Growing your lemongrass means you can have access to it every time you need it and it will be fresh! It is one of the most manageable plants to grow.
Lemongrass typically propagates by itself by growing new plants on the existing stalks. Some growers prefer to plant through cuttings. However, lemongrass can be propagated from seeds too. Once established, all you need to do is split the plants when considering growing more.
Growing from seeds is relatively easy and requires minimal to no care. However, you need to locate the plants in warm and humid conditions. It thrives and prefers full sun, particularly in the early stage, right after germination.
Lemongrass is a perennial grass with a lemon-citrus scent used either fresh or dried as a delicious herb. It is also well suited to container growing and best for greenhouse cultivation.
Lemongrass is hardy in USDA Zones 10 to 12. This grass can be grown at any time of the year. But in the colder season, the ideal time for growing from seeds is when the temperature reaches and stays around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Grow Lemongrass From Seeds
Lemongrass propagation through seeds provides better plant growth compared to cuttings. However, germination should be done when the seeds are thoroughly dry, and within six months from the harvest.
The seeds collected from January to February need to be planted in the nursery from April to May because lemongrass seeds often lose their shelf life after six months of storage.
When considering planting the seed in a seedbed, the growing medium must have a ratio of 1:3 ( the mixture of sand, peat moss, and perlite) with the seeds slightly covered with the soil. Water the seedbed daily, and expect the seeds to start germinating within 5- 7 days.
Prepare The Planting Essentials
Opting to grow lemongrass in containers doesn’t require too much work. You can use any materials as long as the pots have holes at the bottom for adequate drainage.
This plant prefers a planting medium that is composed of equal parts of sand, perlite, and peat moss. A growing medium that provides optimum drainage yet requires frequent watering, so it doesn’t dry out in the early stage of germination.
When To Water Lemongrass
Water requirements with plants grown in a container is a bit different compared to lemongrass grown in the seedbed. Container grown lemongrass needs an appropriate potting mix, and incorporating a compost can help too.
It is essential to water your plants frequently. Sometimes soil dryness is rapidly happening, particularly during hot weather and using mulch over the top of the soil will help preserve the soil moisture.
Growing lemongrass in containers is an excellent option for gardeners who live in colder climates. You can move the plants easily indoors during winter.
Both in-ground and container-grown plants will stop growing in winter. Plants in hibernation need about half of the water they have in the summer. Also, provide appropriate ventilation during the overwintering lemongrass period to prevent mildew problems.
Take Advantage Of The Early Growing Season
Sowing lemongrass seeds indoors early in the growing season will allow you to move the seedlings outside after the frost date.
An outdoor air temperature that reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit will help lemongrass to thrive while it takes 90 to 120 days to reach maturity until harvest.
The Best Climate For Lemongrass
Lemongrass prefers a soil that has 5.5 to 7.5 pH range, and plants that grow in sandy soil have higher leaf citral oil content. The plant requires a steady day temperature of 25-30°C to provide optimum citral oil.
Lemongrass thrives well in a warm, humid climate. It prefers plenty of sunshine and loves rainfall ranging from 2500-3000 mm.
If you are growing the plants in a container indoors, you can use a hydrogen peroxide solution as a rain-fed alternative to help optimize the lemongrass growing potential.
Salt affected soil and plantations with 30% of shade are best utilized for lemongrass cultivation.
Encourage A Quick Germination
To encourage seeds to germinate quickly, you can supply the heat and humidity needed by covering the container with plastic wrap. Place it in a spot indoors where it receives at least six hours of sun every day.
You can also utilize supplemental lights for quick germination by placing them 6 inches above the container. This way, lemongrass seeds will sprout sporadically.
When the germination completely takes place, allow the seedlings to grow indoors continually over the next seven weeks.
Poke the plastic wrap to create small openings to allow air to enter and slowly circulate in the covered container. Doing this will let the newly germinated seedlings to acclimate to the new environment.
To understand more clearly, here are the summarized guidelines for successful germination and planting lemongrass from seeds. (Important)
- Fill the seed tray with the moistened growing medium of equal parts of peat moss, sand, and compost. Leave a space about ½ to 1 cm between the soil and the brim of the seedling tray.
