growing lemongrass plant

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Lemongrass is a fantastic plant to grow in any kitchen garden. You can grow them easily in containers as well as in the backyard. Lemongrass is quite popular in Asian cuisines.

Lemongrass grows well in tropical conditions. It will survive winter only in zone 8 and warmer.

So if you want to grow lemongrass in your garden follow along. We will discuss everything about growing lemongrass in this article.

Lemongrass Growing In A Nutshell:

Botanical NameCymbopogon citratus
Common NameLemongrass
Native landIndia and Srilanka
Size of the plant2 to 4 feet
Sun ExposureNeed full sun
Ideal soilLoamy soil enriched with nutrients
Soil pH6.8-7.2
Hardiness Zones10-11

Popular Lemongrass Varieties:

The lemongrass has more than 50 species. Here are 4 of the most common varieties:

Ornamental Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus):

Used mostly in Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. They have a lemony aroma. and so are used to flavor to soups, curries, teas, and other beverages.

It is a perennial evergreen in hardiness zones 10 through 11. and becomes dormant with a hard freeze. They typically reach a height of 6 ft and spread up to 3 feet.

Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus):

They are also known as nard grass and mana grass and are the best know for citronella oil.

Citronella is perennial in USDA zones 10 through 12.

Java Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus):

They grow in compact, dense clumps. Java citronella has an arching leaf, tainted yellow, or reddish stems.

They are perennial in USDA zones 9a through 11 but in colder regions acts as annuals.

Malabar Grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus):

Malabar grass is also known as East Indian lemongrass. They have a lemony aroma and flavor with a warm, gingery undertone.

Malabar grass is a perennial in USDA zones 9 through 11. and need lots of garden space. Interestingly, you can grow them in containers as annuals in colder regions.

Malabar grass can work as a great hedge plant because of it’s tall, purple seed heads.

Ideal Growing Environment:

Grow your lemongrass in full sun, with plenty of water, in rich, well-draining soil. If you’re growing it in a pot, top-dress it with compost or worm castings every couple of weeks, to make sure it’s getting plenty of nutrients.

Soil:

There are basically 4 types of soil among them Loamy soil is ideal for growing lemongrass. The soil should also be rich in organic nutrients. To enrich your soil with organic nutrients add a handful of compost, manure, etc with the soil.

Sunlight:

Lemongrass loves the full sun. They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. The absence of sunlight may result in shunted growth and can attract pests and diseases.

Temperature and Humidity:

As lemongrass is a tropical plant it needs hot and humid weather to grow properly. They are also very sensitive to frost.

Fertilizer:

Being a member of the grass family lemongrass needs a lot of nitrogen to thrive. Fertilize the plant with a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer during the growing season. Another good idea to feed your lemongrass is using compost tea. Check out the easy compost tea recipe in this article.

How to Grow Lemongrass:

There are 3 main ways to grow lemongrass plants.

  1. From the seeds
  2. From cuttings
  3. By divisions

Growing Lemongrass From Seeds:

The best time to start growing lemongrass from seeds is the spring, so the frost date is over.

For Sowing The Seeds Directly Into The Ground:

Choose a sunny location to sow the seeds. Put the lemongrass seeds in the soil keeping a gap of 6 inches between two seeds. Then cover the seeds with a little bit of soil.

Keep the soil moist. The seedlings need a couple of weeks before they start raising their heads.

Once the lemongrass seedlings are a few inches tall, thin the seedlings so the gap of 2 feet between two plants.

For Growing Transplants Indoors:

growing lemongrass edited

If you are planning to grow the lemongrass seedlings indoors, start sowing seeds a month prior to the last frost date. Use seedling trays or bio-degradable pots to grow lemongrass seedlings.

Growing Lemongrass From Cuttings:

You can also grow lemongrass for the cuttings. To prepare a cutting first take a sharp knife and cut the lemongrass plant an inch above the ground. The remaining stalk will regrow into a lemongrass plant.

Now, separate the bottom 3, 4 inches of the stalk which has been separated from the main plant. 3-4 inches of the stalk is compulsory for growing roots.

Remove the leaves. You can use the leaves in cooking.

Now, place the cutting in a cup of water so that the base of the stalk remains in the water. Keep changing the water regularly.

The lemongrass stalk will soon start producing roots. Once the roots become large enough to support the plant, usually after 2-3 weeks, transplant the cutting outdoor.

Dig a hole of 1/2 inches into the soil. Put the cutting into the hole and fill the hole with soil. Generally, after 2-3 months, the lemongrass will be ready to harvest.

From Divided Plants:

If you are planning to grow lemongrass by division, start in the spring. It is the best time to divide any mature perennial plant.

Lemongrass grows many stalks from the base that you can divide and plant in different locations.

Gently separate a few stalks from the main plant. You can do it either by pulling them from the base or by using a knife. Make sure the stalks have some roots in them.

Now, plant the divisions in your preferred locations that have the ideal growing conditions for lemongrass. While planting the lemongrass divisions give a gap of 1-2 feet among two plants.

Growing Lemongrass in Containers:

lemongrass in pots edited

Lemongrass can spread very quickly. So if you are growing lemongrass in the backyards thin them regularly or soon it will take over your garden. One of the easiest ways to contain their growth is to grow them in pots.

Choose a pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter. A large-sized pot like this will give a good anchorage for the roots and stop the plant from tipping over.

Use a good quality potting mix to grow lemongrass plant. Place the plant on a sunny balcony or windowsill.

How to Fertilize Lemongrass:

Use a balanced organic fertilizer to fertilize lemongrass. Apply fertilizer a couple of times in a month.

Adding good quality composts and rotted manure will also give a boost of nitrogen from time to time.

Watering Lemongrass:

Lemongrass needs a steady supply of water. The roots of the plant should never dry out.

The actual water requirements of lemongrass plants vary as per the type of soil. For example, if the soil is of the sandy type you will have to water more frequently, whereas in silty loamy soil the watering frequency will be far less.

You can also reduce your watering frequency by applying a layer of mulch on top of the soil. This will also help you to kill the weeds nearby.

Overwintering:

During winters especially in colder regions, overwinter your lemongrass indoors. First, trim down the stalk to a few inches tall and plant them in small pots.

Now put the pots in south-facing windows. You don’t need to put much water in the winter, just make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. You can also place the pot in the basement.

Once the spring comes up bring the pots outdoor where it can get direct sunlight.

Pest and Diseases of Lemongrass:

Lemongrass is not much affected by pests. In fact, they are actually used to repel pests.

Harvesting Lemongrass:

Lemongrass grows very fast. You can start harvesting even when the plant is quite young. The ideal time for harvesting lemongrass is when the plant is 12 inches tall and 1/2 inch thick.

Hold the stalk near the base and pull. You can also cut the stalk at the ground level. The main edible portion of the plant is the swollen bulbous base, So make sure it doesn’t get left out.

Now, carefully remove the tough outer leaves. These can be very sharp. So use caution. You can use the leaves to make tea. The tender white stalks are used in cooking.

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