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Lemongrass Care: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Lemongrass

Lemongrass Facts

Lemongrass, scientifically known as Cymbopogon citratus, is a herb that has been prized for its culinary and medicinal properties for centuries. With its unmistakable lemony fragrance and refreshing taste, lemongrass adds a burst of flavor to various dishes and beverages. Originating from Southeast Asia, this perennial grass-like plant has become popular in many cuisines around the world, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian cooking.

In addition to its vibrant flavor, lemongrass also provides a range of health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants that fight inflammation and lower the risk of chronic illnesses. Furthermore, lemongrass contains citral and geraniol compounds, known for their antimicrobial properties. These qualities make it an ideal ingredient for herbal teas or infusions that promote relaxation and digestive well-being. Another remarkable aspect of lemongrass is its ability to act as a natural repellent. The strong citrusy scent emitted by the plant effectively repels mosquitoes, ticks, and other bothersome bugs. Moreover, lemongrass provides additional advantages for your garden by acting as a natural barrier against pests like aphids and whiteflies. Additionally, its antimicrobial properties help prevent fungal diseases in nearby plants.

Whether you are a culinary enthusiast looking to elevate your recipes or someone interested in exploring the wonders of herbal benefits, lemongrass is certainly an herb worth getting acquainted with. In the following sections of this article, we will delve into how to plant, grow, and harvest lemongrass so you can enjoy its fresh flavors and benefits right from your own garden.

Planting

  • Lemongrass is a warm-season grass that thrives in temperatures between 70-85°F. It is best to plant lemongrass after the last frost date in your area. The ideal time for planting is late spring or early summer when the soil temperature is consistently above 50°F. This will ensure optimal growth and development of the plants.
  • Lemongrass requires full sun to thrive, preferably at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. It is essential to provide them with ample light for their energy production through photosynthesis. Without sufficient sunlight, lemongrass may become weak and prone to disease.
  • The spacing between lemongrass plants depends on their intended use. For culinary purposes, space each plant approximately 24 inches apart to allow enough room for each clump to grow and develop without crowding each other. If you’re growing lemongrass for ornamental purposes in containers or as an accent in the garden, you can keep them closer together, around 12 inches apart, for a denser look.
  • If your area experiences freezing temperatures during winter or if you live in a region where temperatures frequently drop below 40°F, it’s best not to plant lemongrass directly in the ground outdoors.

Growing

  • Watering the seedlings regularly is essential for their healthy development. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. As the plant starts to grow, pay attention to its water needs and adjust accordingly.
  • Once the lemongrass seedlings have reached a suitable size, it’s time to plant them in your garden or container. Choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil for optimal results. Dig holes that are slightly wider and deeper than the root ball of each seedling, ensuring they are spaced adequately apart for proper growth.
  • As it matures and establishes its roots, you can gradually decrease the frequency of watering while maintaining sufficient moisture levels in the soil. Aim for deep watering sessions rather than light sprinkling. Remember that even though lemongrass loves moisture, overwatering can be detrimental and lead to root rot.

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Lemongrass fact sheet

Recommended Varieties

When choosing varieties of lemongrass to grow in your garden, it is important to consider the climate you are in. For those in cooler regions, the East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is a fantastic choice. This variety can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit and has a strong, refreshing lemon scent. It is commonly used in cooking and for making herbal teas and essential oils.

On the other hand, if you live in a warmer climate or have access to a greenhouse, the West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) might be more suited to your needs. This variety has large clumps of tall stems with broad leaves and a stronger flavor than its East Indian counterpart. It is widely used across cuisines for its distinct lemony taste and aroma.

Another popular variety worth mentioning is Cochin lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus x Cymbopogon pendulus). This hybrid exhibits increased frost resistance while maintaining the desirable properties of both East Indian and West Indian lemongrasses. Its aromatic leaves can be used fresh or dried for culinary purposes, making it a versatile choice for any garden.

No matter which variety you choose, growing your own lemongrass offers numerous benefits – from enjoying its delightful fragrance to using it in various recipes that will elevate your dishes.

Harvesting

  • Generally, it is recommended to harvest lemongrass when the stalks are about 12-18 inches in height, which usually occurs around late summer or early fall. Waiting until the stalks reach this height ensures that they have developed their full flavor and aroma.
  • To harvest lemongrass locate the base of each stalk by gently moving aside any surrounding foliage. Then, using a sharp knife or pruning shears, cut the stalks at ground level. It’s important to make clean cuts just above where each leafy shoot meets the base of the plant. By doing this, you not only ensure a neat appearance but also stimulate new growth for future harvests.
  • If you plan on using them immediately in cooking or making tea, simply remove any dry or tough outer layers and chop or bruise the inner cores before adding them to your dish or steeping in hot water.
  • You can also store fresh stalks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze chopped lemongrass for longer-term storage.

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Interesting Facts

Lemongrass, with its refreshing citrusy flavor, adds a unique and tangy taste to dishes. But have you ever wondered what it tastes like? Well, lemongrass is known for its bright lemony aroma and a slightly sweet, herbaceous flavor. It has hints of lemon and ginger combined with a subtle floral undertone. The taste can vary depending on the variety of lemongrass and how it is prepared. Whether used in teas, curries, soups, or marinades, the delicate yet vibrant flavor profile of lemongrass is sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Beyond its culinary uses, lemongrass holds fascinating mysteries that are worth exploring. Native to tropical regions like Southeast Asia and Africa, this perennial grass has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes. Its essential oil contains compounds like citral and limonene which possess antimicrobial properties. Lemongrass oil also provides relief from anxiety and helps improve digestion. The plant’s strong scent has been utilized as a natural insect repellent too.

In addition to its flavorful appeal and beneficial properties, lemongrass also carries symbolic meaning in different cultures. In many Asian traditions, it represents purification and cleansing energy that drives away negative forces while inviting positivity into one’s life. Feng shui practices often use this fragrant grass to enhance harmony and balance in living spaces by promoting tranquility and serenity.

Pest and Diseases

  • Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of lemongrass plants and can cause curling or stunted growth. Keep an eye out for clusters of aphids on plant stems and leaves.
  • Rust Fungus: This fungal disease appears as orange or brown spots on the leaves, which eventually turn black and may cause leaf drop. To prevent rust fungus, ensure good air circulation around the plants and avoid overhead watering.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny pests suck the juices from lemongrass leaves, causing them to become speckled with yellow or bronze spots. Regularly misting the plants with water can help deter spider mite infestations.
  • Root Rot: Overwatering or poor drainage can lead to root rot in lemongrass plants. The roots become mushy and discolored, negatively affecting the overall health of the plant. Ensure proper drainage when planting lemongrass and avoid overwatering.
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Download Our Fact Sheet

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, it’s important to understand the basic needs of plants to ensure successful growth and bountiful harvests. That’s why we’ve created a downloadable Fact Sheet for your journal or garden planner, so you have all the key information at your fingertips.

Our fact sheet provides a quick overview of details on plant care. You’ll be able to refer to this reference whenever you need to look up the ideal growing conditions for this plant. With this quick reference guide in hand, you can easily consult it whenever you need reminders about caring for your plants.