Lemongrass is a tropical plant, and gardeners in non-tropical hardiness zones should consider growing lemongrass in pots, containers, or homemade DIY grow bags.
Here in this article, we will start by explaining why growing lemongrass plants in pots, grow bags, or containers is the best alternative for most gardeners.
We will also show you three ways to grow lemongrass and why we think it makes the most sense to grow lemongrass from cuttings or lemongrass stalks instead of seeds.
Finally, we will give 5 reasons you should grow lemongrass plants in your garden.
- Growing lemongrass in colder climates
- Grow lemongrass year round
- Grow lemongrass from seed
- Growing lemongrass by division
- Growing lemongrass from stalk or cuttings
- How to care for lemongrass plants in pots
- How to harvest lemongrass plants
- How to store and use lemongrass
- Lemongrass and rust fungus
- 5 reasons to grow lemongrass plants
Growing lemongrass in colder climates
Lemongrass is a tropical plant best grown in a warm climate with full sun, fertile, well-drained soil, and enough access to water to keep the soil moist.
But unless you live in a tropical climate, it is next to impossible to replicate this growing environment. Summers may be hot enough, but spring is too cool, and fall and winter come around too quickly.
But this is not a problem. And this is the exact reason why you should grow lemongrass in pots, containers, or grow bags. Your lemongrass plants will be portable and easy to move as needed.
In spring and summer, we move plants to seek full sun and the most tropical-like growing conditions.
As the weather turns cold, we move our portable plants indoors or use conservatories and greenhouses.
Grow lemongrass year round
Lemongrass can be grown year-round, even in colder climates. You can plant and grow lemongrass from seed, division, or by propagating individual stalks (cuttings).
Growing lemongrass year-round in colder regions involves growing in pots, containers, grow bags, and your garden.
If you are starting your first plant, you have to plant seeds or grow lemongrass from stalks or cuttings.
Grow lemongrass from seed
Lemongrass grows well from seed. Sow seeds early spring into a small pot filled with fresh soil and vermiculite, cover it with plastic and place the pot in a warm location.
Keep soil moist and remove the plastic cover as seedlings emerge. Keep seedlings in smaller pots until they reach approximately 10 cm / 4 inches tall, and then transplant them into their final pot, container, or grow bag.
Ideally, transplant into larger-sized pots or grow bags and plant between 5-10 young plants per container.
Growing lemongrass by division
Lemongrass grows in clumps, making it easy to grow new plants by division. And if you have an established lemongrass plant, harvest time is an ideal time to divide your plant.
The root ball is often compact, and it takes a bit of time and effort to divide it. Soak the plant thoroughly before attempting to divide the root ball for a more manageable process. Soaking protects against tearing the roots unnecessarily if the soil surrounding the root system is dry.
Use a spade to divide the root ball into two or more plants. If your plant is established, you need to be prepared to be firm while at the same time protecting the more delicate roots directly attached to the stalks.
After you have divided the root ball, plant the individual divisions in fertile, well-drained soil and water thoroughly. Ideally, shield the new plants from wind and direct sunlight for the first few weeks as the plant bounces back to minimize the risk of transplant shock.
Growing lemongrass from stalk or cuttings
Growing lemongrass from stalks or cuttings is the easiest way to grow lemongrass plants at home. And when you learn the technique, you will have an endless supply of lemongrass for all your home cooking.
You can get lemongrass stalks from grocery store-bought lemongrass. Always choose organic produce to ensure the plant has not been treated with growth inhibitors, and select plump, fresh, green stalks.
You can also harvest a few stalks from an established plant with a simple twist and tug maneuver – with permission, of course.
A mature and established plant will respond well to having multiple stalks harvested from the plant.
For us, there are certain herbs and plants where is makes more sense to grow new plants from stem cuttings or rot division. Three notable examples are basil, horseradish and tarragon but there are of course many more.
How to grow and propagate lemongrass cuttings
Lemongrass can be one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings or stalks – if you follow a few simple rules.
1. It all starts with a few stalks of lemongrass
You need lemongrass stalks or cuttings, sharp garden scissors or knives, and a small container or glass with water to propagate lemongrass cuttings.
2. Remove loose leaves on the stalk
Gently rub the root end using your fingers to remove loose or dead leaves.
3. Cut the lemongrass
Use your garden scissors to cut 8-10 cm / 3-4 inches long pieces measured from the root end.
4. Place lemongrass in a container
Put the bottom rot end pieces in your glass container with fresh water. Replace water daily and always use room temperature water to avoid shocking the new root growth. Place the container in a warm location with a temperature of about 22-25 C / 72-77 F.
5. Roots begin to grow in about three weeks
For us, it usually takes three weeks for the new lemongrass roots to form fully at the base of the stem.
