Lemongrass is a delicious perennial grass native to India that is commonly used to flavor Asian curries, soups, teas and stir-fries. It is believed to have medicinal purposes in alleviating cancer, fever, arthritic pain and stomach cramps. Follow these instructions for planting and growing lemongrass for good health and flavoring Asian dishes.
Step 1 - Purchase Lemongrass
Although lemongrass can be grown from seed, it's easier to just propagate lemongrass from stalks purchased at a store. If you can't find lemongrass at your local grocery store, check out a specialty Asian food store. Choose a healthy plant with plump stalks. Dry stalks will be difficult to propagate, so choose a fresh bunch. Lemongrass requires a warm climate so if you want to keep outside, start the growing process in mid-spring. If you are growing indoors, you can start anytime. However, lemongrass requires full sun to partial shade so planting in winter will require a growing light.
Step 2 - Place Trimmed Stalks in Water
Cut off several inches from the top of your stalks. Peel off any outside layers that are dry or withered, especially near the base of the stalks. Fill a glass jar with several inches of water and place the stalks with the bottoms in the water for several weeks. Roots should begin emerging from the base in 1 to 2 weeks. Keep stalks in the water until the roots are at least 1-inch long.
Step 3 - Transplant Rooted Stalks
Once the roots are between 1 and 2 inches long, transplant them into a container filled with an all-purpose potting soil. If you want to use garden soil, mix it 50/50 with compost. Make sure your container has plenty of drainage holes to allow the water to drain from the plant. Without drainage holes, your soil will become soggy. Press into the soil until the roots and crown (the base of the stalk) are covered by soil. Place the container in a sunny windowsill, or outdoors if warm enough. Lemongrass is hardy in USDA zone 9.
Step 4 - Fertilize and Care for Lemongrass
If you want to use fertilizer, add 3.5 oz. around the base 2 weeks after planting. Apply monthly until harvest. Lemon grass grows best in moist soil. Water thoroughly after planting and whenever the top inch or so of soil dries out.
Step 5 - Harvest Lemongrass
Lemongrass should be ready for harvest about 60 days after planting. Cut off the stalks at the base. Remove the outer layer of leaves to get to a white base that will have the strongest citrusy flavor. The bottom 8 inches of the stalk will provide the best scent and flavor to your favorite asian dishes.
Your lemongrass plant will continue to provide you with many stalks for several years!