It may not seem like it, but it’s actually quite easy to plant, grow, and harvest lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) in your own little garden—even if you’re completely new to the activity.
Besides being inexpensive, fast-growing, and low-maintenance, lemongrass is also a versatile herb that has many uses in your home. If you’re ready, get started with our guide below!
Lemongrass is a fragrant herb that’s commonly found in regions with warmer climates, such as Southeast Asia.
Although there are over 55 categories/varieties of lemongrass, only two types are used for cooking. One of these is Cymbopogon citratus, which is a West Indian variety.
Because of its distinctly fresh and lemony flavor, lemongrass can be used to brighten up soups, curries, stir-fried dishes, and even rice!
When dried, it’s great for brewing lemongrass tea, and some have even extracted its oils to make soaps, lotions, and other tinctures too.
How to Plant Lemongrass
With that said, it’s a wise choice to start growing lemongrass plants in your garden.
It’s not only a lot less expensive than buying lemongrass stalks at your local grocery store; you’ll also have easy access to a constant supply of the herb right outside your door! Isn’t that great?
To successfully plant lemongrass, though, you should carefully follow these tips:
You can grow a lemongrass plant from seed or from cuttings, but it’s obviously much quicker to start from the latter.
All you have to do is place fresh lemongrass stalks in water for a few weeks and wait for root growth and new leaves to form.
Once this occurs, you can plant it directly into the soil, making sure that its crown is just below the surface.
Now, you want your potting soil to be loose, healthy, and well-drained so that the lemongrass roots don’t drown in water. Loam soil, in particular, is ideal, as its aerated enough for the roots.
Add in natural compost (chicken manure, feather meal, etc.) or non-chemical fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, so the lemon grass grows quickly and robustly too.
Since lemongrass thrives best in tropical weather, make sure it’s planted right before the warmer months—around the time of the last spring frost growing season.
Place it in an area that receives full sun exposure, especially if its grown indoors.
Generally, lemongrass is quite hardy in growing zones 10 to 11, so if you live in a colder place, it’s a good idea to plant it in a container. Come winter, you can easily move it inside with your other potted plants for protection.
Caring for Your Lemongrass Plant
To keep your lemongrass plant happy and healthy, make sure it receives a lot of morning sun—around 6 hours per day. You can also feed it fertilizer once a month for extra nutrients.
Now, when it comes to watering plants, most novice gardeners overdo it.
You should water it frequently, but ensure your drainage system is effective to prevent damaged and decaying roots. Remember, the soil should be moist or slightly damp, not soaking wet.
When properly cared for, lemongrass plants can grow anywhere from two to nine feet tall!
If you live in a cold area, it will likely be on the shorter end of the spectrum, but it’ll still thrive as long as you keep it indoors during winter.
How to Harvest Lemongrass
If you’ve done everything right, you’ll soon realize that it’s time to harvest stalks of your lemon grass!
Harvesting lemongrass isn’t difficult, but you still need the proper equipment and information to get the job done.
You can start harvesting lemongrass when the stalks are at least a foot tall.
Although both the lemongrass stalk and the foliage are edible, the woody portions are usually discarded for the tender insides, which are soft enough to eat.
- Gardening gloves
- Scissors/Harvest knife
- Foil roll
- Trash bag
Steps to Harvest Lemongrass
- Put on your gloves and grab your knife.
- Look for older lemongrass stalks to harvest first. These are usually 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.
- Position your knife at the bottom of the stalk (ground level) and cut. Alternatively, you can twist and pull up the lemongrass plant.
- If you don’t plan to dry the lemongrass leaves, cut off the foliage/outer leaves and place them in the trash bag. Slice off any other woody part and discard these as well.
- Trim the upper parts of the stalk and leave about 6-12 inches of lemongrass. This bottom portion is what’s often used for cooking and eating.
- Place harvested lemongrass in a foil wrap. You can store this in the fridge for two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months.
Other Tips and Reminders
- Lemongrass leaves can be quite sharp, so always wear your gloves when gardening. Handle the plant with care.
- When pulling up the stalk of lemongrass, a few of its roots or bulbs may be attached. Don’t worry, this is perfectly okay.
- To keep the lemongrass stalks alive and healthy, don’t cut more than 1/3 of its stalks all at once. Let the lemongrass grow before harvesting again.
- Although you can harvest lemongrass anytime in tropical areas, in colder regions, it’s best to harvest the remainder plant during the fall—just before the first frost. You can store these stalks of lemongrass all throughout winter.
Preserving Your Lemongrass Harvest
If you have a bountiful harvest of lemon grass, you probably have way more stalks than you can use up.
By preserving your lemongrass, you’ll not only avoid wastage, but you’ll also have access to fresh stalks of lemongrass all year round!
Since you can only chill lemongrass stalks for 2-3 weeks at most, another way to extend their lifespan is to put them in the freezer. When frozen, lemongrass will keep its flavor for up to 6 months!
Simply divide the lemongrass stalks, then cut them into smaller pieces to save prep time in the future. (You can also leave them whole if you prefer.)
Put each portion into a freezer bag, label with the amount plus harvest date, and that’s it! Just defrost the lemongrass before cooking.
After harvesting lemongrass, you can also immediately dry the stalk and leaves for use in teas, seasonings, or garnishes.
While the lemongrass is still fresh and pliable, cut it up into small pieces. Separate the stalk from the leaves, and leave them on paper towels to dry.
Make sure it’s not exposed to the sun to prevent decay and discoloration. Afterward, store it in a jar and keep it in a cool, dry place.
Another method is to string lemongrass. All you have to do is hang small bunches of the stalk to dry for 2-6 weeks. Once it’s completely dry, you can grind them up and use them like loose-leaf tea.
Now, here’s the best part: Dried lemongrass leaves and stalk can be kept for a year!
Uses of Lemongrass
Now that you have fresh, dried, and/or frozen lemongrass leaves and stalk, how can you take advantage of this versatile herb?
Well, the first and most obvious way to use lemongrass is in cooking.
Its bright, lemony flavor instantly lightens up and balances out many strong dishes—this is probably why it’s a staple in Thai cuisine!
The tender parts of the stalk can be minced/grated and used fresh in salads and garnishes, while its leaves and outer stalk can be steeped in boiling water to make hot tea or iced tea.
Remember, only the bottom/inside parts are soft and flavorful enough for cooking.
If you’re not a fan of teas, use the leaves and stalks as you would a bay leaf.
Drop them into your curries, soups, or sauces, and let them impart a new depth of flavor into your classic dishes.
People will definitely be able to tell that you added something special to the mix—just remember to take them out before serving, as they can be quite tough to eat!
Surprisingly, lemongrass can also be utilized to make medicinal teas and tinctures.
Both the herb and its essential oils have been used to treat various ailments, such as stress, colds, headaches, sore throats, and other bacterial infections.
More creative uses of lemongrass include adding it into soaps, lotions, and other body products—since the herb has a fresh and relaxing aroma, lemongrass-scented items are quite popular among many people too!
Ready to plant and grow your own fresh lemongrass?
Now that you know how to harvest lemongrass in your backyard, garden, or homestead, you’ll definitely have a more colorful menu prepared for your family and friends in the days to come.
Consult our guide and be patient, and the rest will surely follow.
All that’s left to do is to have fun and enjoy! Happy gardening!