If you’re just starting to grow some lemongrass in your garden or in a pot on your patio, you might be wondering whether lemongrass flowers. Conversely, you may have been growing this delicious herb as an annual and have never seen any flowers on the plant.
Lemongrass produces flowers that are similar to other grasses. However, lemongrass will only reach the flowering stage in tropical or sub-tropical areas where it’s able to survive year-round. The flowers are small, white, cream, pink, or green in color.
However, you are unlikely to see lemongrass in flowers unless you live in an area where it is grown as an ornamental landscaping plant. To understand this better, let’s look at why plants flower.
Why Does Lemongrass Produce Flowers?
Most plants that you’re ever likely to grow will produce flowers and eventually seeds. This is the plant’s survival mechanism and means that the seeds that it produces will help the species to survive.
Almost all plants have some sort of reproductive system that ensures the continuation of the species. If left long enough, lemongrass will flower and produce seeds, but it also has an alternative reproduction system. It produces multiple offsets from the main plant via underground tubers. These offsets can be cut off from the main plant and used to start a new clump.
So, there are actually two simple ways of growing a new lemongrass plant. One is by dividing an existing clump, and the other is by harvesting and sowing the seeds. In fact, these seeds do germinate quite readily and are fairly easy to grow.
What Does A Lemongrass Flower Look Like?
If you’ve ever seen any grass-like plant produce flower stalks, you’ll find that lemongrass flowers are very similar. The flower spikes grow from the thickened stems. Therefore, the reason that not many people will ever see a lemongrass plant flower is because these stems are harvested to use in cooking before they’ve had a chance to produce flowers.
Lemongrass flowers are produced on large clusters along the flowering spikes. The flowers are actually quite small and tubular. They have around six petals that can be either white, cream, pink, or green. The flower buds are also a lovely pink color. The stamens are white with yellow anthers.
Lemongrass flowers are apparently attractive to pollinators such as bees.
In tropical and sub-tropical areas, the plant will usually flower in late summer to fall. If you gently rub the flowers, you’ll get that lovely lemony fragrance that this plant is well-known for.
After the flowers, seed heads are produced. These are long and green to start with but will dry to a brown color. If you have the opportunity to let a lemongrass plant flower, you should wait for the seed heads to dry completely before harvesting them. You’ll then have an abundance of seeds that you can germinate to create more lemongrass plants.
What Happens When Lemongrass Flowers?
If you’re growing your lemongrass to harvest as many of those fragrant stalks as you can, you should not let your plant go to flower. Like most edible plants that we harvest for their leaves, bulbs, or stalks, like onions, leeks, and spinach, once the flowering begins, the plant becomes inedible.
In the case of lemongrass, you’ll find that the stalk will become quite tough and fibrous once it starts to grow taller to produce its flowers. At this stage, it will no longer be edible.
However, if you have numerous plants and live in a warm area where the plant is likely to flower, you can set aside just one or two plants and let these go to seed. What this means is that you’re allowing the plant to flower and produce its reproductive seeds.
This is just like any other type of vegetable or herb that you’re growing. At the end of the season, you let some of these plants go to seed. Then, you collect the seeds so that you have them for sowing the following year.
Some plants will even self-seed naturally by themselves. There are gardeners around the world that benefit from new tomato plants in the spring and summer that have self-sown from the previous year’s crop.
Different Varieties Of Lemongrass That Are More Ornamental
We all know that the most commonly grown lemongrass species is Cymbopogon citratus. This is the plant that we grow for those lovely fragrant and flavorsome stalks that we like to use in our cooking.
But did you know that there are over 50 species in the Cymbopogon genus? So, if you want to grow lemongrass purely for its ornamental value and to see whether you can get it to flower, you might like to have a look at some of the other species that are available.
East Indian Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
This type of lemongrass is also edible, and the lemon flavor is enhanced with warm, gingery undertones. If you grow this in a subtropical or tropical region, this lovely grass will produce gorgeous purple seed heads that grow on tall stalks.
This is a lovely ornamental plant that can be grown to create an attractive border or edging plant. It’s also perfect to help prevent soil erosion if you live on a sloping piece of land.
If you grow this lovely ornamental plant, you can even harvest a few stalks to use in your cooking, just like you would use the Cymbopogon citratus variety.
Silky Oil/Native Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon bombycinus)
This species of lemongrass is native to the northern parts of Australia. It’s also edible and has that same gorgeous lemony fragrance. It has finer blades than the traditional lemongrass but does produce fragrant flowers.
These lead to feathery seeds that are easily disbursed by the wind.
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii)
Those of you who are familiar with essential oils will have heard of palmarosa. It has a sweet scent with a hint of rose. This species is an attractive grass plant that takes around three months to flower.
The flowers are fairly small and insignificant. However, they are borne on tall stalks that add a different dimension when used in landscape planting. They have the added advantage of giving off a lovely rose-like scent.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
This is a lovely clumping grass and comes from the tropical regions of Asia such as Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. The plant is edible, and the leaves can be used as a flavoring for curries and soups.
The flowers are borne on very tall stalks that gracefully arch over. It would make a lovely landscaping plant for borders. Although the flowers are quite small and insignificant, the flowering stalks themselves add a lovely soft accent. These then produce a multitude of seed heads that can be used to propagate new plants.
If you would like to know more about this fascinating topic, please check out the complete guide I wrote about growing Lemongrass.