How To Grow Lemongrass – Complete Guide

Lemongrass is a fantastic herb to grow in your garden. It’s an essential ingredient in Thai cooking but has multiple other uses. Each lemongrass plant will grow to about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. This also makes lemongrass an ideal plant to add as a border to your ornamental garden. As a plus, lemongrass contains citronella, which is great for repelling insects.

Quick Guide To Growing Lemongrass

  • Lemongrass can be grown in full sun or part shade.
  • The soil should be friable and rich in nitrogen, with a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0.
  • Seeds can be sown directly into the ground around 0.2 inches deep (5 mm).
  • Put 2 or 3 seeds into the same hole and space the plantings around 12 inches (300 mm) apart.
  • Thin seedlings to 1 per clump to give each plant room to grow. You can transplant the seedlings that you remove to another spot in the garden.
  • Fertilize weekly with an organic liquid fertilizer.
  • Harvest the stems by cutting or pulling at the soil level. If you leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the stalk in the ground, it will regrow.
  • It’s also possible to grow lemongrass from an existing stalk by trimming the stalk and putting it into a glass of water until roots start to form. You can then put the plant into a pot by placing the crown just below the surface of the soil once there are plenty of roots.

What Temperature Does Lemongrass Grow Best In?

Lemongrass originated in areas with tropical climates across southeast Asia. Therefore, it’s best grown in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. In these areas, lemongrass will grow all year round.

It’s also possible to grow lemongrass in colder areas if you either plant it as an annual in the summer months or bring it inside during winter so that it can keep growing.

Lemongrass plants grown in the ground in cold areas will die down during winter. When this happens, you can just pull up the plants and put them into the compost.

What Type Of Soil Does Lemongrass Prefer?

Because it originates from tropical areas, lemongrass prefers well-drained soil that contains a fair amount of organic matter. Adding some compost or organic animal manure is ideal.

The soil should be friable and rich in nitrogen, with a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0.

If you live in an area with heavy clay soil, it’s best to improve the soil first before growing lemongrass. You can do this by adding some gypsum and working it into the clay as best as you can. Clay soil can also be improved by mulching with composted wood chips. However, this may take some time before the soil is nice and friable.

In this case, it’s best to grow your lemongrass in containers using a good-quality potting mix with some added fertilizer.

Should You Plant Lemongrass In Sun Or Shade?

Lemongrass likes to be grown in full sun. However, it will tolerate some shade in the afternoon in very hot areas. The important thing to remember is not to let it dry out and to provide some humidity by misting the leaves when the air is particularly dry.

Lemongrass is easy to grow either in the garden or in pots. You should choose a nice sunny position if you’re planting your lemongrass in the garden. If you’re planting in containers, it’s easy to just move the pots around to ensure that your lemongrass gets plenty of sunlight whenever possible. This will help it to thrive.

You can plant lemongrass either from seed or from a stem cutting. Here’s how:

From Seed:

  • Plant your seeds straight into the ground in spring and cover lightly with seed-raising mix. You should plant 2 or 3 seeds together to ensure even germination.
  • Keep the seeds watered, and they should germinate in around 10 to 21 days.
  • You can then provide your young seedlings with some liquid fertilizer so they can continue to grow strongly.
  • Once the leaves are tall enough, you can start to cut these to use in your cooking.
  • Wait for the stalks to reach a diameter of ½ an inch (13 mm) before cutting them to use in dishes such as curries and soups. If you leave the base of the stalk in the ground, it will start to regrow. Therefore, you can get multiple harvests from the same stalk.

From Stems:

  • You can grow lemongrass from a stem that you’ve purchased at your local grocery store. 
  • Trim away any dead leaves and cut off the top of the stalk, leaving about an inch or two. Do not trim away any part of the bottom of the stalk. Otherwise, no roots will form.
  • Place this stalk into a glass of water and place it on a warm window sill.
  • Change the water daily.
  • In a few days, you should see roots starting to form at the end of the stalk.
  • Wait until these roots are well developed before planting the cutting into a pot containing a good quality potting mix. Once the plants are starting to show new growth, you can plant them in the garden if you wish.

Dividing Up Larger Clumps:

If you have an existing clump or you have a friend who is growing lemongrass, you can easily divide these up to propagate new plants. Here’s what to do:

  • You can take off some of the outside stalks without digging up the clumps. Just use a sharp knife to separate the stalks with their roots from the main clump. Dig these out and then replant them where you want them to grow.
  • You can also dig up the entire clump and separate the individual stalks before planting these into the ground or a pot.

