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wide shot of lemongrass with a sign
A popular herb, lemongrass is a decorative clumping grass suited to gardens and pots, as well as an essential ingredient in curry pastes. Harvest stems at the base, remove the outer leaves and use only the white section at the leaf base for maximum flavour.

What you need to know about lemongrass

Name: lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon sp.

Height: 7090cm.

Foliage: perennial long, strap-like grassy foliage.

Climate: native to tropical and sub-tropical climates, but will also grow well in warm temperate, arid/semi-arid and even cold temperate climates, as long as it is protected from frost. 

Soil: prefers deep, free-draining soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure

Position: full sun.

Feeding: apply fish-based liquid fertiliser in late spring and again in early autumn.

Watering: water regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. 

Appearance and characteristics

Lemongrass is a clump-forming perennial grass commonly grown for the strong citrus-like flavour in the swollen stem-base. Grown for its culinary attributes, lemongrass is also a valuable ornamental grass in gardens and pots, although be careful of planting it in high-traffic areas, especially if you have children, as the leaves are very sharp.

close up image of lemongrass and ginger

Uses for lemongrass

Lemongrass is commonly used as a culinary herb in Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, as well as Thai curry pastes, soups and even herbal teas. 

Reputed to have medicinal and aromatherapy benefitsincluding muscle pain and headache relief, lemongrass is also used as a scent in cosmetics. 

Not just suited to the vegie patch, this decorative grass can also be incorporated into the garden, grown around a pond or water feature, or planted in pots. 

How to plant and grow lemongrass

Lemongrass is usually available in a small pot, ready for planting after all likelihood of frost has past. 

  1. Improve the soil with compost and decomposed manure prior to planting. 
  2. Plant at the same level as it was in the pot, with the crown (bulk of roots) just below the soil surface. 
  3. Water well and mulch to reduce water loss and weed competition.

Growing lemongrass in pots

  1. Select a pot that is vase-shaped (does not curve back in at the top). Lemongrass is a clumping grass which will grow to fill the pot, and it would be impossible to transplant from a curved pot.
  2. Always use a premium potting mix.

Caring for lemongrass

Lemongrass is easy to grow, especially in areas with dry winters and wet summers. In colder areas with wet winters, protect from frost with a generous mound of mulch at the end of autumn. Do not water if the soil is wet. If growing in pots, plants should be moved to a more protected position to avoid the extremes of winter. 

Water regularly during dry weather and apply a fish-based liquid fertiliser in late spring and again in early autumn. A seaweed solution applied at planting and again at the beginning of each season will help keep your lemongrass productive and healthy.

Harvesting and storing lemongrass

  • You can start harvesting the plant once it is about a foot tall.
  • Cut or break off the biggest stalks as close to the ground as possible.
  • Save leaves to dry or freeze, or use the tender part of the stalk in recipes.

Pruning lemongrass

To encourage new growth, cut back by half in late winter or early spring when any likelihood of frost has passed.

Diseases and pests

Due to the lemony essential oils in the foliage, lemongrass is usually pest-free. In cold damp soils, powdery mildew can be an issueIfound, spray with an organic fungicide.

How to propagate lemongrass

Propagate by division in late spring and summer while the plant is growing actively. This will help it to bounce back quickly after dividing

  1. Dig up the entire clump and separate into 24 sections, depending on the size of your lemongrass. 
  2. Make sure each section to be transplanted has roots attached. 
  3. This type of propagation should be done every 34 years to keep plants healthy and to remove old, unproductive and unsightly growth. 

If you like this then try

Curry plant: another popular Indian herb that’s great in gardens or pots. 

Japanese ginger: an easy to grow rhizome that complements Asian cuisine. 

Horseradish: a spicy rhizome that’s easy to grow and is often used as a substitute for wasabi.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

  

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Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

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