- Sow the lemongrass seeds with ¼ inches deep and provide an adequate space of 1-inch apart.
- Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of soil to receive plenty of light to help germinate quickly.
- Spray water on the newly planted lemongrass until the surface is moderately saturated.
- Cover the seed tray with plastic wrap and seal the edges completely. Doing this will generate more heat to encourage quick germination.
- Position the tray on a windowsill directly hit by the sun to receive a sufficient amount of sunlight.
- When the seeds germinate completely, create little holes in the plastic cover to allow a gradual airflow, enabling the seedlings to adjust the surrounding conditions.
- Remove the plastic wrap after three days, and water the lemongrass seedlings about once a week. Moisten the soil until you find them moderately saturated.
- Transplant them on a bigger container when they’re about three inches tall and when all the dangers of frost have passed, spacing about 2-3 inches apart.
- Ensure the container is big enough to provide lemongrass sufficient room to grow.
- Keep the soil moist. And when growing in containers, water only when you find the dirt dry about an inch below the surface.
Re-Potting Your Lemongrass
If you are growing your lemongrass in container pots, you may find that the lemongrass needs re-potting at some point. The ideal time to re-pot lemongrass is in the fall. You can move the plants indoors before the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, when you move the plants indoors, remember to position it in a sunny window. If you have more lemongrass than expected then you can always dish some away to your neighbors or friends. Don’t worry, by the next summer, you’ll have plenty more.
Lemongrass thrives best in a container that’s about 8-inches across and 8-inches deep. These plants can grow much bigger than the container pots, especially in tropical countries. It is always best to re-pot your lemongrass once every year or two.
Re-potting your lemongrass isn’t hard at all. However, you may find plants that have been unattended to for quite some time are very root-bound and are hard to pull out.
It might require you to exert more effort to pull the plants out, and there’s a chance you may damage the old container pots while uprooting.
So, here are a few simple steps you can follow to make re-potting lemongrass more manageable.
- Tilt the pot and pull the root ball out.
- Once the plant is out, lightly tease the root-ball to loosen the compacted roots.
- Use a serrated knife to split the root ball into two or three sections.
- Prepare the new 8-inch pots for each new section.
- Select the pot that has at least one drainage hole.
- Fill the bottom third of the pot with a growing medium. (regular potting soil is fine)
- Place one of the lemongrass sections on top of the growing media, ensuring the root ball is an inch below the rim of the pot. Adjust the soil so that the roots are slightly covered, and the new transplant is securely anchored in the new pot.
- Fill in the rest of the pot with soil and water thoroughly. Repeat the following steps for each section and position the pots in a sunny spot.
When To Trim Your Lemongrass
Lemongrass in a warm, humid area can grow up to 6ft high and 4ft wide. Pruning can keep the plant resilient and stimulate new growth.
In Asian countries, cutting lemongrass for culinary purposes will hold the plant in control, but it produces new growth so quickly that pruning becomes necessary.
If your lemongrass were left unattended for some time, it might be full of some dead leaves and stalks around the base.
Pull anything out like dead stalks and leaves. Once all the remaining parts of your plant are greens, trim and shape the size of your plant to make it more manageable in size.
Getting rid and cleaning dead parts that surround the plants first is ideal, and the best time to trim your lemongrass is in early spring when the plant is dormant.
Lemongrass features an ability to grow speedily. Cutting down to about 3- feet in height will instead encourage new plant growth. Trimming will often keep the plants’ size manageable.
Lemongrass in a colder climate goes dormant over the winter, with leaves gradually turning brown. It is best to wait until early spring to trim and pull out dead leaves away.
When pruning, cut down up to the tender white part of the stalk. You may find it extreme, yet it starts to produce new fresh growth before you know it to provide and serve you with its purpose.
Harvesting Stalks and Foliage
The stalks and foliage of lemongrass are popular both in culinary and medicinal purposes. Lemongrass is ready to harvest as soon as the plant is about 12 inches tall, and when the slender leaves are fully opened.
