Living in warmer climate gives you some advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that it allows you to try growing tropical plants, such as lemongrass.
This plant will be a great addition in your garden. It looks beautiful, has a nice fragrant, and can be used to spice your cooking. Lemongrass tea is also good for your health. If you want to get all those advantages, you must try growing lemongrass.
- 1 Lemongrass Plant Description
- 2 Requirements to Grow Lemongrass
- 3 Growing Lemongrass Tips
- 4 Lemongrass Propagation
- 5 Growing Lemongrass in Pots
- 6 Growing Lemongrass Indoors
- 7 Growing Lemongrass from Seeds
Lemongrass Plant Description
Cymbopogon ciratus or what is known as lemongrass is a perennial plant from Southeast Asia. But, it can be planted in USDA zones 10 and 11. If you live in zones 9 and cooler, you must do something to protect it from the cool temperature in winter. This plant grows in a large clump if it is planted in the right environment. The clump contains many stiff stalks with blade-like leaves.
The plant grows up to 1.8 m tall and 1.2 m wide. Its stalk is hard on the outside and soft in the inside. It has nice citrus scent and can make your cooking more appetizing. Lemongrass can be harvested when the stalks have matured. It takes about 100 days for the plant to mature. If everything goes well, you can harvest lemongrass for 4 years.
In tropical areas, lemongrass will bloom when they are mature. But, in cooler areas, it usually doesn’t bloom and goes to seed. The flowers look like grass flowers and bamboo flowers. When they are pollinated, these small flowers will produce seeds that are stored inside the seedpods.
In growing lemongrass, you can choose one of the two types of lemongrass. They are West Indian lemongrass and East Indian lemongrass. The former is more commonly cultivated and used in cooking. Its stalk is greener and thicker. Meanwhile, East Indian lemongrass has reddish and thinner stalks. Both of them have identical fragrance though.
Requirements to Grow Lemongrass
In growing lemongrass, it is a must for you to provide the best environment for it. Without this kind of environment, your lemongrass will not grow into a healthy plant. In order to create this environment, you need to meet these requirements.
Lemongrass requires full sun to grow well. If this plant gets constant 6 hours of sun every day, it will thrive and offer you with more stalks to grow. This herbaceous plant can tolerate partial sun. But, growing lemongrass in a shaded area may increase its risk of being attacked by pests and diseases.
This tropical plant will tolerate temperature of 10oC to 33oC. However, it grows optimally in temperature of 25oC to 30oC. If you live in cooler area, it is a must for you to provide some protection for this plant during the cooler months.
When you are growing lemongrass, you need to provide the best medium for it. The soil must be well drained. Moreover, it must be rich in organic matter. Lemongrass grows best in neutral loamy soil. Its pH level must be between 6.8 and 7.8.
Plenty of water is needed to grow this plant. In consequence, you must water the plant properly. Moreover, you need to prevent the soil from being dry. When the weather is extremely hot, it is important for you to increase the watering frequency. Another way to prevent dryness is mulching the soil around the plant.
Growing Lemongrass Tips
Just because you never plant this tropical herb before, it doesn’t mean that you cannot be successful in doing it. It is true that growing lemongrass can be a bit challenging since it is a tropical plant. But, there are some tips that you can follow in order to gain this success.
1. Use the right type of fertilizer
Since lemongrass is mainly cultivated for its stalks, you must fertilize it with fertilizer that can boost the production of stalks and leaves. For this purpose, it is recommended to use rich nitrogen fertilizer, particularly 6-4-0 fertilizer.
Apply this fertilizer before you plant this herb. If you don’t have time to fertilize the plant again during its growing season, you need to use the slow release type. Moreover, you can also add a layer of aged tea around the plant in order to provide more nutrients for the plant.
2. Repotting your potted lemongrass
Growing lemongrass in a container offers you with some advantages. However, if the age of the plant is more than a year old, you need repotting your lemongrass. Doing it will allow the plant to have fresh and better soil. Therefore, it will get all the nutrients needed to grow healthily.
3. Pruning the lemongrass at the right time
Your lemongrass needs pruning at least once a year. The best time to prune this plant is before the winter comes. Cut it up to 6 inches above the ground and protect it from the cool weather. Later on in the spring, you will see that your lemongrass start to grow again.
4. Prevent diseases on lemongrass
Because of a certain fungi, lemongrass will suffer from brown spots on the leaves. This fungal infection can cause the plant to die. To prevent it, you need to be careful in watering your lemongrass. If you wet the leaves, the fungus will be able to infect this plant easily.
5. Mist the leaves
In its original habitat, lemongrass grows in hot, sunny, and humid areas. As a result, dry spell will affect the growth of this plant. In order to solve this problem, you can mist the leaves of the lemongrass. However, you need to be careful in doing it so that fungus will not love growing on them
6. Space the plants properly
This particular herb has a tendency to spread wide and grow tall. Therefore, you need to space the plants properly when you are growing lemongrass. Commercial growers usually space the plants 0.4 m apart. But, for a home garden, it is recommended to space them 0.6 m apart.
7. Overwintering lemongrass
Lemongrass cannot tolerate cool weather. Therefore, it must be protected during the winter. if the winter in your area is very mild, you can keep growing lemongrass outdoor in winter. However, it is a good idea to mulch the soil around your lemongrass so that the roots stay warm.
