How to Grow Lemongrass

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!

Botanical Information

Taxonomy

Cymbopogon citratus

(Gramineae)

Alternative names:

  • oil grass
  • takrai
  • sereh
  • lemon grass

Related Species:

  • 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

History

Lemongrass-infusions replace yogurt in a fermented dairy cereal food that for Greek and Turkish religious fasting periods must remain milk-free.

Physical Description

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

Categories or Types of [plantname]

Colors Available

Varieties (link to ../category/cultivars/tag/[plantname])

Growth Requirements

Climate & Temperature Requirements

Air Temperature

Soil Temperature

Humidity

Day Length or Light Requirements

Site Conditions Favored

Warm, sunny sites that are sheltered from cold winds are best for lemongrass.

Soil Requirements

Soil Texture

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)

pH

Nutrient Requirements

 

Propagation

Methods of propagation

Seed

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.

Germination Requirements:

  • 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

Division

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.

Cuttings

I don’t think lemongrass can be propagated by cuttings, but it’s easy to do by division

Transplanting or Potting Up

Seed Saving

Planting Out

Bed Prep & Soil Amendments

Bed Spacing

Row Spacing

Planting Depth

Alternative Bed Methods

Container Gardening

Routine Cultivation & Maintenance

Water Requirements

Lemongrass, like most tropical plants, needs lots of water.

Fertilization Recommendations

Mulching & Weeding

Pinching or Pruning & Dividing

Support

Winterizing

Companion Planting

Helpful Companions

Harmful Companions

Companion to..

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Common Pests

Common Diseases

Symptoms

Whole Plant

Leaves

Stem/Trunk

Flowers

Fruit

Roots

Harvesting & Storage

Edible Parts of the Plant

  • Stalk
    • 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
  • Leaves
    • 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.

Yield

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.

Harvest Methods

Cut the stalks just above the level of the soil, and trim off the leaves

Storage of harvest

Fresh

Canned

Frozen

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.

Pickled

Dried

Cooking

Nutritional Benefits & Values

Lemongrass oil is rich in vitamin A

Toxicity

Cooking

Preparation

Stalk:

  1. wash the stalk and trim the root end and leaf tip
  2. remove one or two outer layers of the stalk to reveal the white, tender inner bulb
  3. then you have your choice of preparation methods, or whatever the recipe calls for:
    • chop
    • mince
    • slice
    • smash

Cooking Methods

Recipes (link to …/category/recipes/tag/[plantname])

Lemongrass goes well with chicken, fish & seafood, and curries. It’s great in soups, too.

Other Uses

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.

Resources

Information for this article was taken from these sources. (link to …/category/resources/tag/[plantname])

2 thoughts on “How to Grow Lemongrass

  1. Soapmaking Lady

    Hello. How many inches deep of dirt do I need in a raised bed to be able to divide the lemongrass that has filled and about to overgrow the bed they are in now? They bed they’re in now is just sitting on top of the ground with some dirt in it but they were allowed to grown into the ground so I’m unsure of just how many inches of dirt I need to put in this new bed that was built. They put cardboard and black garden cloth on the bottom of this bed. 🙁 Thank you so much in advance for any advice you may be able to offer and I love your site.

    Reply
    1. ThePlantLady Post author

      Hi there!
      It can be grown in containers, so I’m sure even a foot deep would work. I’d say you’d want as much as 2 feet, if you can swing it…as you saw, it will make use of whatever is available.
      Thanks for visiting the site!

      Reply

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