Lemongrass is a highly nutritious herb that is simple to grow. It can be added to numerous cooked dishes and blended into smoothies for added health benefits you will love! Lemongrass makes an excellent herb and is beneficial to grow in the garden, for it repels mosquitoes, deters rabbits and other undesirable critters, as well as subdues garden pests and bugs.
Are you thinking about planting Lemongrass in your garden? Why not give it a try and plant indoors? Lemongrass can be brought from your local nursery or online store. Here, we will discuss how to choose where to plant it in your garden, growing tips, and the benefits of growing Lemongrass plant.
In This Article
Quick Facts About Lemongrass plants
- Scientific name: Cymbopogon citratus
- Type of plant: tender perennial grass in the Cymbopogon genus
- Native to: India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Malaysia
- Light requirement: bright spot; a minimum of 6 hours of full sun per day
- Water requirement: every few days or whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry
- Preferred humidity: hot and humid climates
- Preferred temperature: 10 to 33°C (50-91.4°F) but will grow optimally at between 25 and 30°C (77–86°F)
- Size upon maturity: 1.8 m (60 inches tall ; 5 feet tall)
- Type of native soil: nitrogen-rich, well-drained sandy soil, and cannot tolerate the water-retention of clay soils
- pH level: between 6-7.8
- Fertilizer: slow-release 6-4-0 fertilizer
- Word meaning: a tropical grass with a flavor like lemon,
- Family: Grasses
- Lifespan: 4 years
- Growing season: spring
What exactly is a lemongrass plant?
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tropical plant that’s native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It’s grown throughout the tropics and in subtropical areas.
The perennial grass has long, narrow leaves and white flowers that grow on tall stem bases. The stalks can grow up to 48 inches tall (1.2 meters), but they’re often cut down to just 6 inches (15 cm) when harvested.
Lemongrass contains citral, an oil that gives it its distinctive lemon citrus scent. Its flavor is slightly less sweet than lemon peel, but it’s very similar in appearance and scent. Lemongrass also has a slightly bitter taste that balances out the sweetness of other ingredients in many dishes.
Cultivation and History
Lemongrass is an herb used in South Asian and Southeast Asian cooking for centuries. It is native to India, but it is also cultivated in tropical regions around the world.
In India and other parts of Asia, lemongrass has been used as a tea since at least 1500 B.C., when Ayurvedic doctors recommended it for various illnesses, including fevers, stomachaches and headaches. The ancient Egyptians used it to treat fevers and infections. Lemongrass was also used in Chinese medicine in the first century A.D., and it’s still used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese herbal medicines today.
This fresh herb is cultivated throughout tropical areas for its fragrant leaves and tender stalks. The plant thrives in warm weather conditions and full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade if necessary. Its seeds need well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter added to improve drainage and fertility.
There are several different kinds of lemongrass, each with its flavor. The most common types are:
Common lemongrass (Cymbopogon)
These certain plants is native to India and Indonesia but grows well in hot climates around the world. Common lemongrass has long stems that can reach up to 3 feet. The leaves are light green with a purple underside. Its flavor is similar to lemon verbena, with a hint of peppermint on the finish.
Java lemongrass (Cymbopogon winterianus)
This plant differs from common lemongrass in that its leaves are rounder in shape and its stems are greener and more slender than those of common lemongrass. Java lemongrass has a stronger aroma than common lemongrass but has the same flavor profile as common lemongrass when used in cooking.
East indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
It is more commonly used in cooking, while the West Indian variety is more often used for medicinal purposes. This variety has a stronger and pungent smell than the West Indian variety, so it’s best to use it sparingly when cooking or making tea. This variety can be found in most grocery stores, but if you’re having trouble locating it, check a local health food store.
West indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
The West Indian variety of lemongrass is preferred for medicinal purposes because its flavor is milder than its East Indian counterpart. You can find this lemongrass at most health food stores or online. If you’re growing your own herbs, you can plant this particular type in your garden or greenhouse during summer.