But, under ideal conditions, it can take as little as one week.
As the stalks or cuttings develop, you will notice that the center of the stalks will start growing. This growth will be noticeable after just a couple of days.
If this top growth starts developing leaves, you should add water-soluble plant food to encourage new growth.
6. Transplant into a small pot
When roots are about 3 cm / 1 inch long, move the stalks into pots with fertile, compost-rich, and well-drained soil.
Before planting, you should again cut back the stalk to leave you with a cutting approximately 8-10 cm / 3-4 inches tall.
Cutting back any top growth will help ensure that the young plant uses energy to develop a healthy root system over growing new leaves.
7. Place pot in shaded (at first)
When the lemongrass is transplanted, place the pot, container, or grow bag in a shaded location for 7 – 10 days. A protected spot will allow the plant to rest and help the new roots to get established in their new growing environment.
As soon as the plant gets established, move the plant to a location with full sun and at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
How to care for lemongrass plants in pots
Lemongrass grows well in full sun, given fertile, moist, and well-draining soil.
We use standard garden soil enriched with aged compost and vermiculite to help ensure good drainage while maintaining soil moisture.
Mulching pots, containers, and grow bags with nitrogen-rich mulches like fresh grass clippings helps enrich and keep the soil moist.
Still, for your lemongrass plant to flourish, we recommend you feed your plants water-soluble plant food at least once every few weeks. And here, you must use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to encourage above-ground growth of leaves and foliage.
During the growing season we feed our lemongrass plants with a high nitrogen water soluble fertilizer on a weekly basis.
How to harvest lemongrass plants
Lemongrass is harvested from the outside and can be harvested throughout the growing season, especially in pots, containers, or grow bags.
Lemongrass leaves are razorblade sharp when caught at the wrong angle. Do wear gardening gloves and long sleeved shirts when harvesting lemongrass to avoid cuts and scrapes.
To harvest, cut, twist, or tug to break off the leaves. As you are primarily looking to use the tender bottom parts of the leaves, you should remove the leaves as close to the ground as possible.
Plants growing in a cooler climate are usually harvested in distinctly different ways.
Plants growing in the ground are harvested in late fall before the first frost. Plants growing in pots can, on the other hand, be protected from cold weather. Place the pots in a light spot indoors to be harvested continuously as needed.
How to store and use lemongrass
Lemongrass is best used freshly harvested but can also be stored in your fridge for a couple of weeks. Just make sure to dry the stems before putting them in the refrigerator.
When it comes to storing lemongrass for more extended periods, we recommend freezing lemongrass in ready-to-use portion-size pieces, much like how we preserve horseradish.
3 steps to freeze lemongrass
- Prepare your stalks by chopping or mincing the lemongrass
- Place the prepared lemongrass in portion-sized pieces in freezer bags
- Put portion-sized pieces in the freezer and take them out to use as needed
When using frozen lemongrass in your cooking, add the frozen pieces straight into your cooking. Do not defrost the lemongrass before use, as it will have lost form and structure.
Lemongrass and rust fungus
When treated well, lemongrass grows fast, which is also one of the plant’s best defenses against rust fungus.
Rust fungus appears as yellow and brown spots and streaks on the leaves and will, if left untreated, kill the plant.
We treat our lemongrass plants in two different ways depending on the plant’s size, maturity, and location.
If the plant grows in a pot or container, we start by removing the plant from all other herbs and plants.
Next, if the plant is established and the infestation is limited to some leaves, we remove the affected leaves and feed the plant with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. The plan is for the plant to grow out of the problems with new fresh leaves.
If the plant is less established, we treat the plant with a mixture of water and organic neem oil applied using a spray bottle. Always treat the plant early morning or late evening as you want to avoid direct sunlight for treated plants.
5 reasons to grow lemongrass plants
1. One of the easiest plants to grow
Lemongrass is one of the easier plants to grow. And once you have an established plant, you are set for life.
2. Versatile plant
Grow lemongrass in a pot or directly in the ground in your garden. Or why not do both?
We plant some lemongrass plants in our raised garden beds as they repel some pests and unwanted bugs.
3. Great in all types of Asian cooking
Lemongrass plays an integral part in Asian cuisine, where it is a much-loved ingredient in soups and stews.
4. A lemongrass plant is also a beautiful ornamental grass
Lemongrass will grow into a beautiful grass plant and brighten any garden. Why spend money on purely decorative grasses when growing lemongrass in a pot or a container will give you ornamental grass and a versatile plant?
5. Make your lemongrass tea
My family is full of tea drinkers. And even though I am not a big tea drinker, I am told it tastes lemony and smooth.
Helpful resources: PlantVillage