How to Grow Lemongrass



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Days to germination: Not started by seed
Days to harvest: 100 days, when started by seedling
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Frequent watering
Soil: Well-drained and rich with organic material
Container: Yes, even indoors

Introduction

Lemongrass has a strong flavor of lemon citrus and it can be brewed in tea as well as used as a herb for seasoning. The most common dishes that use lemongrass are Asian cuisine.

A native of India, you will have to live in at least zone 9 if you want to grow lemongrass outdoors. Each plant can grow to between 3 and 6 feet high if you do grow it outside. It will be somewhat smaller if you have to keep it inside.

There are 2 kinds of lemongrass: East Indian and West Indian but there is little difference between them in terms of culinary use and growing. There really isn’t much variety to choose from.

It’s a very nondescript plant, looking much like a very tall patch of grass that doesn’t often produce flowers. At the base of each group of leaves there is a fat stalk, similar to a spring onion bulb. The overall plant is made up a big cluster of these individual stalks.

The bulb or bottom part of each stalk is used for most cooking purposes, but the rest of the leaves can be used as well. Teas are usually brewed with the leaves.

Not only is the tea very zesty in flavor, it can also help settle upset stomachs and ease a cough. The oils in lemongrass have a number of homeopathic health uses, though most home-growers do not extract the essential oils from their plants. It’s mostly used as a flavoring.

Starting from Seed

Home gardeners don’t typically start lemongrass plants from seed because it is so easy to start by just rooting stalks or cuttings.

Actually, you may even be able to start a new lemongrass plant from fresh stalks you purchase at the regular grocery store. As long as they are still firm and green, you should be able to get them to root. Snip off an inch or two from the end of the leaves, and put the base end in a glass of water. Leave somewhere sunny, and you should start to see roots sprouting from the bottom of the stalk in about a week or two.

Once your stalk has roots at least an inch long, you can either plant it in a container for indoor growing or take it right out into the garden.

Transplanting

Keep your lemongrass plants at least 3 feet apart, and allow for a height of 6 feet (though you can trim it lower than that).

When you dig the holes for the plants, mix in a some compost or well-aged manure to help enrich the soil. The soil shouldn’t be too thick though, the water still has to drain to keep your plants healthy.

You should plant your stalks outside after your last frost date, if you live in an area that gets winter frosts (such as zone 9).

Growing Instructions

Lemongrass will need a lot of nitrogen, so you should fertilize at least monthly with either a standard or high-nitrogen formula. Water your plant regularly and don’t let it completely dry out, especially when the weather is very hot.

Once your plant gets to 3 feet or so in height, you may want to keep the tops of the leaves cut down even more than what you are taking for an actual harvest. This can help keep the size of the plant down. Lemongrass doesn’t grow branches so no other pruning is necessary.

Containers

Lemongrass can be grown in large pots, either indoors or out. Depending on your climate, you should try to let it have a few summer months outdoors to get extra sun. Considering its size, most people keep their lemongrass inside only during the winter.

Your plants can get quite large, so plant it in a 5 gallon pot or larger. If it does start to outgrow the pot, you can always separate off more stalks just to keep the plant under control. It’s not usually a problem with exclusively indoor plants.

While inside, a lemongrass plant needs as much sun as you can offer with a minimum of 6 hours a day. It may thrive as an indoor-only plant but you won’t get as many stalks from it.

Fertilize your container plants once every 2 weeks with a standard mix, though you can skip this during the winter months. Water frequently, 2 or 3 times a week.

Pests and Diseases

The lemon-scented oils in lemongrass are frequently used to make natural insect repellent, so you really won’t have much to worry about when it comes to those kinds of pests.

Leaf blight will sometimes hit lemongrass. The leaves can start to wilt and you will find brown or rust colored spots on the ends of the leaves. Pick away the infected leaves, and spray the whole plant with a natural fungicide that can be used on edible plants.

Cats have also been known to have a fondness for lemongrass and may chew on your plants if given the chance.

Harvest and Storage

You can trim leaves from the plant any time once the plant is at least a foot tall. To harvest entire stalks, use a sharp knife to slice each one off at the soil level. Take the outer stalks first, and they should be at least 1/2 inch thick before you cut them. Try not to just break them off or you could damage the rest of the plant.

You may have to peel off the tougher outer leaves before use. Store the entire stalk with leaves in the fridge to keep it fresh for several days. Keep it in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel for the best results. Chopped pieces of the stalk can be frozen for later use.

If you want to store just the leaves, then they preserve best when dried rather than frozen.

Whether you use it to add flavor to meat or fish, or just to brew tea, remember that it can be quite strong. It doesn’t take much.

