Cymbopogon citratus, most commonly known as lemongrass, is tall, perennial grass in a class of around 45 species. It is native to the tropical and subtropical climates of Asia, Australia, and Africa, but can be grown elsewhere in the world with the right growing conditions. If you love Thai and Vietnamese food, or you’re a big tea drinker (lemongrass has amazing health benefits!), then you’ve probably longed for your very own lemongrass plant at some point after discovering that it’s not always available in your local supermarkets. You may have even thought about growing your own from seed, rather than buying a plant to nurture. If that’s the case, keep reading to learn more about how to grow lemongrass at home.
Is lemongrass easy to grow?
Lemongrass is easy to grow, as long as you protect it against the cold, make sure it has adequate sun exposure, and water it regularly. This plant is a sub-tropical herb, so it can’t survive in freezing weather. If you live in a relatively cooler place where the temperature drops to 15°F (-9°C), you’ll need to plant lemongrass in a pot and bring it inside your home over the winter months.
If you live in a warmer place, lemongrass growing is particularly easy because you can plant it outdoors and not worry about finding space for it inside. That said, growing lemongrass indoors has its benefits, as you can easily access the fresh herb whenever you need it!
How to grow lemongrass
With lemongrass growing, you can either grow lemongrass from seeds or from stalks. The latter really is quite straightforward: to grow lemongrass from stalks, simply trim about 5 cm off the top of lemongrass stalks and peel the pieces that look dead. Then, put them into a glass of water and place the glass in a warm and sunny spot. Continue to water it as needed, especially during wintertime. To grow from seeds, there is a little more to it (as you’ll see below).
How to grow lemongrass from seed
- In a seed tray, mix equal parts of compost, coconut fiber, coarse sand, and abrasive. Press and smooth the surface into a 2 to 3-inch layer.
- Sow the lemongrass seeds 1 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep in the mixture of sand, coconut fiber, and compost.
- Pour a layer of thin compost over the seeds, and then mist the surface with water from a spray bottle. The trick is providing the seeds a moist, not wet, environment.
- Use plastic wrap to cover the tray, ensuring the edges are sealed.
- Place seed trays in a dark room or a cupboard. The seeds should germinate in 5 to 21 days.
- Water the soil enough to barely moisten it.
- Once you notice the seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap in the seed tray, and move the container to a place where the seeds can receive full sunlight.
How to grow lemongrass from stalk
You can propagate store-bought lemongrass stalks, but it’s essential to check them first because herbs that are from stores often come with the bottoms cut off. Those won’t work for propagation. So, make sure the stalks you buy have their stem bases intact. Once you have at least 5 to 6 stalks, you may follow these steps:
- Cut the stiff and brown leaves in the stem. Removing the dead foliage keeps the herb cleaner, as those will fall off eventually anyway. Don’t peel off the stalk’s woody outer layer, as new leaves will grow off them.
- Put the stalks in a jar filled with a few inches of water. Place the container in a sunny location, and then wait.
- To prevent fungus, change the water every two days or whenever it turns cloudy.
- Wait up to 2 to 3 weeks until the lemongrass plant grows an inch or two, or 2.5 to 5 cm long. Once they reach this size, you may now plant them in your garden or a pot of rich, moist soil.
- Water the herb thoroughly and spread a generous amount of mulch around it to conserve moisture. Remember, lemongrass is an herbaceous perennial that likes moist soil, a lot of sunshine, and warmth.
The handy thing about lemongrass is that it propagates itself. After a few weeks, you will notice roots growing at the bottom of the stalk. Wait for them to mature a little more before transferring the plant into a pot of moist, rich soil. Over time, new plants will start growing by the side of existing stalks. Your lemongrass will grow into a hefty shrub in around 4-6 months, ready to be harvested.
How to harvest lemongrass
A lemongrass plant’s growing season usually lasts up to 2 to 4 months. Wait for them to grow up to 12 inches tall before snipping the stalk an inch above the ground. Use may use scissors or a knife to do this.
The stem’s base is its most tender part, so it will be easier for you to pick as many stalks you want if you cut on this part. Leaving a part of the stem will also allow it to continue to grow over time.
Once you have harvested the number of stalks you need, remove its hard, woody portion. You may dry or compost the brown leaves. You may also keep the stalk refrigerated or frozen for later use.
If you’re going to harvest before winter approaches, you may just simply pull the whole plant out of the ground.
Common questions about growing lemongrass:
Even though lemongrass is one of the easiest crops to grow, just like any plant, it needs special care and attention. To help you in your lemongrass growing journey, we’ve shared some answers to some of the most common questions about growing this plant:
Can lemongrass grow in shade?
Lemongrass thrives in full sunlight, but it can also grow in a sunny area with some partial shade. This fact is another reason lemongrass is considered a low-maintenance crop. A green thumb is not a must to grow this herb; it is quite forgiving and easy to take care of. Just make sure it is planted in rich, loamy soil and water it regularly.
Will lemongrass grow back after winter?
Because lemongrass is a tropical plant, it can’t survive in chilly climates, like in much of North America. When the temperature drops below 40ºF, the plant suffers.
It may survive the winter and return in the spring, but its leaves will die. It will also return year after year as a perennial.
However, there is a way to help it survive during the cold months. You may install floating row covers that act almost like a blanket, keeping the crop warm during below freezing points. And, of course, you can bring it inside to avoid the cold!
Can lemongrass grow in water?
Yes, lemongrass grows in water. It is a great way to propagate the stalks, if you chose to grow lemongrass from stalks as opposed to seeds. But, just like many plants, you will need to transfer them into rich moist soil to thrive. Check out the above step-by-step guide to help you in growing lemongrass at home.
How many lemongrass plants are OK per pot?
A lemongrass plant will grow as big as you let it, so take note of the amount of space you have in the pot and the number of stalks you want to plant. Pot size varies, of course, and so too will the number of stalks you can plant in one pot. For smaller pots less than six inches in diameter, you should plant one stem per pot so its roots can run freely beneath the soil surface. If you have much larger pots, you can plant a few plants assuming there is enough space around each plant for full rooting. In a garden bed, you may plant as many as you can fit, assuming they have rooting space!
How often do you water lemongrass?
As mentioned, lemongrass is a tropical plant, which means it thrives in sunny, warm, and humid places. It prefers regular rainfall. So, when growing lemongrass plants at home, always think of mimicking the tropical weather. Make sure you give it an abundant amount of water, irrigating deeply so water can reach its roots.
Keep in mind to water the plants every other day and provide it mist every day. To check whether the soil is loamy, insert a finger into the ground around the crop. If the soil is dry, you should water the plant immediately.