But, if the winter in your area is cold, you had better grow the lemongrass in pots. In consequence, you will be able to move it to a more sheltered area when the first fall frost comes. Later on, you can move it outdoor when the weather is warm enough in the spring.
Lemongrass can be propagated in three ways:
1. From seeds
Lemongrass seeds can be sown directly to the grown or on seedling pots. They must be lightly planted. Moreover, the seeds need plenty of light and warm temperature to germinate. Lemongrass seedlings appear in around 2 weeks.
The best time to sow the seeds is in the spring after the last frost date. But, for indoor sowing, it is best done a month before the last frost date. Growing lemongrass trough this method takes a bit more time. However, it is rewarding and fun.
2. From cuttings
Another way to propagate lemongrass is from cuttings. To get the cuttings, you can buy fresh lemongrass from the grocery. After that, cut the upper part of the lemongrass stalk so that you get 3-inches long bottom stalk. In cutting the stalk, you must use a clean knife.
Then, place the bottom part of the stalk in a glass of water. Don’t forget to change the water daily.
After a week, the cutting will sprout some roots. However, you must not transplant the cutting right away. You need to wait for about 3 weeks or until the roots are big enough.
3. From divided plant
If you already have a lemongrass plant, you can propagate it by dividing the plant. You only need to separate one stalk from the main plant by pulling it out. In separating the stalk, you have to make sure that the roots stay attached to the stalk. After that, plant it in a planting site or a pot that you have prepared.
Growing Lemongrass in Pots
A Potted lemongrass is sometimes a better option than the direct planted one. When you are growing lemongrass in a pot, you will be able to move it easily when the weather is not ideal for the plant to grow. These are what you need to do to plant lemongrass in pots.
Before you start growing lemongrass in containers, you need to prepare the pots and potting soil. The size of the pot must be at least 30 cm in diameter and 30 cm deep or 19 L in volume. Moreover, the pot must have drainage holes. In addition, you need to prepare high quality potting soil. Choosing potting soil that is pre-mixed with slow release fertilizer is a good idea.
This step depends on what kind of propagation that you want to do. If you want to grow it from seeds, you can sow the seeds directly into the pots. Planting 2 or 3 seeds per pot, moist the soil regularly, and wait for the seedlings to appear. When they are a few inches taller, you can thin them to 1 seedling per pot.
If you propagate lemongrass from cutting, you can plant the cuttings on the pots when the cuttings have big enough roots. In addition, if you propagate it from divided plants, you can plant the separated stalks in the pots immediately.
3. Caring for the plant
Place the pots outdoor so that the plants get enough sun light in the spring and summer. When the temperature is warm, water it regularly. In winter, bring the plants indoors and decrease the watering frequency. In this case, water the plant only when the soil looks dry.
Before you plant them indoors, you need to acclimate the plants to the new condition. It is almost like hardening seedlings before the transplantation process, but it is the reverse of it. Acclimating the plant must be done in the fall.
Growing lemongrass in containers require you to fertilize the plant once in two weeks from April to September. For best result, use water soluble fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Mix it with water and use the dilluted fertilizer to water the lemongrass.
You can harvest the lemongrass when the stalks are at least 30 cm tall and 1.5 cm thick. Harvesting this herb must be done gradually so that this plant stays alive for long. Cut the stalks at soil level and begin the cutting from the outer stalks.
Growing Lemongrass Indoors
To grow lemongrass indoors, you must, of course, grow it in pots. Growing lemongrass indoors is very common during the winter. It will keep the plant alive because the indoor temperature is warmer than the outdoor temperature. However, you need to make sure that the plant get enough light. As a result, you need to place in near a sunny window.
Growing this plant indoors actually can be done in other season than winter. Having lemongrass indoor will make your home have better fragrant. Therefore, you will feel more relaxed while you are at home. And in order to make the indoor plant stay healthy, you must water it periodically and fertilize it every 2 weeks during the growing season.
Growing Lemongrass from Seeds
Propagating this herb from seeds is perfect for you who do not have access to get lemongrass cuttings or divided plants. To get the seeds, you can order it from an online nursery. Once you get them, you can begin the process of growing lemongrass from seeds.
1. Germinating the seeds
For you who live in warmer areas, you can plant the seeds directly to the planting site in the spring. Before you sow the seeds, don’t forget to work the soil so that it is rich in organic matter and has good drainage.
Sprinkle the lemongrass seeds 15 cm apart and cover them lightly with soil. Mist the soil regularly so that it stays moist. Later on, you must thin the seedling when they are several inches tall. Thinning must be done so that the plants are 0.3 to 0.6 cm apart. Therefore, the lemongrass will have enough space to grow.
If you germinate the seeds indoors, you must remember to harden the seedling for about a week. Therefore, they won’t suffer from transplanting shock. And when they are ready, you can plant the seedlings on the planting site.
Lemongrass needs plenty of water. However, you must not water it too much. Waterlogged soil can affect the plant badly. In addition, you must fertilize the plant once a month, during the spring and summer.
If you grow lemongrass from seeds, you will be able to harvest the stalks in about 3 months. At the first harvest, it is important to harvest small amount of stalks.
Growing lemongrass is actually very easy if you live in warmer climates. You don’t need to be an experienced gardener to be successful in planting this herb. However, some challenges will arise if you live in cooler climates.