Lemongrass is one of those amazing herbs that seems to have almost endless benefits. Not only is it a delicious addition to many Asian dishes, but it also can be used in a myriad of herbal remedies, as a natural mosquito repellant, or even simply for its aromatherapeutic benefits.
It is used for treating high blood pressure, abdominal pain, vomiting, headaches, coughs and exhaustion.
Finding this herb in your local store, however, can be a challenge – and when you do find it, chance are there will be a lot of waste since a little goes a long way. The good news is that lemongrass is fairly easy to grow, and if you want to enjoy this vibrant herb all year long, you’ll be happy to know that it can be grown fairly easily indoors, as well.
Facts About the Lemongrass Plant
Lemongrass is a perennial, which means if you live in a warmer climate it will come back year after year. It is also a tropical plant and lends itself well to growing indoors year-round or being moved between indoors and outdoors, depending on the season. It can reach between three to six feet but it does not spread aggressively.
It can grow in almost any type of soil, but does the best when it is planted in fertile, well-drained sandy soil. Lemongrass prefers constant moisture and needs a sunny location where it can get at least six hours of sunlight. If you are growing indoors and do not have a spot that is sunny enough, you can supplement the sun with a grow light.
Planting your Lemongrass
Lemongrass may be grown from rhizomes (check your local garden center or online) but they also may be grown from the stalks you find in your local Asian grocery store.
Growing From Stalks
If growing from stalks, find the freshest ones available that preferably have a bit of a crown. Peel away any material that has died and place the stalks in a vase in a sunny location with a few inches of water. When the stalks begin to develop a root system, you can transplant them to a larger pot with a well-draining potting soil.
Growing From Rhizomes
Because this plant can get quite large, it is best to plant the rhizome in a five-gallon pot. It is still possible to grow lemongrass in a smaller pot, but you will want to control its size by more frequent harvesting – removing stalks and cutting away parts of the rhizome that reach the edge of the pot. If this is not done, there is potential for the plant to quickly outgrow the pot and even break it! Eventually your plant should adapt to the size of the pot. However, the harvest potential will not be as great as if you had grown it in a larger pot.
Caring for Your Lemongrass
Place your plant in the sunniest location you have – a south- or southwest-facing window is ideal. Because indoor plants tend to deplete nutrients more quickly, you will want to give your lemongrass regular feedings with soluble plant food. Amending your soil with worm castings is also a great way to help keep your plant strong and healthy.
Like most herbs, lemongrass should be kept in damp but not wet soil. Watering should be done every two to three days.
Cat owners should be aware that this plant can be particularly attractive to feline family members, so if you’d like to enjoy your harvest you may have to take steps to keep Fluffy away from it.
Harvesting and Using Lemongrass
When your plant reaches about one foot in height, you can start trimming the leaves to be used in soups and teas. By trimming your plant, you also will be releasing more of its beautiful lemony aroma.
Stalks can be harvested when they are at least half an inch in diameter. Harvest them using a sharp knife and cut them at ground level. Do not try to break them off by hand, as doing so may damage your plant.
Since the flavor of lemongrass is quite strong, it is always best to start with a small amount to match your taste preferences.
While lemongrass is always at its best when fresh, you will likely find that you will have much more than you can use while it is still fresh. Fortunately, it also stores quite well.
Leaves may be dried to be used later in teas and as seasoning. Stalks may be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or may be chopped up and frozen.
If you haven’t tried growing lemongrass, this is one herb that you should consider adding to your indoor garden this winter.