Growing food

How To Grow Lemongrass From Stalks (Step by Step Guide)

Did you know that you can grow your own lemongrass plant from a stalk that you’ve purchased at the grocery store or farmer’s market?

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on what to do:

1. Choose Your Lemongrass Stalks Carefully

To ensure that the stalks you buy are capable of producing roots and growing to become healthy plants, you have to choose your stalks carefully.

Try to get them as fresh and healthy-looking as possible. You also have to ensure that the bottoms of the stalks are intact. If the base of the stalk has been cut off or damaged, it’s unlikely that the stalk will be able to produce roots.

To ensure success, you should select around 5 or 6 healthy stalks that have their base intact. You might find that not all of them will produce roots, so this gives you a much better chance of getting a few healthy plants.

2. Trim Your Lemongrass Stalks

Trim the top of the leaves or the stalk to remove any older leaves or ones that have started to turn brown. This ensures that those older leaves don’t fall off into the water and turn to slime.

It’s important not to peel away any of the woody outer layers at this stage. New leaves will eventually grow from within these layers.

Also, make sure that you don’t trim the base of the stalks. You need to keep this intact so that new roots can grow from it.

3. Put Your Trimmed Stalks Into Water

Choose a tall jar or glass vase to root your lemongrass in. A mason jar is ideal if you have one. Fill the bottom third to half of the jar with water. Place the lemongrass stalks into the water. The sides of the jar will support the stalks to keep them upright.

Place the jar with the stalks on a sunny windowsill. A south-facing window is ideal for this as it will let lots of light in.

4. Change The Water When It Becomes Cloudy

To keep the water fresh, it’s important to change it at least a couple of times a week or as soon as it starts to become cloudy. This not only keeps the water fresh but also stops any fungal growth from developing and rotting the bases of the stalks.

Within a week or so, you should start to see some new leaves beginning to grow from the top of the stalks. The roots may take a little longer.

5. Monitor Your Plants And Continue To Change The Water

Once the new leaves start growing, you should also start to see some tiny roots starting to form at the base of the stalks. Continue changing the water to ensure that it stays nice and clear.

6. Pot Your Rooted Stalks Into Soil

Once the roots are around 3 inches long and the tops of the stalks are starting to divide, it’s time to plant your rooted lemongrass into the soil.

You should plant these into pots filled with top-quality potting mix. This will allow the plants to become established in the soil before you harden them off to plant outside in the garden once the ground has warmed up enough.

Make sure that you don’t plant your lemongrass too deeply. You want to ensure that the crown or base of the stalk is just below the surface of the soil. Another tip from experienced gardeners is to place a layer of mulch on top of the soil in the pot. This helps to retain moisture in the soil and keeps it warmer too.

Tip: If you plan to grow your lemongrass only in containers, choose a top-quality fabric planter bag instead of a plastic pot. These bags will air-prune the roots if they try to break through the fabric, which means that your plant will not become too large or pot bound and will be nice and healthy.

Because your plants have been growing indoors, they’ll need to be exposed to the outdoors gradually to get them used to it. This is called hardening off and eliminates the shock of your lemongrass being placed in a new environment all at once.

Start off by putting your pots out into morning sunshine for a couple of hours. Then, bring them back indoors and place them on the windowsill again. Gradually, increase the amount of time that your plants are outside by around an hour a day until they’re fully hardened off and can stay outside all day.

Of course, you need to ensure that the weather is warm and that you’re not going to experience any frosts or freezing temperatures. You should wait until the ground soil has warmed up to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) before transplanting your lemongrass out into the garden.

For those gardeners in USDA zones below 8, it might be better to continue growing your lemongrass in containers. This way, you can move the plants around to get really good sun exposure during the summer and move them back inside during the winter. This will ensure that your plant stays alive and does not die when the freezing weather and frosts arrive.

MokkieCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve taken the advice and planted your lemongrass in fabric bags, these can be placed in the garage or even your basement over winter. Because your lemongrass will be dormant at this time of the year, it doesn’t require a lot of light or water.

7. Harvesting Your Lemongrass

Your fresh, new lemongrass stalks should be ready to harvest in around 2 to 4 months from when you put the plants into the soil.

You want to wait until the new stalks are around 12 inches (30 cm) and the base of the stalk is around ½ inch (15 cm) in diameter.

