Growing Lemongrass in Pots (7 Simple Steps)

If you don’t have a large garden or live in a relatively cold climate, you might be wondering how to grow lemongrass in pots. This is a great way to grow your lemongrass and is fairly easy to do.

To grow lemongrass in pots, you need to choose a container that is at least 12 inches (30 cm) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Place this in a sunny spot and water regularly to ensure the soil does not dry out. Harvest regularly or trim the plant to stop it from outgrowing its container.

If growing lemongrass in pots is something that you want to try, here are 7 simple steps that you can follow to get the best results.

1. Choose The Right Container

When choosing the right container, you have to understand that lemongrass is a fast grower and will get quite large. In fact, a single lemongrass plant can grow to a height of around 3 feet (1 meter) high and around 2 feet (60 cm) wide when grown in the ground.

The pot that you choose will be able to contain the plant to some degree, but if it’s not large enough, the roots of the plant could break through the sides of the pot, especially if you decide to use a plastic pot.

For this reason, a terra cotta or ceramic pot is usually better. Or, you could use a fabric grow bag instead. These bags have the advantage of being able to air-prune the roots if they try and escape through the sides of the bag.

Whatever material you decide for your preferred pot, make sure that it’s large enough. The minimum size of the pot should be 12 inches (30cm) in diameter. It also needs to be at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep to accommodate the large root system of the plant.

You should only grow one individual plant in each pot. This will give the plant enough space to spread and grow into a healthy clump with lots of delicious stalks that you can harvest.

2. Select A Good Quality Potting Mix

Select a top-quality potting mix to grow your lemongrass in. Remember that lemongrass grows quickly and, therefore, needs plenty of nutrients. It also likes moist soil.

Therefore, your mix should contain lots of organic matter and be able to hold some moisture. But don’t make the mistake of not having a mix that drains freely. You don’t want the roots of your plant to become waterlogged.

There are plenty of high-quality commercial mixes available that you can choose from. Ideally, the pH level of the mix should be between 6.5 and 7. You can even make your own mix by blending equal parts of well-aged compost with some coconut coir and some well-composted wood chips.

Check the pH to make sure that it’s not too acid. If you find that your mix is too acidic, you can add some wood ash, bone meal, or dolomite lime. All these products contain calcium carbonate, which is used to raise the pH of the soil.

Once you’ve got your mix or made up your own, fill your pot and water well. Observe how well the excess water drains through. If the mix does not drain well enough, you can add some perlite or coarse builder’s sand to increase the drainage.

3. Cuttings Or Seeds: Which Should You Choose?

In general, taking some rooted cuttings commonly called offsets from an existing plant is usually the fastest way to get started with your pot-grown lemongrass. Therefore, if you have an established plant in the garden or you have a friend or neighbor who has one, here’s all you have to do.

With a sharp knife, cut an established stalk from around the outside of the plant. Make sure it has some roots attached as you gently pull it upward. Trim off the top third of the leaves and plant this into the center of the pot that you’ve filled with the mix. The base of the stalk should be around 1 inch (2.5 cms) below the surface of the soil.

Growing Lemongrass From Store-Bought Stalks

If you don’t have access to a lemongrass plant, you can easily start your lemongrass by using stalks that you’ve purchased from a farmer’s market or Asian store. Make sure that you select healthy stalks that have their bases intact. Then, continue with the following steps:

  • Wash the stalks, ensuring that there is no dirt left on the base.
  • Cut the leaves until there is only 1/3 of length left.
  • Fill a clean glass or jar with water.
  • Put the stalks in the water and ensure that the entire base is covered with water.
  • Put the glass or jar on a bright, sunny windowsill.
  • Change the water in the glass every couple of days or as soon as it becomes cloudy.
  • It should only take a couple of weeks for the roots to start growing from the base of the stalks.
  • Once the roots have reached a length of around 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm), plant each stalk into the center of a pot that you’ve filled with the potting mix.
  • Moisten the soil well and add some liquid fertilizer.
  • Place your newly potted lemongrass in a bright, warm spot and continue to water well.
Imaas181CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Growing Lemongrass From Seeds

If you’re unable to access a lemongrass plant or can’t find any good quality stalks at an Asian store or market, you can also start your lemongrass from seeds. Bear in mind that this will take longer before you can have some stalks that you can harvest. Here’s what to do:

  • Fill your pots with good quality potting mix.
  • Sow 2 to 3 seeds in the center of each pot. The seeds should be sown ¼ of an inch (5 mm) deep. Sowing 2 to 3 seeds will ensure that at least one of these will germinate. If all three germinate, you can move the excess seedlings to their own pot once they’re large enough.
  • Water well and place the pots in a nice, warm and sunny spot.
  • Keep the soil well-watered and seedlings should start to emerge fairly quickly.
  • Remove any excess seedlings and plant them in a separate pot.
  • Feed your seedlings weekly with a liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen.

4. Choose The Right Location For Your Lemongrass Pots

It’s important to understand that lemongrass needs plenty of light and warmth to grow successfully. Therefore, you need to choose the location for your pots carefully. Of course, the benefit of growing lemongrass in pots is that you can easily move them around if the plants aren’t totally happy in their current location.

