past the flower-seed pod stage.
Watch as the pods drop the flowers and become firm and darker golden. When you
look inside the pod and see that the four little seeds are a dark brown, then
you know that it is time to pick the seeds. If you observe how She grows, you
will see that at every intersection between a leaf and the main stem, there is a
small bud developing. Follow the seed stalk down until the next pair of
developing buds. The first set of leaves below the seed stalk and the buds
sprouting from there are most always going to develop into another pair of
manjaris, so rather than drain Her energy it is best to skip down one more joint
to the next set of leaves and buds. Nip here, saying the mantra for picking
leaves, chanting Hare Krishna, and using sharp surgical scissors. It is best to pick the flowers when they bloom, because letting them go to seed does very much weaken the plant.
Once the seeds are gathered, let them dry a short week or so. Be very careful
when handling the seed pods, even when they are on the mother plant, as they are
arranged in such a way as to spring out of the pods when shaken. From that point, the seeds may be used to start new seedlings.
Seasonal seeding seems not to occur. Rather, Tulasi flowers constantly, perpetually -- all year round, and more intensely when there's lots of sunshine.
If you are letting Tulasi go to seed, be sure She is in fine health. Seeds may
be obtained at the temple so the need is filled; but if you are still desirous
of your own seeds, simply let the stalks stay on after the flowering stage. The
pods will become firm and brown. Look up into the pod and when the four little
seeds have turned dark brown, the seeds are ready. Simply nip the stalk as
mentioned in the section above, being careful not to shake or jar the pod stalk,
as that will send the seeds flying in every direction. Let the stalk dry out a
little if the seeds are still a little bit green (better to wait and let them
mature on the mother plant). For planting, follow the instructions under said
section, being very sure to remove the seeds from the pod before planting as
They will have trouble sprouting otherwise.
She has two or three flowering seasons (depending on weather and if She is in
a greenhouse), the one which produces the best seeds is during the summer months
of June, July and August. The other times, She develops shorter stalks with
smaller flowers. These may or may not produce seeds; generally they make like a
small fruit which dries up and produces no seeds. (Manjaris have a blissful
aroma and if the flowering stalks are put into Krishna's water or some cooling
drink, it gives it a most transcendental f1avor.)
In the matter of plucking Her tops, this should be done as a regular
procedure-- not all at once, but gradually as She develops. The situation is,
that as She grows She has a tendency to become top heavy, that is to say, a long
stem that cannot support the leaf growth on top. The result is that She droops
and bends. The remedy is to simply pluck the topmost developing bud, every time
it has grown about 3 or 4 joints. If you observe carefully, you will see that
whenever you nip the top bud, the next lower set of buds develops. The result is
that Her upward surge is slowed down, and the energy used for growing up is
re-channeled to developing the lower buds and strengthening Her stem. In this
way She grows fuller and bushier. The procedure is simple: Take the scissors and
see if you can nip the center of the very topmost bud cluster. Most of the time
this little bud will snap right off, if done in the correct manner. If you have
ever snapped wire-- the way to do it is bend the wire one way, and then bend it
back the exact opposite way You don' t twist it or turn it. But bend all
the way one way and then all the way back; the other way. Observe Her structure and try to understand how She is
growing and which development follows which before you start to prune or nip
Her. If you look closely you will see that the little buds are little leaves
that haven't unfolded yet, like hands held together with palms touching as if in
prayer. As they open, a new bud of unfolded leaves is revealed. If you trace
down the unopened central bud you will see where the bud is connected to a
little stem and where that little stem joins the next pair of buds. Nip right
there; low enough to net the whole bud (if you only get part it causes pain and
mutation and high enough to not mar the up and coming buds.
Always try the plucking method first as it is easiest and safest. Let the bud
develop enough so that you can clearly: distinguish the various parts. Don't be
in a hurry for doing it right is the important part. If you can't distinguish
and time is of the essence as with a diseased Tulasi, go down to the first
easily distinguishable intersection and nip Her there. Please try to avoid it
for the more you cut off the greater the shock to Her system.
Beyond that, pruning is not to be done except in the most exceptional
circumstances. Cutting a leaf or a flower stalk is usually not considered pruning, but is rather a necessary thing for gathering to offer to the Krsna. To pick off a manjari, seed pod,mosaic leaf or infected leaves is one thing, but one should be most hesitant to cut off branches, unless the need is dire. Pruning simply for aesthetics is out of the question.
The only times which necessitate cutting Her graceful limbs are for picking manjaris to keep Her from becoming too top heavy, and removing those parts too diseased to be saved. Please be gentle, never cut Her without serious contemplation and if at all possible, approach a devotee who has had some gardening experience with
developed knowledge and sensitivity.
If you carefully observe Her Transcendental Form, you will see that where
each leaf joins the main stem there is a bud developing. Look down Her stalk
from where you desire to prune, checking at each leaf-- stem intersection for
two healthy buds, one on each side of the stem. Cut about 1/8" to 1/16" above
the joint, using a small pair of needle-nose scissors (small for
maneuverability). Always be sure the scissors are sharp so
that they disturb Her as little as possible. Keep them just like pujari
paraphernalia-- only for Srimati Tulasi-devi's use.
On the last visit Srila Prabhupada made to New Nabadwip, the Tulasi plants on either side of the temple gateway had grown overly large -- about 7 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet in diameter. They had bushed
out into the walkway, thus closing the entranceway except for about a foot and a
half. The devotees had repeatedly tied them back, but still They closed in again so that a
person had to turn sideways and move between them. As Prabhupada walked between
Them, with only enough space for Him to pass, he was asked what could be done. He smiled and said, "You cannot cut them. Don't live, don't die." He laughed. He later send a letter from India saying that in this case, They could be trimmed back. Only then did the devotees do so, with reluctance.