What Are The Water Requirements For Lemongrass

Lemongrass likes to be kept moist and doesn’t like the soil to dry out too much. However, conditions should not be too wet either. In fact, overwatering can easily lead to root rot.

If you live in an area with hot, dry summers, it’s a good idea to mist the leaves occasionally to increase the humidity around the plants. Generally, if you water your lemongrass once a week and your soil is well-draining, you should be fine.

When And How To Harvest Lemongrass

If you’ve started your lemongrass plants from seed, you can expect to harvest the first stalks in about 75 to 100 days.

To harvest lemongrass, you can cut the stalks about an inch above ground level. When you do this, the remaining piece of stalk will continue to grow.

Alternatively, if your clump is getting rather large, you can just pull up the stalks at ground level. This will help to keep your clumps more manageable so that they don’t take over your garden.

How To Store Lemongrass

Lemongrass is easy to freeze and keeps well for around a year using this method.

  • Cut the leaves and stalks into 3- to 4-inch (8 to 10 cm) lengths.
  • Put these in an airtight container or zip-lock bag before placing them in the freezer.
  • You can also cut the lemongrass into ready-to-use slices.

Because lemongrass is a herb, you can also dry it. Use the following methods.

  • If you live in a hot, dry climate, just cut the leaves and stalks into 3- to 6-inch (8 to 15cm) pieces and place them on a wire cooling rack.
  • Put the rack in a dry location, and the plants will be dehydrated in about two weeks. You’ll know that the plants are dry enough to store when there is no moisture left, and they feel rigid.
  • You can also dry your lemongrass in a slow oven or use a food dehydrator.
  • Dried lemongrass should be stored in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in a cool, dry place. This should keep for about six months.

If you only want to store your lemongrass for a few days, wrap the leaves and stalks in a damp paper towel and place them in the refrigerator. These should keep for about 10 to 14 days.

How To Use Lemongrass

You can use both the leaves and the stalks to flavor your cooking. They are most commonly used in curries and soups to add that delicious lemony flavor. However, these are quite fibrous, so they should be removed from the dish before serving.

Once the stalk grows to about ½ an inch (13 mm) in diameter, it starts to develop a soft inner core. You can chop up this soft inner core and add it to your cooking. It doesn’t have to be removed before serving as it’s not fibrous like the leaves and young stalks.

Lemongrass contains a variety of minerals and vitamins. It also contains phytochemical compounds such as flavonoids, alkaloids, saponins, and phenols.

The leaves and stalks can also be brewed to make lemongrass tea. This is said to help with stress, gastrointestinal, and bladder problems. To make this tea, just place leaves or stalks into some hot water. Let this steep for around 10 minutes, and then strain. You can also add some ginger to the tea while it’s brewing.

How To Prepare Lemongrass For Winter

If you live in a temperate or warm climate, you don’t need to do anything to prepare your lemongrass for winter. It will do just fine during the cooler months as long your area doesn’t get any frost. Lemongrass does slow down its growth when the weather is cooler but will speed up again in the spring.

If you live in a cold climate and do receive winter frosts, there are a couple of things that you can do.

  • You can treat your lemongrass as an annual and let it die down over winter. Then replant again from seed or stem cuttings in the spring.
  • Move your lemongrass into a pot and bring it indoors to protect it from frost. You can do this by digging up the clump and dividing it into individual plants before potting. Then, you can put the plants back outside again when the danger of frost is over. You can even replant these potted lemongrass plants back into your garden if you wish.
  • If you’re going to let your lemongrass die down, it’s a good idea to pull up a few stalks before the frosts hit and use these to propagate new plants for the following season. Just cut the top part of the stalk off and put the remaining stalk in a glass of water. Place this on a window sill and wait for roots to start forming. You should change the water daily. Once there are plenty of roots, put these cuttings into some potting mix and keep the plants indoors until the weather starts to warm up again.

Is Lemongrass An Annual Or A Perennial?

Lemongrass is classed as a tender perennial. That means it will keep growing year-round in warm areas that don’t suffer cold winters. Many people who live in warmer climates can enjoy growing and harvesting lemongrass year after year. Lemongrass will not survive in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

However, those who live in colder climates will only be able to enjoy growing this hardy perennial during the warmer months, as it will die down if it gets hit with frost.

A way to overcome this is to grow your lemongrass in pots and then bring the plants indoors before the first frost is expected. This way, you can enjoy harvesting your lemongrass all year round.

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