Edible and adding curb appeal, lemongrass is the multipurpose plant you’d want in your garden. Native to Asia and Australia, it’s used to tropical conditions so you can grow it as a perennial in zones 10 and 11 but as an annual in other regions. Whether you want to grow lemongrass for culinary use, insect repellant, or ornamental purposes, this hardy plant can grow in your garden as long as you provide it with the ideal care and conditions.
Lemongrass is great for a low-maintenance garden because it requires minimal care once it’s stable. Since it’s a tropical plant, providing it with a warm and humid environment will ensure it will thrive in your garden.
With the right conditions, it can grow quickly up to a height of 3-5 feet and can spread to 2 feet wide. If you don’t have a lot of space in your yard, you can also place it in a pot and it will grow just as well.
But if you have pets, make sure to secure them away since lemongrass leaves contain natural oils that are mildly toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
If you plan on growing lemongrass from seeds, the time between sowing and harvesting can take between 75-100 days. For best results, make sure to plant them in the spring when the frost has melted and the sun is out.
Lemongrass cuttings will be easier to grow since all you’ll need to do is wait for its roots to form. You can even buy some lemongrass from your local supermarket and use the leaves for cooking but set the white stems aside. Make sure not to cut the base of the stems since this is where the roots will grow.
Place the cuttings in a cup of water and wait for the roots to come out. This process can take about a week, so remember to change the water daily. After 2-3 weeks, the root system will be strong enough for the soil so you transplant the cuttings in a pot.
Although lemongrass is relatively easy to grow, there are certain factors and conditions you’ll need to keep in mind to keep your plant lush and thriving.
Lemongrass loves hot and humid climates due to its tropical origins. Make sure to plant it in a sunny area where it can get at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight.
If you’re in zone 10 and above, you can leave the plant outside all year long. But if you’re in zone 9 and below, lemongrass tends to die back in the winter and grow back in the spring.
So if you prefer to keep it alive all year, plant it in a pot where you can move it indoors before the temperature drops. Just make sure it can stay at a temperature above 60°F (15°C) and still get up to 6 hours of sunlight a day.
Lemongrass will do well in a well-draining standard potting mix. It prefers to keep the soil moist, but not to the point that it’s constantly soggy. Lemongrass growing in pots may need more frequent watering, while in-ground plants will depend on the frequency of rain. But once its roots are stable, lemongrass can be drought-tolerant.
In the colder seasons, cut back your watering schedule to 1-2 times a week, since constant moisture can cause it to rot.
Due to its citrus scent, lemongrass can be an excellent natural pest repellant in your garden. Placing it with the right companion plant can also allow its neighbor to reap the same benefits.
Be careful not to keep the soil too dry to prevent spider mites from appearing. They can cause small yellow or white spots on the leaves, so sticking to a weekly watering and misting schedule will keep them at bay.
Another thing you have to watch out for is rust fungus that’s caused by excess moisture and humidity. If you spot a few brown marks on the leaves, reduce watering and remove infected foliage. Weekly treatment of fungicide or neem oil will also help eliminate the fungus.
Lemongrass can benefit from pruning once a year to remove dead leaves and tidy up their shape. During the winter, leave the brown leaves alone since this will protect the p[lant against the frost. But by the end of the season, cut it up to 6 inches high to make it easier for new growth to sprout once the weather starts to warm up. Remember to wear gloves when pruning your plant since lemongrass leaves are serrated and will cut you if you’re not careful!