Lemongrass, grouped with herbs in many classification systems, is a grass that grows rather tall. Even though it’s considered a tropical or subtropical plant, it grows well in my area, which gets frosty in the winter – hardiness zone 9b. It is an essential herb for Thai, Vietnamese, and other East Asian recipes, and is rather expensive at my grocery store, so it’s nice to have some in my garden – and it’s a beautiful plant!
Table of Contents
- oil grass
- lemon grass
- Cymbopogon flexuosus: Indian lemongrass, alternative source for lemongrass essential oil
- C. martinii: ginger grass, used for its essential oil (ginger-grass essential oil or palma-rosa oil)
- C. nardus: citronella grass, yields Ceylon citronella oil for perfumery
Lemongrass-infusions replace yogurt in a fermented dairy cereal food that for Greek and Turkish religious fasting periods must remain milk-free.
Lemongrass is a rather tall and robust tufted grass that forms lovely arching blades that are rather coarse along the edges. It can grow up to 5′ tall, looking very much like a fountain of green. The leaves are a very dark green, almost blue. It can be hard to work around, since the blades of grass are sharp. I wear gloves and long sleeves so I don’t get scarfed up.
The tufts are made up of several stalks, from which many fronds shoot up. The stalks are fibrous and bulbous at the base. This is the “meat” of lemongrass – what is used in cooking.
It is a tender perennial, but can survive light winters with some protection.
Lemongrass grows wild on savannah in southern India and Sri Lanka.
Flowers: flowers are seldom seen in cultivation.
Varieties & Cultivars
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Climate & Temperature Requirements
Day Length or Light Requirements
Site Conditions Favored
Warm, sunny sites that are sheltered from cold winds are best for lemongrass.
Doesn’t seem to be picky about its soil – anything from clay to sand and everything in the middle (as long as it’s getting a good amount of water)
Methods of propagation
Seeds are a reliable method of growing lemongrass in areas where it freezes in the winter.
In mild climates, you can sow lemongrass seeds outdoors in early spring to give them a good long summer, but you will need to protect them from spring frosts. In colder climates, start them indoors.
- Temperature: minimum of 55 deg F
- Humidity: don’t know what percent, but it should be relatively humid
- time: lemongrass is slow to germinate…be patient
Propagation by division is best, if your winters are mild enough, or if it can be protected through the cold months. Division is necessary, in my garden, to control it’s vigorous growth. I think it would take over my entire herb garden, if I let it.
Divide mature (at least one-year old) clumps and plant offsets with their bottom inch buried in rich soil.
I don’t think lemongrass can be propagated by cuttings, but it’s easy to do by division
Transplanting or Potting Up
Bed Prep & Soil Amendments
Alternative Bed Methods
Routine Cultivation & Maintenance
Lemongrass, like most tropical plants, needs lots of water.
Mulching & Weeding
Pinching or Pruning & Dividing
Pests, Diseases & Problems
Harvesting & Storage
Edible Parts of the Plant
- lemongrass has a thick, round stalk at the base of the grass frond; several blades come off of one stalk. A yearling (one-year-old) given a good, warm summer, will have many stalks.
- Leaf buds
- lemongrass leaves can be used for flavoring, but are too tough to eat, so remove them before serving
- lemongrass leaves make a great addition to tea or tisanes, and it may ease digestive upsets.
Days to Harvest / Harvest Timing
Harvest the stalks any time you need some, but wait until they are about the thickness of a pencil or they won’t have any meat to them.
Cut the stalks just above the level of the soil, and trim off the leaves
Storage of harvest
lemongrass freezes well; I like to cut, slice, mince, or smash it before I freeze it, so it’s ready to use, but it’s more flexible if frozen as a whole stalk.
Nutritional Benefits & Values
Lemongrass oil is rich in vitamin A
- wash the stalk and trim the root end and leaf tip
- remove one or two outer layers of the stalk to reveal the white, tender inner bulb
- then you have your choice of preparation methods, or whatever the recipe calls for:
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Lemongrass goes well with chicken, fish & seafood, and curries. It’s great in soups, too.
Lemongrass essential oil is great for repelling mosquitoes. I use it along with Eucalyptus and Lavender essential oils in a base of rubbing alcohol to keep the mosquitoes away.
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