Lemongrass is a sweet, lemony herb, native to tropical climates. The stems are widely used in Asian cooking, it can be used in meat or fish dishes, and it works particularly well in curries. You can also use the leaves to make a delicious, refreshing tea. As well as its culinary value, lemongrass also makes an attractive plant.
How to grow lemongrass
Grow lemongrass in pots – it’s a tender plant so can be kept outside in summer before moving indoors for the winter months.
Lemongrass needs a lot of moisture, so ensure the compost doesn’t dry out. Reduce watering in winter but keep the soil just moist.
Lemongrass can be grown from supermarket stems or seed.
Where to grow lemongrass
As it comes from tropical regions, lemongrass needs a warm environment. It will grow best in a greenhouse or conservatory that doesn’t drop below 5°C, or you can keep it outside in a sunny spot for summer and bring it indoors for winter. It’s tender, so will require protection from frost.
Growing lemongrass in a pot will allow you to move it to shelter when you need to.
How to plant lemongrass
There are two options for growing lemongrass, you can either grow lemongrass from seed or from a supermarket brought stem.
Growing lemongrass from seed
Growing from seed is easier than you might think. Sow seeds in spring, sowing thinly on the surface of moist compost and don’t cover them. If you need to water the pot after sowing then do so from the bottom, by placing the pot in a dish of water for an hour or so. Keep the pot covered in a heated propagator to aid germination.
When the seeds are large enough to handle, prick them out into larger pots, and then place these in a sunny spot, away from any risk of frost. Once the roots are showing through the bottom, transplant into a larger pot. You can repeat this process a number of times.
Growing lemongrass from a stalk
The other option is to grow lemongrass from a supermarket stalk. Take a whole lemongrass stalk, and if the base is woody, slice off a sliver using a sharp knife. This will help expose a fresh area to the water. Cut off any leaves and place the stalk into a glass of tepid water. Put it on a warm, sunny windowsill and refresh the water every day. It should take a couple of weeks for roots to appear. Put the rooted stalk into a pot of peat-free, multi-purpose compost. Water and keep in a warm and bright spot. Repot when the roots poke out of the base.
How to care for lemongrass
Lemongrass is best grown in a container so you can keep it in a sunny, sheltered spot outside during summer, and move it indoors for winter. When the foliage turns brown, cut back the stems to 10cm. Once new growth appears in spring, feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser.
How to harvest lemongrass
Once your new plant matures and produces lots of stems (at least 10), you can start using them for cooking. Cut stems just below the base, but make sure you leave plenty on the plant to allow it to produce new growth.
Growing lemongrass: pests and diseases
Brown, red or yellow marks on leaves could be lemongrass rust, which is caused by too much moisture and humidity. Keep the plant healthy with regular feeding, pruning diseased leaves and avoid watering from above.
Yellow or brown spots on leaves could be a sign of the yellow sugarcane aphid, although lemongrass is unlikely to be troubled by this pest. If you need to, wash the aphids off the lemongrass with water.