To harvest your lemongrass stalks, you can just cut them with a sharp knife about 1 inch above ground level. Sometimes you can even snap the stalks, and they’ll break easily. New growth will develop from the base that is still in the ground or the soil of the container.

Why Your Lemongrass Stalks May Take Longer To Root

In the summertime, when there’s lots of light and warmth coming in through your window, you’ll find that the lemongrass stalks will produce leaves and tiny roots within about a week or so.

However, if you plan to start your lemongrass stalks in the fall or even late winter, you will find that it will take much longer for the stalks to start producing leaves and roots. It could even take up to 2 months before you see any significant growth.

This is because lemongrass generally goes dormant in the winter and won’t grow much at all. However, you should still just continue to change the water frequently and be patient. Eventually, when it starts to get warmer, and the sun is brighter, your lemongrass stalks will spring into life and start producing new growth and roots.

Take note, though, that if you notice any of the stalks starting to rot at the base when they’re sitting in the water, then you’ll have to discard these and start again.

You might find that out of six or so stalks, only four will produce new growth and roots.

Propagating New Plants From An Existing One

If you already have an existing clump of lemongrass in the garden or your neighbor has an existing plant, it’s even easier to propagate new plants from that one.

All you have to do is use a sharp knife and sever a few stalks from the main plant around the edges. Make sure that the stalks you’ve cut from the main plant have plenty of healthy roots attached.

These stalks can then be planted into containers, or you can plant them elsewhere in the garden if you have the space. This is a great way to save some lemongrass to overwinter indoors if you live in a colder climate.

Another thing you can do quite easily is to dig up the entire clump and divide it up into smaller sections. This is particularly useful if your clump has become a little large.

Simply grab a sharp spade and gently dig up the entire plant, making sure that as many roots as possible stay intact. Then, use a sharp knife or even a spade to cut the clump up into smaller and more manageable sections.

Plant each “new” plant into a separate spot in the garden or into a container if you want to overwinter your lemongrass indoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you grow lemongrass from seeds?

You can definitely grow lemongrass from seeds but using stalks is much faster and easier.

Can lemongrass be grown indoors?

You can grow lemongrass indoors, but you need to ensure that it gets plenty of light and warmth if you want to grow it all year round. To really have your lemongrass thrive indoors, it’s best to get a grow light that you place above the plant. This will allow you to give the plant just the right amount of light and warmth that it needs.

Does lemongrass need deep soil?

Lemongrass does develop a deep root system, so if you’re growing yours in a container, make sure that the pot is at least 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) deep. This gives the roots enough room to grow and provides the plant with the nutrients that it needs.

How long will a lemongrass plant last?

As lemongrass is a tender perennial, it will continue to grow year after year in the summer months for gardeners who live in tropical or sub-tropical regions or those who live in USDA zones 8b and above. For gardeners in colder climates, lemongrass will die when exposed to freezing temperatures and frost. These gardeners will need to overwinter some of their lemongrass indoors so that they can plant it out again the following spring.

How fast does lemongrass spread?

Lemongrass is quite a vigorous grower in summer. When grown in the ground, each clump can spread to a diameter of around 2 feet (60 cm) in just one growing season. That’s why it’s important to divide up your plants regularly so that they don’t take over your garden.

What Other Types Of Vegetables Can You Regrow?

Apart from lemongrass, there are plenty of other vegetables that you can regrow in the same way. Here are just a few to try:

  • Bok Choy – Just cut off the base of the head and place this in a shallow container of water. Change the water regularly and within a few days, you’ll see new growth sprouting from the top and then, roots will start to form. Be aware though, that if your windowsill is really warm and sunny, the bok choy will bolt to seed very quickly. Therefore, a less bright windowsill that doesn’t let direct sunlight in will work better.
  • Celery – Cut off the base of the celery bunch and put it into a shallow container of water. New leaves should start to grow within a week.
  • Onions – Cut off the root section of the onion with about ½ inch of onion attached. Put this in a jar of water and soon you’ll see new green shoots appearing from the top. You can just snip off a few green shoots to use in your cooking and let the rest continue to grow.
  • Basil – Cut some basil stems with leaves attached at the top around 4 inches long. Put these stems in a glass of water. Make sure that none of the leaves are in the water. You can remove the bottom leaves and just leave 3 or 4 leaves at the top. Within a few days, the stems will start to produce roots and you’ll have some new basil plants to grow in your herb patch.
  • Leeks – Just cut off the base and place in a shallow glass of water. New growth and roots will appear in just a few days.

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