While it is possible to grow lemongrass indoors all year round, the plants do benefit from being outside in the sunshine when the weather is warm enough. Ideally, they prefer at least 8 hours of sunlight daily.

Therefore, if at all possible, place your pots outside in a nice, sunny spot during spring and summer. You can easily move the pots around during the day to follow the sun.

If there’s just no space outside or you don’t have a sunny balcony or patio, the alternative is to invest in a grow light. These lights provide the same type of UV rays that come from the sun. Plus, they have the additional benefits of also providing some warmth for the plants.

If you decide to go down this path, it’s probably a good idea to run the lights for around 12 hours every day to ensure that the plants get all the sunlight and warmth that they need to thrive.

5. Keep Your Plants Well Watered

Lemongrass needs adequate moisture to grow into a nice, healthy clump. Therefore, you should ensure that the soil never dries out in the pots.

You will notice that the soil in the pots will dry out much faster than the soil in the garden. This is because the water will evaporate much quicker, and the water drains freely every time you give your plants a drink. You do want this drainage to occur so that the roots don’t sit in water for extended periods of time.

What this means is that, in the heat of summer, you may have to water your lemongrass pots twice a day. Once in the morning before the sun has reached its peak and then again in the late afternoon.

The best way to water your pots is to drench them fully until the water comes out of the drainage holes. Remember to let all the excess water drain away.

On cooler days, you might only have to water once a day. Also, if your lemongrass pots are sitting outside and are exposed to any rain, you might not have to give them additional water if you’ve had a few showers of rain.

If in doubt, check the moisture level in the soil by poking your finger in up until the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, the plant needs water. However, if the soil still feels a little damp, check again the following day. To make it even easier, you can invest in a moisture meter that you poke into the soil, and it will produce a reading telling you how much moisture is in the soil.

6. Fertilize Your Lemongrass

Because lemongrass grows so well and so quickly, it’s also a heavy feeder. Therefore, you need to ensure that your plant gets plenty of fertilizer during the growing period over summer.

There are two ways you can do this for lemongrass plants grown in pots. First of all, though, you want to ensure that you’ve incorporated some form of organic matter into the potting mix before you start growing your lemongrass in the pot that you’ve chosen.

This initial supply of organic material will keep the plant fed during the initial growth phase through the first couple of weeks in spring.

However, once the weather starts to warm up and you see your lemongrass putting on lots of new growth, it’s important to give your plant some regular fertilizer in one of the following ways:

1. Use An Organic Liquid Fertilizer Once A Week

The advantage of using a liquid fertilizer is that the nutrients are made available to the plant immediately. However, one of the disadvantages is that any excess water will drain away, and with it will go the extra fertilizer. This is precisely why you’ll need to apply this on a weekly basis as part of your regular watering.

You can choose any type of liquid fertilizer that is designed for vegetable and herb growing. Or, you can choose something like liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. These types of products are readily available in garden centers and just need to be added to water.

Alternatively, you can make your own liquid fertilizer if you have a worm farm, a compost bin, or happen to have some comfrey growing. Most worm farms and compost bins have a plug that you can remove to decant the liquid inside. This liquid is often referred to as worm tea or compost tea.

On the other hand, if you can get hold of some leaves from the comfrey plant, you can soak these in water for a couple of weeks and then use the water as a fertilizer for your lemongrass. Comfrey produces a lovely nitrogen-rich fertilizer that your lemongrass will love.

2. Use A Slow-Release Fertilizer Twice A Year

A slow-release fertilizer usually comes in a granular form and is formulated especially for use on pot-grown plants. It releases the nutrients to the roots of the plants when they need it on a gradual basis.

If you plan to use this type of fertilizer, you want to apply the first dose at the beginning of spring to give your plant plenty of nutrients as it springs into growth. You then want to apply another dose at the beginning of summer, when the plant will require lots of additional nutrients to continue its strong growth.

When using this type of fertilizer, it’s important to drench the soil when you water. This ensures that any excess salts from the fertilizer get washed out of the soil.

7. Harvest Your Lemongrass As Often As You Can

When growing lemongrass in pots, it’s important to harvest the young outer stalks as often as you can. This will ensure that the plant doesn’t get too large for its pot too quickly. You also want to ensure that there’s plenty of room for the plant to spread. Otherwise, it will stop producing those fresh stalks that you want to harvest.

Once your lemongrass has grown to the edges of the pot and there’s nowhere else for it to go, you’ll need to divide your plant and replant the separate sections into separate pots. Here’s how to do this:

  • Take the plant out of the pot and remove as much soil as you can from the roots.
  • Cut the plant into individual stalks. Make sure that each stalk or section has plenty of healthy roots attached.
  • Fill some additional pots with the same quality mix you used before.
  • Plant each stalk or section into its own pot and water in well.

Depending on the size of the pot you started with and the rate of growth of your lemongrass, you might need to do this every year in the fall. This ensures that you will continue to have healthy plants and continuity of lovely fresh lemongrass stalks and leaves that you can harvest to use in your cooking.