You can either cut, twist or break off the stalk when picking. One thing to remember is that the lower portion is the softest part, so it is ideal to lift much closer to the ground level.
The use of sickles is another way to harvest the plant’s foliage by cutting about 10-20 cm above ground level.
After collecting the number of stalks you need, remove all the leaves and the woody outer portion. You can preserve the leaves to dry or toss at your compost bin to recycle. Slice the tender part of the stalk and add it to your recipe.
The citrus tang of lemongrass provides a subtle flavor to several spicy recipes and one of the essential ingredients to the oriental menu.
Dried leaves are often used as a tea in oriental homes, and the whole stalk sections are preserved for soups and other various recipes during the winter season.
It is best to prohibit the plants from producing inflorescence if growing is meant for culinary and medicinal purposes. Producing flowers will adversely affect the growth and development of plants in the following harvest:
Harvesting lemongrass is preferable during sunny days since cloudy and misty conditions lessen the leaf oil content resulting in a thin flavor.
To make it short, accumulating your lemongrass in rainy seasons will bring a thinner aromatic lemon essence as opposed to during the summer.
If you use leaves for medicinal purposes and harvest massively, it should have a gap of 60-90 days. Harvesting intervals below 60 days will result in poor quality leaf oil.
For a massive harvest, 2-3 times is reasonable for the first year of planting, while 3-4 times in the following year.
Harvesting The Seeds
Some growers grow lemongrass to produce seeds. Usually, the plant intended to provide seeds is left to grow uncut, and harvesting of foliage and stalks is prohibited. Lemongrass produces a very minimal amount of seeds when interfered with frequently.
Lemongrass is cross-pollinated to produce seeds. And to maintain the best genetic purity, the two varieties are positioned with a distance between 300-400 meters.
Usually, the plants start to flower from October to November, and matured seeds can be collected from January to February.
When harvesting the lemongrass seeds, the flowers are cut and dried under the full sun. When the flowers are dried completely, seed collection will start by thrashing dried flowers against the floor. Others even prefer to use beating sticks to harvest the seeds.
Collected seeds, known as fluff, are dried thoroughly to avoid mold and placed in burlap bags lined with polyethylene to store.
The average volume of lemongrass seeds you can accumulate is about 25 kilograms per acre when provided the ideal growing conditions.
Final Thoughts On Growing Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a tropical plant with a lemony taste. This plant is known for its aromatic citral content, and famous for its wide medicinal properties. This plant is one of the essential ingredients in various dishes, particularly in oriental cuisine.
Lemongrass can be grown easily either in your garden or indoors in container pots. All you have to do is provide their primary needs like a sufficient amount of sun, appropriate soil, and plenty of water.
Lemongrass can sometimes be confused with weeds, but this type of plant is most definitely not your typical annoying weeds. You can cultivate them even in the corner of your garden, and it looks attractive with its long spiky shape leaves, particularly if you plant them in mass. This plant emits lemony scent making your garden smell good.
Because of its concentrated lemony scent, lemongrass is almost pest-free. In fact, you’ll find the plant as the primary ingredient in most natural insect repellents.
Its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties make lemongrass fairly pest-free. However, you need to be extra careful when working around it. The long, slender grass blades have sharp edges that can possibly irritate the skin.
But lemongrass is sometimes susceptible to spider mites, especially when planted indoors. But when provided with sufficient needs, the plants become healthy and can ward off pests.
Yet lemongrass is a honey bee magnet, and useful addition to your backyard. It will make your garden wildlife friendly by attracting butterflies and bees.
Lemongrass won’t survive when neglected in cold temperatures outdoors. If you’ve grown lemongrass in the ground, you can protect them by tossing a few layers of mulch around the base or dig it up and transplant into a bigger container before the first frost.
Keep the soil moderately moist but do not over-water to prevent root rot. You can put the plants back into the ground if you want to after the danger of frost has passed.
Because of its role in Asian dishes along with its medicinal benefits, lemongrass has become popular in several parts of the world. Also, these citrus plants also require hardly any maintenance to grow and care for.
If you have any questions about growing your lemongrass, please don’t hesitate to ask below. Also, feel free to share your experience with us. Happy gardening!