How to Grow Lemongrass at Home
Like other perennials from Southeast Asia, Lemongrass is not difficult to grow at home in our Southwestern heat. The tender portions of this aromatic grass provide a light lemon flavor used in teas, soups, and stir-fry dishes. It can also be a popular addition to gardens and landscaping as it can also have a tendency to repel snakes, mosquitoes as well as other insects. In this article, we will show you how to grow lemongrass at home.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) grows in clumps of tightly wrapped leaves with a bulbous base. The inner core is pale green and tender, somewhat resembling the lower part of the green onion. The light green strap leaves are finely serrated. Lemongrass generally grows about 3 feet high, although it might grow to six feet high in ideal conditions.
Lemongrass Quick Care
Common Name(s): Lemongrass
Scientific Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Zone: USDA zones 8-11
Height & Spread: 3 to 6 feet in height and 2 feet width
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-draining soil, Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (6.5–7.0)
Pests & Diseases: Spider Mites
How To Grow Lemongrass
When growing at home, lemongrass needs little care and insects rarely attack the plant. Like most shallow-rooted grasses, it enjoys having regular water during the hotter months but once established it can manage just fine on occasional rain when cooler.
When to Plant Lemongrass
In the desert Southwest plant Lemongrass from February to June, and from August to October. Cooler areas will need to wait until April to plant since it is also frost tender. Plant in full sun to afternoon shade.
Light & Temperature
Lemongrass needs lots of sunlight, even in Southwest gardens. Place where it will receive full sun but you may want to shade in extreme temperatures.
Lemongrass is regarded as a tender perennial in the Southwest. It will grow in Zones 8 and above but is only hardy only for Zones 10 and 11, but it will survive mild winters with brief frosts. Because of its size and frost sensitivity, you may want to grow it in a large container so at the first sign of frost, you can bring lemongrass indoors for protection through the winter.
Water & Humidity
Lemongrass thrives with consistent moisture, but not soggy soil. Water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Be sure to mix clay soil with compost or manure to improve its ability to drain. Fill containers with a quick-draining potting mix that is enriched with peat moss, fir bark, or coir. Try to keep the pH between 6.5 to 7.
Provide monthly feeding throughout the growing season using a standard 20-20-20 plant food or fish emulsion.
In late fall, trim your clump to about four inches from the ground. This will remove the leaves, which will be looking a bit tattered by the weather. If you see dead areas in the middle of the clump, that will be your clue that it is time to divide and replant the lemongrass. It will also stimulate new growth in the spring.
How Fast Does Lemongrass Spread?
Lemongrass is known to grow rapidly and will spread to fill a container or garden bed. Each plant will spread to about 2 feet wide and reach a size of 3 to 5 feet tall in a normal growing season. If planting in a container, choose a pot that is at least 14 inches wide and at least 5-gallons in size.
Always use gloves when handling lemongrass. The fine serration on the edges of the leaves can cut you before you know it. Lemongrass has also been known in rare cases to cause contact dermatitis (itching, reddening, even blisters), which is another good reason for those gloves.
To harvest, grab several leaf clusters that are at least one-half inch in diameter at the base. Using a hand shovel or garden saw to assist, remove them from the main clump. Clip off all but 8 inches of the leaf base, discarding the tougher, less flavorful green leaves. Harvested clumps of lemongrass resemble green onions but are much harder to slice into segments. Use only the inner pale green leaves of harvested sections.
Can Lemongrass Deter Mosquitoes?
Yes! For years landscape planners have strategically added lemongrass as landscaping accents due to their unique ability to deter mosquitoes and other insects. Lemongrass contains the oil citronella which is the main ingredient in mosquito deterring candles.
Using Lemongrass For Cooking
In the kitchen, lemongrass can provide a light lemon flavor to foods. If you enjoy making foods from Southeast Asia, you will want to grow lemongrass since it’s a regular addition to Asian soups and dishes. Try it next time you make egg drop soup. Tender slices can also be used in making herbal tea.
As you can see, growing lemongrass at home can have many lasting benefits. It requires little care, is heat resistant, and has few pests.