The betel leaf is cultivated in most of South and Southeast Asia. Since it is a creeper, it needs a compatible tree or a long pole for support.
Paan cultivation is a special type of agriculture. High land and especially fertile soil are best for betel. Waterlogged, saline and alkali soils are unsuitable for its cultivation. In Bangladesh, farmers called barui prepare a garden called a barouj in which to grow betel. The barouj is fenced with bamboo sticks and coconut leaves, and on top it is also covered by paddy leaves. The land is dug well and laid out into furrows of 10-15 m length, 75 cm width and 75 cm depth. Oil cakes, cow dung, rotten farmyard manure and leaves are thoroughly incorporated with the topsoil of the furrows and wood ash. The creeper cuttings are planted after proper dressing in the months of May and June, at the beginning of the monsoon season. The plants are neatly arranged in parallel rows about two feet apart, and the saplings are twined around upright sticks of split bamboo and reeds.
Proper shade and irrigation are essential for the successful cultivation of this crop. The plants are regularly watered in the hot months. The leaves of the plant become ready for plucking after one year of planting and the production of the barouj lasts for several years from the date of planting. Betel needs constantly moist soil, but there should not be excessive moisture. Hence, frequent light irrigations are given. The quantity of irrigation water should be such that the standing water should not remain for more than half an hour in the bed. If water logging by heavy rains or excess irrigation occurs, drainage should be arranged immediately. The best time for irrigation is morning or evening.
Dried leaves and wood ash are applied to the furrows at fortnightly intervals and cow dung slurry is sprinkled. Application of different kinds of leaves at monthly intervals is found advantageous for the growth of the betel.
In about 3–6 months time, vines grow to a height 150-180 cm. At this stage branching is noticed in the vines. Leaves are removed along with the petiole with the right thumb. Once harvesting is commenced, it is continued almost every day or week. The interval of harvesting varies from 15 days to about a month till the next lowering of vines. After each harvest, manuring has to be done.
There are various types of leaves, the most popular being : Calcutta, Banarasi, Magahi, etc. In Bangladesh Dinajpur, Rangpur, Chittagong, Faridpur, Jessore, Narayanganj, Barisal and Sylhet are the areas producing most betel. The harvested leaves are used both for domestic consumption and for export to Middle East, to European countries, USA, UK, Pakistan, and Myanmar. Paan is one of the major economic sources of rural Bangladesh. The best Betel leaf is the “Magadhi” variety (literally from the Magadha region) grown near Patna in Bihar, India. In Kerala, the famous variety of betel leaf is from Venmony near Chengannur and it is called “Venmony Vettila”. Betel leaf cultivated in Tirur, Kerala is also of fine quality. Betel leaves exported from Tirur are famous in Pakistan as “Tirur Pan”.