This variety is native to India, but this lemongrass grows well all over the world in tropical climates. It has long, thin stalks with pointed tips, which taper down to a round base with thin leaves growing from them. It has light green leaves with purple veins running through them on top of light green stems, which have white roots at the bottom.
The root system can get as large as 3 feet deep in rich soil conditions or sandy soil conditions where it can get as large as 4 feet deep if there is good drainage available for it to grow into during its life cycle.
How to Grow Lemongrass Plants: A Complete Guide
Lemongrass is a tropical herb that can be grown in containers or planted in a vegetable garden. The plants grow easily and produce new shoots quickly, so they’re a great way to add herbs to your kitchen. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some things you need to know for growing lemongrass at home:
Lemongrass prefers full sun and partial shade. Lemongrass needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. If you don’t have a sunny spot such as a sunny window or sunny windowsill for your lemongrass plant that receives at least six hours of direct sun per day, consider growing it indoors under fluorescent lights or other artificial light sources.
Lemongrass grows best in sandy, slightly acidic loam soils (pH 5.0 to 7.0). The soil should be well-drained because lemongrass does not tolerate standing water. If you’re planting lemongrass in a container, choose a pot with drainage holes at the bottom; otherwise, you’ll have to water from the top so that excess water has somewhere to drain down into the moist soil below the root zone of your plant.
Choosing new pots
If you want to grow lemongrass indoors as a houseplant, choose a pot that’s about 6 inches wide and deep since they spread fast and can quickly fill up the container; use an organic potting mix that drains well but retains moisture well enough for your plant’s needs (check with your local nursery or garden center). Water your lemongrass regularly so that the soil stays moist but not soggy wet; do not let it dry out completely between waterings.
Preparing Soil for Planting
The best way to prepare the soil for planting lemongrass is to dig up the area and add compost, peat moss or other organic material to improve drainage and aeration. If you are planting multiple lemongrass plants in one area, use raised beds filled with the same type of compost pile.
The potted plants grow best with a steady supply of water, especially during their first few weeks in the ground when they establish themselves and grow new roots. Water seeds regularly for best results, but do not allow it to sit in standing water for more than 24 hours as this can cause root rot or fungal diseases such as damping off (a fungus that causes seedlings to wilt and die without warning).
Lemongrass prefers warm weather conditions with temperatures between 75°F and 80°F (24°C to 27°C). It cannot tolerate cold weather below 50°F (10°C) without some kind of protection during the winter months.
Lemongrass needs to be pruned on a regular basis to keep it healthy and attractive. Pruning lemongrass at least once per year will help control the size of your plants and keep them from becoming too large for their containers or beds. If left unpruned, lemongrass may become woody or produce fewer leaves and flowers as time goes on.
To prune lemongrass, the first step is to remove any dead or wilted leaves. Then, you can trim the plant by about a third of its height, encouraging new growth. Lemongrass does not grow new leaves from the old stems like some plants do, so it’s important not to cut it too short or you’ll lose all those tasty leaves!
When storing lemongrass, you mustn’t store it near onions or garlic because they will absorb moisture from each other and spoil quickly. If you plan on storing lemongrass for more than a month or two, it’s best to put it in an airtight container with some silica gel packets to absorb excess moisture and keep the plant fresh longer while in a dark place.
How to Plant Your Own Lemongrass
Lemongrass can be grown as an herb or a vegetable depending on the variety grown. They grow well in pots but is also suitable for growing outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10 and 11.
- Select a location in your garden area where you want to plant the lemongrass rhizomes. Lemongrass seeds grow best in warm climates and may not survive if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) at night.
- Dig a hole large enough for the entire root ball of the lemongrass rhizome to fit into. If you have purchased whole lemongrass plants instead of rhizomes, dig holes large enough for each plant’s root ball. You should add about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of compost or manure into the bottom of each hole before planting it with your own lemongrass.
- Plant each rhizome (which looks like a thick, knobby root) so that only one-third of it is above ground and the rest is buried underground. Space them 12 to 18 inches apart for maximum yield.
