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All You Need to Know about Lemongrass Plant
For gardeners looking to make the most of their investment in real estate, edible landscaping fills two desires: increasing the attractiveness of the exterior, while obtaining tasty fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs for cooking.
Some plants classified as ornamental edibles are questionable either because of their beauty or their delight (how many of those ornamental peppers can you really eat in a week?), But few plants combine the appearance and taste of lemongrass.
A fast-growing ornamental herb, the lemongrass is so beautiful that it is stirred in the summer breeze as appetizing in its soups, french fries, and teas.
- Botanical name Cymbopogon citratus
- Common Name Lemongrass
- Type of plant Ornamental grass
- Mature size Two to four feet
- Sun exposure Full sun
- Type of soil Rich and clayey
- Neutral soil pH; 6.8-7.2
- Flowering time No flowers
- Flower color None
- Resistance zones 10 to 11
- Native areas Sri Lanka and India
How to grow lemongrass
Lemongrass grows abundantly in areas where conditions mimic the tropical habitat of its origin. Plants like a lot of heat, light, and humidity: provide this and your lemongrass will grow and multiply rapidly.
In its native habitat, lemongrass grows in full sun, even in hot climates. At least six hours of direct sun per day will meet the energy needs of the plants. Plants that grow in the shade will be scarce and can attract pests.
Lemongrass plants prefer rich and clayey soil. You can create this ideal soil by adding several different amendments to the soil: compost, manure and leaf mold are enriching additives that you can add at planting time.
Unlike some ornamental grasses, lemongrass is not a drought-tolerant plant. Keep the roots constantly moist for better plant health. A three-inch layer of mulch can help conserve soil moisture and enrich the soil as it decomposes.
Temperature and humidity
Like tropical plants, lemongrass thrives in hot and humid climates. The time to grow lemongrass outdoors is similar to the time of tomato planting: when the night temperatures are in the 60s, it is time to plant. Lemongrass is very sensitive to frost, so if you plan to spend the winter inside the plant, bring it before temperatures reach 40 degrees.
As a herbaceous plant, lemongrass needs a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for better growth. You can use a 6-4-0 slow-release fertilizer that will feed the lemongrass during the growing season. You can also water your lemongrass plants with manure tea, which will add trace nutrients.
Pots and transplants
Use a high quality commercial potting soil to plant a lemongrass plant. Choosing a premixed potting soil with an extended-release fertilizer can save you an additional step in feeding your plants. If your lemongrass plant grows in the same container year after year, it is better to replant in the spring to replenish the soil.
Lemongrass grows in groups that make it very easy to divide. You can combine your harvesting and division tasks since both require digging the plant.
Each leaf fan will be attached to a narrow bulb-shaped base with joined roots, and each of them has the potential to become a new group. It is up to you how big you want each division to be.
Replanting a division with at least five or six bulbs will look more substantial than a single bulb. Bulbs break easily with a shovel or hoe.
According to the ASPCA, lemongrass can cause stomach upset in cats and dogs, and difficulty breathing in horses. Keep plants out of reach of pets.
Lemongrass plants that live for more than one season benefit from an annual haircut to sort the plants and eliminate dead foliage. Cut your plants to approximately six inches high at the end of winter, when the plants are in their resting phase. Lemongrass plants will bounce quickly and send new buds when warm weather returns.
As a fast-growing plant, lemongrass can resist harvesting when the plants are young with no adverse effect on growth. Although lots of green leaves are too difficult to eat, you can cut them for tea or soak them in broth. Juicy stems are edible when they are crushed or chopped, adding a fragrant lemon note to the dishes.
Use a hand trowel to remove individual stems, roots and everything from the group. Remove the hard outer leaves and prepare the tender white stalks by cutting, or freeze whole pieces of stem for later use.
Growing in containers
Choose a large bowl to grow your lemongrass, at least 12 inches in diameter. This is to accommodate a healthy root system and to prevent heavy upper plants from tipping over. In cold climates, you can grow a single root division in a small container on a sunny windowsill to keep the plant going for next season’s harvest.
Lemongrass seeds germinate easily in warm, moist soil. Press the seeds lightly into the sterile potting mix and keep them moist until germination occurs, usually within about ten to 14 days. When the plants are approximately three inches tall, they lose weight one foot away.
Common pests and diseases
In some areas, rust fungus can affect lemongrass plants. Symptoms include brown spots or streaks on the leaves, which lead to the death of plants. Prevent oxidation by watering plants at ground level.
Lemongrass vs. Lemon Verbena
Although both lemongrass and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) will be a pleasant cup of tea, the plants have a different appearance and different growth requirements. When lemongrass is a moisture lover, lemon verbena plants like the dry side.
Lemon verbena plants have elongated leaves, but they are not herbaceous. Unlike lemongrass, lemon verbena plants produce small white flowers, which are also edible. Lemon verbena plants are more suitable for use in cold dishes since the essential oil is delicate and evaporates during cooking.
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