42 Responses to “How to Grow Lemongrass”

  1. scroft1@tampabay.rr.com  Says:

    Hi Alex this was interesting Sue.

  2. Candi Allstot  Says:

    I would like to know how to grow lemongrass as a mosquito repellant. I will probably not be using it for cooking or any other purpose. I live in TX and the mosquitos are awful. I don’t want to smell like incecticide everytime I go out on my patio. Also, will lemongrass come back every year?

    Thanks!

  3. Maiya  Says:

    Thanks for sharing! My mom just gave me a bunch of lemongrass in water and told me to plant it but now that its getting so big, I wasn’s sure when to harvest and prune

  4. Sandra Austin  Says:

    Under your paragraph “Starting From Seed”, you give no actual information on how to grow from SEED.

    Instead we get the sentence “Home gardeners don’t typically start lemongrass plants from seed because it is so easy to start by just rooting stalks or cuttings” — doesn’t much help someone looking to plant lemon grass seeds…

  5. Daniel Maynard  Says:

    Starting From Seed: Don’t.

  6. mo  Says:

    so excited to grow lemongrass in my new Tower Garden!!! Thanks for all the great tips!! Live~Life!

  7. Leslie Moench  Says:

    I started some from seed (e. indian) and so far so good. They seedlings aren’t very big yet (only planted about 1 month ago) but wanted to try out by seed, just to see if I could and it seems pretty simple.

  8. andy  Says:

    I’ve never had it go to seed from cuttings, but when I tried from seed my plants were different in appearance and quickly went to seed. So I assume the seeds came from a different variety. and I too would recommend cuttings, which root easily in water.

  9. Judy Reed  Says:

    I started seeds this year inside, 4 peat pots, two have sprouted and are doing well, just repotted them. For a gardener, it’s the challenge that makes it interesting! I’m excited about the concept of (yet more) 3-6′ plants that will need a place in my house :-)

  10. Vanessa  Says:

    Information fir starting from seed will be found on the actual seed packets themselves or can be requested from the source you are purchasing your seeds. This article was both interesting and informative. Truth be told, if something grows from a cutting or root I’m not sure why you would bother growing from seed unless you live somewhere impossible to purchase lemongrass.
    I can’t wait to get started!

  11. Jennifer  Says:

    Was wondering if I can grow it just in the yard… like a border around fence. ?? But mow it like regular grass. We have ticks bad and we can not keep them off our dogs no matter what treatment we use. If it does not harm my dogs I am willing to take nessesary steps to keep tick away from our yard and dogs!

  12. Meg K.  Says:

    We started lemongrass from seed for the first time this year and ended up with an entire hedge-fence! It started readily in seed starting formula, and I transplanted it out when the weather permitted and the seedlings were about 3 inches tall. Unfortunately, we had no information from the seed packet about growth habits, so we will need to transplant it to correct spacing. Our cats are crazy about it!

  13. Joanne  Says:

    I started 6 plants from seed this spring, they are gorgeous. I have a greenhouse and it’s fun to start things from seed!

  14. Crystal  Says:

    I live in Houston tx and I want to grow lemon grass for a mesquitos repellent . I wanna know I it will grow ok out here and will they grow year around ….. I want to grow in directly in the grow. Can I do that?

  15. Jessica  Says:

    I grew tons of lemongrass from seed and it did great. I started it in a seed plug tray indoors on a heatmat, then transplanted to the yard when it was about 6″ tall. They grew like weeds. Not sure why anyone would say not to bother trying. I’m in zone 7 so my options are to either keep it going indoors all winter or just put seed out in the spring. I generally do both with good success.

  16. phil sayers  Says:

    Thqanks for the tips on growing but does it grow okay in full sun regards phil s

  17. jim rich  Says:

    HI
    Can someone tell me if lemon grass roots deep.!t grows easy here (Hawaii) and I want to try it as a cover crop ( I practice no till). Thanks.

  18. linda stanley  Says:

    I started my plant from cuttings in the house and then planted in my garden. A beautiful plant. Can it winter over in mid-New York state? I was thinking I could mulch it well with leaves and or compost?

  19. Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis  Says:

    It’s time here in western NC to harvest and/or bring the plants indoors. I am wondering if there is a use for the grassy top parts of the plants? Should I also cut back (top off) the plants I am moving indoors, or will that hurt them? Suggestions, please, and thanks!