- Water your new plant deeply and frequently for the first week after planting until it becomes established, which usually takes about six months if you start from seedlings rather than from rhizomes or roots; after that point, water only as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
How to grow lemongrass from root cuttings?
Growing lemongrass from root cuttings is not difficult, but it does take some time.
- Remove the outer leaves from one of the stalks of lemongrass and soak them in water for about 15 minutes. The leaves will turn dark green when they have been soaked long enough.
- Cut three pieces of root cuttings from each lemongrass stalk using a sharp knife or pruning shears. Each piece should be at least 4 inches long, but no more than 6 inches long. Make sure that each one has at least two nodes on it where new growth can occur, but do not include any flowers or leaves on your cuttings.
- Place the root cuttings into pots filled with potting soil and water them well until they are completely saturated with water, then set them aside to drain before planting them into their permanent home outside later on down the road when all danger of frost has passed completely.
- Water the pots until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings.
- Place the pots in a sunny spot or partial shade and keep them warm (70 degrees Fahrenheit). Lemongrass prefers temperatures above 60 F at night and above 80 F during the day. You can use a heating mat under your pots if necessary to keep them warm enough while they’re germinating, but remove it once plants begin to grow so they don’t get burned by excessive heat from underneath their roots.
- Fertilize with a 1-1-1 ratio fertilizer every two weeks after plants have grown three to four sets of true leaves (not counting seedling leaves).
How to grow lemongrass from seed?
To grow lemongrass from seeds, first take a look at your climate. Lemongrass is a tropical plant and will not do well in colder regions. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Lemongrass is easy to grow from seeds once you know the right conditions and have prepared the soil properly. Here’s how:
- Choose good quality seeds or a few stalks from a reputable source such as Bonnie Plants and Scotts Company LLC when growing lemongrass from seed. Plant only one variety at a time because each has its own unique flavor profile and growing requirements.
- Prepare your garden bed by tilling the soil with a rototiller or hand-digging it if you prefer a more organic approach to gardening. Create rows that are spaced about 3 feet apart each way for planting rows of lemongrass plants about 4 feet apart within the row once they reach maturity.
- Add lemongrass seeds directly into prepared soil after all danger of frost has passed and soil is warm enough for planting (about 65 degrees). Space plants about 6 inches apart, leaving about 2 feet between rows.
- For best growth, water your plants regularly until they are established (at least three months). Once established, lemongrass needs little care beyond occasional watering during dry spells and fertilizing every few weeks with a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as fish emulsion or compost tea.
Tips for Growing Lemongrass Plants
- Plant lemongrass plants near other fragrant herbs such as mints, basil or rosemary. These plants all have similar growing requirements and will help each other thrive if planted together. You can also plant them next to citrus trees like orange or lemon trees for added fragrance appeal!
- Mulch with straw to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. If you live in a warmer climate, consider using plastic mulch instead of straw because it will help protect the roots from burning due to hot sun exposure during summer months.
- Keep lemongrass well watered during dry spells, but don’t overdo it! Over-watering can cause root rot, which will kill your plant quickly. If you live in an area where it rains often, you may need to water only once every week or so during dry season.
- Fertilize plants monthly with a liquid fertilizer designed for vegetables. Apply according to package directions.
- For best flavor, harvest before the leaves start to flower. Harvesting lemongrass requires a sharp knife or pruning shears because the stems are very tough and fibrous.
How to Harvest Lemongrass
To harvest lemongrass is easy to do as long as you have the right tools on hand. The first thing you’ll need is a sharp knife or scissors. You’ll also need a container in which to store your lemongrass once you start harvesting.
- Cut off the lower bulbous portion of each stem with sharp scissors or a knife, leaving only about 4 inches above ground level.
- Cut off the top few inches of each stem so that only about 12 inches remains above ground level.
- Remove dead material or damaged leaves from your harvested lemongrass before storing them in your refrigerator or freezer. Store it in an airtight container or plastic bag so that it keeps fresh longer.
