Cymbopogon, known widely as lemongrass, is a traditional ingredient in Asian cooking. It also has healing properties, repels insects, and makes an excellent addition to lotions and other toiletries. For all of these reasons, it is a wonderful plant to grow at home. A vigorous grass, lemongrass is easy to grow with these simple plant-care tips.
1. Light Levels
Lemongrass prefers a location with full sunlight exposure for the best growth. If you care to grow it indoors, or just want to move it indoors during the winter, be sure to either place it in a window that gets six hours of sunlight per day or provide a sun lamp.
2. Water Levels
Native to Southeast Asia, lemongrass loves a hot, humid environment. It can be grown in drier regions as long as you water it regularly. Consider misting it with water to keep the moisture level of the air around the plant high as well as the water levels in the soil. This will encourage the best growth.
Do not, however, allow the water to pool in the soil. The soil you plant lemongrass in should be moist but well-draining, whether in the ground or a pot.
In the winter, the grass will go dormant. At this time, cut down on your watering schedule. The plant will need very little water until the weather turns warm again.
3. Fertilizing Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a grass that is often used as an ornament in gardens as well as an herb in cooking. Fertilize it as you would a grass, with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. If you intend to use it in cooking, it is wise to stick with natural fertilizers and minimize the chemicals near your plant. Fertilize in the spring and summer when the grass grows most, but do not fertilize it in the winter when the plant is dormant.
4. Mulch in Winter
If you live in an environment that stays above freezing in the winter, you can leave your lemongrass outside through the cold weather; just mulch the ground around the plant well enough to keep the soil a bit warmer and to minimize possible frost damage if the temperatures dip.
5. Provide Room
Lemongrass will grow to 9-feet high in its native environment and can easily reach 5 feet in less hospitable climates. It also throws out new shoots at a rapid pace. This spares you any concern about harvesting what you want to cook with, but it also means lemongrass has the potential to take over your garden. Allot a large enough space for your lemongrass that it won't crowd out the other plants in the area or cast a damaging degree of shade once the grass reaches its full height.
6. Harvest Well
Lemongrass is pervasive. It increases rapidly by division and seeding. This means there is plenty for you to harvest and use. Grab a stalk and pull it from the ground. The white base can be used in food. The leaves can also be used to make tea and to flavor food, as long as they are removed before serving. The oils in the stalks and leaves can also be used as insect repellants, in soaps and lotions, and as a disinfectant. Rather than being intimidated by how big your lemongrass can get, learn more ways to harvest and use this versatile plant.