Lemongrass may be difficult to find in the produce aisle but it is simple to grow in your garden. Lemongrass is a heat-loving herb that grows year-round in tropical climates, and is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.
Learn how to grow, harvest, divide, and use lemongrass with these 6 tips.
6 Tips for How to Grow, Harvest, Divide, and Use Lemongrass
1. Plant lemongrass from transplants, division, or cuttings
Look for lemongrass transplants or divisions (learn how to divide lemongrass in tip #6) – this is the easiest way to add lemongrass to your garden.
To start lemongrass from cuttings:
- Begin with a fresh piece of lemongrass, preferably with as much of the bottom bulb attached as possible.
- Peel back a layer or two from the fresh lemongrass stalks and then root the stalks in water for several weeks.
- Once roots form and new leaves begin to sprout, plant the rooted lemongrass with the crown just below the surface.
2. Plant lemongrass at the right time
3. Learn how to plant and care for lemongrass correctly
- Choose a sunny, warm location to plant lemongrass.
- Plant in moist, well-draining soil that is high in organic matter. Amend the soil before planting with compost.
- Space transplants 2 feet apart, and plant at the same level as the nursery container.
- Lemongrass is native to tropical areas and does not like to dry out. Make sure lemongrass receives regular water.
- Feed lemongrass each month with a liquid organic fertilizer during the growing season.
For square foot gardening, grow 1 lemongrass per square foot. One plant is usually plenty. Plant lemongrass in the corner and be aware it may take over the neighboring squares.
How to grow lemongrass in containers:
Lemongrass grows well in a self-watering container that is at least 10 inches deep.
Lemongrass plants grow large and can quickly outgrow their containers; choose a large container.
In cold-winter areas, move container-grown lemongrass indoors or to a sheltered location during the winter.
4. Don’t be intimidated by harvesting lemongrass
Lemongrass is grown for the stalks and leaves. Learning how to harvest lemongrass is easy.
- You simply cut individual stalks as needed as close to ground level as possible. (New stalks will form in their place.)
- Don’t harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.
- Once the plant is at least a foot high, you can begin harvesting lemongrass.
5. Don’t let lemongrass go to waste
I love the scent of lemongrass – even rustling the leaves stirs up the aroma. Although we’ve grown lemongrass for several years now, I wasn’t always sure how to use it. Use lemongrass to add lemon flavor (with hints of ginger) to food.
Here are the basics of how to use lemongrass:
- To use lemongrass in cooking, remove outer leaves and cut off the roots of the lemongrass.
- Upper green stalks are often what is used in tea.
- Use the tender section of lemongrass by chopping well (use a food processor) and cooking before eating.
- Use several inch pieces of stalks to flavor soups and teas, and then remove them before eating. Pound the lemongrass prior to using to release more flavor.
Store harvested lemongrass in the fridge for up to several weeks. For longer storage, chop the stalks first and freeze in herb trays or freeze stalks in freezer bags. Use frozen lemongrass within 6 months.
You can also preserve lemongrass stalks and leaves by drying them. Cut into pieces and let dry. Store in a cool, dry place and use dehydrated lemongrass within a year.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use lemongrass:
6. Divide lemongrass plants every couple of years
Lemongrass stalks multiply and should be divided every few years. Share extras with would-be lemongrass-growing friends.
The best time to divide lemongrass is in the spring after your last frost date. You can also divide lemongrass in the fall in warm-winter climates or if you are going to overwinter lemongrass indoors.
How to divide lemongrass:
- Cut lemongrass stalks off to just above where the stalk thickens.
- Water the plant well to make removal easier.
- Dig down and remove the entire lemongrass plant, keeping as many roots intact as possible.
- Using a shovel or hori hori knife, divide the plant into sections, making sure that each section has several roots attached.
- Repot each section into containers or the garden.