  20. Vickie  Says:

    Jennifer Says:
    August 14th, 2012 at 7:57 pm
    Was wondering if I can grow it just in the yard… like a border around fence. ?? But mow it like regular grass. We have ticks bad and we can not keep them off our dogs no matter what treatment we use. If it does not harm my dogs I am willing to take nessesary steps to keep tick away from our yard and dogs!
    The absolute best item I’ve found for ticks is Preventic Tick Collars by Virbac. Available from vets $20-$25 or online $11-$18. We had a large problem, and the 3 month collar is WELL WORTH the price.

  21. shirl  Says:

    What about deer? do they like it. I have such a hard time keeping deer from eating most anything I plant in back yard. I too would like a natural insecticide for my deck/yard area.

  22. Stacy  Says:

    I’m in zone 7 and it grows beautifully.

  23. Sue Vogt  Says:

    Absolutely NO problem growing (and wintering through) in Houston. I planted a small grass clump [2 inch pot] last year & it is presently over 6 foot tall and diameter of the clump about 2 feet. My question is whether I can trim it WAY down in order to get it more under control.

  24. Kathy  Says:

    I’ve heard that this can be used as a snake deterent, is that correct?

  25. minga  Says:

    Lemon Grass from Gurney’s online catalog

    This fast-growing 2- to 3-ft. fragrant herb has the scent and flavor of lemons. Best when used fresh. Cut and crush the top leafy portion for tea or select the bottom part of the stalk for food flavoring. Repels mosquitoes and is deer resistant. Perennial in Zones 9-10, grow as an annual elsewhere. hope this helps

  26. Audrey  Says:

    How long should it take for it to come up?

  27. ramana chintalaphani  Says:

    will you please inform where the root cuttings are available in georgia.
    thanks

  28. vardith schwartz  Says:

    thanks
    What do I cut and plant for reproducing the plant? the leaves? the root?
    thanks again
    V. S.

  29. Maddy  Says:

    I’m just about to thin out a dozen lemongrass seedlings so I”m mighty glad to learn that each one of them could potentially grow to 5 feet. I’ll be pretty careful where I plant them out. Cheers

  30. Victoria  Says:

    i bought lemon grass last year, but it died in the winter, then I found out you are suppose to cover it in the winter. can anyone tell me what you cover it with.

  31. Men Buntiem  Says:

    lemon grass is very good .

  32. taiko  Says:

    Dear all,
    I’m trying to grow the lemongrass. I used two stalks, they grow well. The plants are already 1 meter high, but I can see the white, little bit sticky film on the bottoms stalks, coating 20-30cm of plants. Does anybody know what it can be?

  33. judie lewellen  Says:

    I just love all the info I read here. I planted two stalks–rooted in water–which I bought at a local Asian grocery. They didn’t have roots and where not in the best of shape but they grew and I got a 15 gallon pot full in less than two years. I live in the high desert so I bring them in for the winter. Gets cold here down to 10 degrees. But the summer sun is intense and it;s 95 to 105. Should I keep them out of full sun during these perids? Thanks in advance! Judie

  34. Larry Arnold  Says:

    I just bought some on Ebay.
    It was nice, nice, and came from floridahillnursery.com

  35. Travis  Says:

    I am growing a pot of lemongrass which I had originally purchased from an asian supermarket in Dallas. I planted the stalks earlier this spring, and the plants thrive in as much sun as they can handle. Seems to be a relatively fast growing plant, however developing edible stalks from a cutting does take some time. I recommend using cuttings because they are easier and faster starting than seeds. Be sure to move your pot around as well, as the plant has a very hardy root system that will dig in to the ground at any chance it gets. Needs a large pot as well, I started my cuttings in a 5 gallon, and within 8 months they outgrew the pot.

  36. Josh  Says:

    My lemongrass, which is about 3-4′ high has started falling over. All the leaves fall to one side and the plant looks as if it is sleeping. What have I done wrong. I have 5 plants and they are all falling over. Please help.

  37. glenn williams  Says:

    had lemon grass and ginger tonic .it is great as a medical supplement.

  38. Mansi  Says:

    What is Zone 9 please?

  39. Karla  Says:

    After planting in container for the winter when can you plant outside in the Spring? Do you need to wait until the risk of frost has passed? Karla

  40. John  Says:

    Very interesting and informative. Alas no answers to readers’ questions. I bought my lemongrass, stalks with a few roots, at the market in Mae Hong Son, Thailand, and smuggled them home to Cape Town, where they are doing just fine. Wanna come to my place for real Thai cooking?

  41. farro  Says:

    Does Lemon grass have runnin roots like bamboo to take over your whole garden? If so, isn’t it better to grow them in a pot to have control over them?

  42. farro  Says:

    I have only seen the roots and the light color end of the leaves used in cooking.
    How do you use the rest of the leaves, or when you say leaves you mean the stems?

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