Pests, Diseases, and Treatment
Several natural remedies can be used to control these pests without using harmful chemicals in your garden. The first step is to identify which type of pest you’re dealing with so you know which treatment will work best for you.
Lemongrass Rust (Puccinia nakanishikii)
Lemongrass rust is caused by a fungus known as Phakopsora meibomiae. It attacks all parts of the plant, including leaves, stems and fruit. This fungus causes small brown spots on the plant’s leaves that turn into large yellow or brown spots with black centers as they age. These spots can cover most of the leaves if left untreated for too long.
Treatement: You can prevent rust by removing dried lemongrass parts keeping plants well-watered during dry periods and using resistant varieties where available.
Yellow Sugarcane Aphid (Sipha flava)
The yellow sugarcane aphid is a sucking insect pest of sugarcane. It feeds on the underside of the leaves, causing deformation and distortion of the leaf blade. This can distort the leaf blade, resulting in less photosynthesis and decreased sugar production.
Treatment: Insecticides such as pyrethroids will kill the pest on contact and reduce numbers quickly. However, these pesticides must be applied at least three days before harvest because they remain active on leaves after application.
Mosaic virus is a pathogen that causes mosaic in many plant species. It has been found in various crops, including soybeans, cotton, corn and potatoes. Mosaic virus is spread by aphids and thrips and can infect plants’ leaves and roots.
Treatment: The best way to prevent this disease is to avoid overwatering your plants and planting them in well-drained soil so they do not get too much water during rainy seasons.
Mealy bugs are often found on the undersides of leaves, but they may also be found on other plant parts or even in flowers or fruit. If your plant is infested with mealybugs you will see white cottony masses that attach themselves to the stems, leaves and new growth of your plants.
Treatment: The best way to combat mealy bug infestations is with an insecticidal soap spray or dust such as neem oil or pyrethrum powder. Use these products according to label directions.
Best Uses of Lemongrass Plants
Lemongrass essential oil
This essential oil can be added to diffusers or vaporizers to freshen indoor air quality or rubbed on the back of your neck to help reduce stress when combined with other aromatherapy oils such as lavender or eucalyptus. It can also be used in massage oils or lotions for muscle aches and pains. You can get these items usually in an asian grocery store.
The oil from lemongrass can be rubbed directly onto the skin to repel insects such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. It’s especially effective when combined with citronella oil because it has a longer-lasting effect than citronella alone.
Lemongrass is often used to make refreshing tea because of its strong flavor and aroma. The tea is said to have many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, preventing colds and relieving headaches and inflammation.
Lemongrass is commonly used to marinate meat before cooking or grilling it because of its strong flavor and aroma in hot water, enhancing the taste of meat Asian dishes, stir fries, salads, etc. You can also use other herbs like parsley or oregano when making your marinade to get more flavor than just lemongrass alone.
Lemongrass has been shown to help improve blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. It has a lot of medicinal properties that make it useful for treating high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer since it reduces inflammation caused by these conditions which can lead to tumor growth in the body.
Is lemongrass easy to spread?
Lemongrass does not reproduce by seed or by rhizomes (roots that grow horizontally). Instead, new plants are propagated from the base of mature stalks.
How long does it take for lemongrass to grow?
Lemongrass can take up to 12 months to reach maturity. However, growing your plants indoors under artificial light or in a greenhouse will probably be ready within six months.
Does lemongrass grow back every year?
Yes, lemongrass plants are perennial and will come back each year from their roots unless they’re killed by cold temperatures.
How often do you cut lemongrass?
Lemongrass can be cut as often as you want for use in cooking, but it is best to wait until it has reached about one foot tall before cutting it down to about six inches above the ground. The more frequently you cut it down, the more stalks will grow back and eventually fill out your patch of lemongrass.
There are multiple reasons you’d want to grow lemongrass indoors. Perhaps you have a penchant for cooking or maybe you’re a DIY enthusiast. Either way, growing lemongrass indoors is an exciting prospect—and with extra effort, it’s easily achievable. It is a relatively high-maintenance plant, but one that generates tasty rewards.