Lemongrass is both a herb and a grass. Many people grow this plant in their garden or in a pot so that they can use the stalks and leaves in their cooking. But, you might be wondering where lemongrass grows naturally and where you can grow it.
Lemongrass is a tropical plant that grows naturally in tropical climates in Asia. In these regions, lemongrass grows as a perennial and loves the heat. In the US, lemongrass can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 8b and above but should be brought indoors in colder zones during the winter.
Let’s explore the natural environment that lemongrass grows in and then discuss how you can grow it outside of its natural environment.
Where Does Lemongrass Grow Naturally?
Lemongrass is a tropical grass that grows naturally in the tropical areas of Oceania, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In its native habitat, each clump can easily reach a height of 3 to 5 feet (90cm to 150cm) or more if left untouched.
Countries where lemongrass grows naturally include Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Guatemala, China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Some lemongrass varieties are even found in Australia and Africa. In other words, it loves the hot and humid climates of these areas.
It also appreciates well-drained loamy soils. This plant is quite adaptable to different soils, however, as long as it gets plenty of moisture and the soil does not get waterlogged.
The soil temperatures of these natural lemongrass regions range from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 24 degrees Celsius). This means that this plant appreciates warm soil temperatures and is not cold tolerant. In other words, it will not survive in soils that become frozen or covered in snow.
Commercial cultivation of lemongrass is mainly in India. It is grown in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats and around the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. India produces around 2 million pounds of lemongrass every year.
Even in these warm and humid climates, lemongrass grows most vigorously during the summer months and tends to slow down its growth when the weather gets cooler.
Where Can You Grow Lemongrass?
Lemongrass can be grown almost anywhere outdoors as an annual as long as the soil temperatures rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). It should be planted in full sun and given plenty of moisture.
This plant adapts to most soil types, but the soil must be free-draining as lemongrass won’t survive in waterlogged soils. Ideally, a nice loose sandy loam is best.
If you have clay soils, it’s best to improve these with the addition of lots of organic matter well before you plant out your lemongrass.
If you live in USDA zones 8b and above, you should be able to grow lemongrass as a perennial. The plant will go dormant over winter, and, many times, the leaves will brown and die down.
However, the root system of the plant will still be alive, and you’ll find lots of new growth once the weather and the soil warm up. If your plant does appear to die down, you can protect the root system of the plant by covering it with a thick layer of straw or a frost blanket. This will keep the roots warm enough over winter.
What To Do In A Colder Climate Zone
Gardeners who live in colder zones will have to bring their lemongrass indoors or place it in a protected greenhouse to overwinter it. Otherwise, it will die, and you’ll have to plant a new clump the following spring.
Here’s a simple method of rescuing some of your lemongrass to overwinter indoors.
- In the fall, trim the plant down to just a few inches above ground.
- Take a sharp spade or knife and separate some stalks from around the perimeter of the plant.
- Carefully dig these out of the ground, making sure that there are plenty of healthy roots attached.
- Separate what you’ve dug up into individual stalks with their accompanying roots.
- Plant each stalk into a pot that you’ve filled with top quality potting mix. Make sure that the pots have drainage holes.
- Bring your pots indoors. You can place them anywhere in your home that is relatively warm because lemongrass goes dormant in the winter and doesn’t require a lot of light. Some gardeners even put their potted lemongrass in the garage or the basement over winter.
- Just keep the soil slightly moist. You want to ensure that you don’t overwater your potted lemongrass as it won’t use much water while it’s dormant.
- Once the outside temperatures start to climb over 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in the spring, you can place your pots outside to get them used to the extra sunlight.
- Then, when the soil is warm enough (70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius), you can transfer your plants into the ground again.
You should be able to do this year after year to have a good supply of lemongrass in the summer months.
If you would like to know more about growing lemongrass in a colder climate zone, please check this article.
Should You Grow Lemongrass In Full Sun?
Lemongrass should definitely be grown in the full sun wherever possible. This is why some gardeners will only grow their lemongrass in pots if they don’t have a suitable spot in the garden that receives full sunlight all day long.
If this is your situation, keeping your lemongrass growing in pots means that you can move it around during the day so that your plant gets plenty of sunlight.
Bear in mind that lemongrass grown in pots will require more constant watering because the soil in pots dries out much faster than the ground.
You’ll also find that you’re going to have to divide up your lemongrass more often. This is because this plant is a fast grower and will outgrow its pot fairly quickly. If you don’t divide and repot your plant, you may find that the roots will start to break through the pot.
To divide your pot-grown plants is actually quite easy. All you have to do is take the plant out of the pot and remove as much soil as possible from around the roots.
Then, carefully separate the plant into individual stalks that still have plenty of healthy roots attached. Now, it’s just a case of planting each stalk into its own pot and caring for it the same as you have been.
Of course, this means that you now may have more plants than you really need. But, don’t worry. You can easily give the excess plants away to your family and friends who will surely appreciate them.
Another tip to stop your lemongrass from outgrowing its pot too quickly is to make sure that you harvest the stalks regularly. Cutting the stalks from around the perimeter of your plants allows more space for new stalks to grow. This keeps the clump more compact and lengthens the time in between dividing and repotting.
Just remember to bring your pots indoors during the winter if you live in a colder zone and there’s a danger of frost or snow. Your plants will survive indoors over winter, and you can place them back out into the sunshine once the weather warms up.
If you would like to know more about growing lemongrass, please check out the complete guide I wrote about that.