Cymbopogon citratus, otherwise known as the West Indian Lemongrass or just Lemongrass, is an ornamental species of grasses in the Poaceae family. This plant is native to Island Southeast Asia and has become naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
Lemongrass plants have a good reputation not only for their alluring appearance but also thanks to their low-maintenance habit. Once established, these plants are the most chill and pleasant buddies to have around. And the rewards of growing and caring for them are even better!
You can enjoy their gorgeous foliage in numerous landscape decorations, such as herb gardens, tropical gardens, along pathways, or borders. Most gardeners grow Lemongrass plants outdoors, but they can also make for stunning potted plants in indoor settings. And as if this would not be a good enough reason to start growing them, Lemongrass plants smell absolutely amazing!
Now that we aroused your curiosity, keep reading to find out more interesting facts about Lemongrass plants and how easily you can grow, care for, and propagate them!
- Lemongrass plants grow like crazy in Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesian locals refer to these plants as serai dapur, serai, or sereh. In the Philippines, people call them tanglad, balioko, or salai.
- These plants can withstand harvest when they are young without any problems. They are fast-growers and will come back fresh in a short time after harvesting.
- Their leaves are highly fragrant and serve as a great ingredient for various cooking recipes. Many people use them with roasted chicken, in lechón (Spanish pork dish), tom yum soup, and Thai coconut soup.
- Lemongrass plants play a big part in traditional medicine. They have numerous medicinal properties including antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, digestive, and antirheumatic.
- The essential oil obtained from Lemongrass plants is an excellent stimulant and analgesic. Some people believe that this oil can also have hypnotic and antidepressant effects on humans.
- Nowadays, the dried leaves of Lemongrass are still popular ingredients to prepare flavoured teas. They bring a subtle lemon-like flavour, but with a nice sweetness.
- Beekeepers appreciate lemongrass oil for its ability to attract swarms in traps. The essential oil can also repel stable flies, which are annoying for domestic animals.
- Lemongrass plants are mildly toxic to pets, causing digestive problems or difficulties in breathing. For safety purposes, keep these plants in a location where your furry friends cannot reach them.
Lemongrass Features: An Overview
- Lemongrass plants belong to the Cymbopogon genus that contains about 55 species of grasses. These species include Fever Grass, Malabar Grass, Silky Heads, Barbed Wire Grass, Cochin Grass, and Oily Heads.
- They are evergreen perennials that can reach from 2 to 4 feet (60-120 cm) in height and 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) in width.
- Their foliage consists of simple, narrow, linear-shaped, and light green to bluish-green leaves. The blades usually measure about 18 to 36 inches (46-91 cm) and have entire edges.
- Lemongrass plants have a clump-forming overall growth and somehow magenta-tinted stems at the base. Their leaves come with a rich lemon-like fragrance, especially when bruised.
- These aromatic plants don’t usually bloom regularly. But when they do, their blossoms can appear from late summer through autumn and are barely visible.
- During their blooming period, Lemongrass plants produce sprays of tiny, snowdrop-like flowers. They exhibit various shades of green, white, or pink.
- They can make for nice-looking companions to other species of plants that can be grown in herb gardens, such as Echinacea, Geraniums, Hardy Hibiscus, Lemon Verbena, Marigolds, Mint, or Turmeric.
Lemongrass plants are the happiest buddies when their owners manage to simulate the conditions from their natural habitat at home. Like most tropical plants, they do well in lots of light, warmth, and moisture. Although these plants may seem hard to please, they are not so picky after all. Once you understand their basic demands, you will find them very easy-going and even enjoyable to have around!
As mentioned above, Lemongrass plants thrive in plenty of bright and direct. It is very important to plant them in a location where they can receive at least six hours of full sunlight daily. If you grow these plants in partial or full shade, their growth will show up scattered and they will be more prone to pest infestations.
When it comes to temperatures, Lemongrass plants grow healthy and happy in regions with hot, hazy climates. They are not very tolerant of frost and will show their dissatisfaction right away if you expose them to cold environments. In areas with harsh winters, it is best to bring your plants inside when the temperatures reach 43 °F (6 °C).
The most common problem among Lemongrass plants is rust fungus. This disease will show its presence through brown streaks or spots on the foliage, causing your untreated plants to die at some point. If you notice these signs on your beloved plants, remove the unhealthy parts and change your watering style. The best method to prevent rust is to water your Lemongrass at the soil level without touching their foliage.
Lemongrass plants do well in rich, loamy soils that also have great drainage. If you cannot find the perfect soil mix for your plants, you must amend the substrate with enriching additives. Before planting, make sure you add a generous amount of compost, leaf mold, or manure to spoil your plants with a nice growing medium.
Lemongrass plants require fertilizing once in a while to keep them in shape. Feed your babies with a high-quality nitrogen-rich (6-4-0) fertilizer once every two weeks during their active growing season. They can also benefit from applications with manure tea, which provides these plants with the needed amount of nutrients.
Although Lemongrass plants are great for warm climate gardens, you can also grow them indoors in lovely containers. They need a lot of space to develop and accommodate healthy roots, so you must plant them in pots of at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. Look for containers that have drainage holes at the bottom to allow the excess soil to drain properly.
When your Lemongrass plants start to outgrow their pots, you should transplant them in new pots that are one size larger than the current ones. In general, these plants demand repotting once every year due to their fast-growing pace. For optimal results, it is best to repot your plants in spring when they are most vigorous.
If your plants go through more than one growing season, you will have to prune them annually to maintain a fresh and tidy overall look. This process consists of removing all the unhealthy, damaged, or dead foliage at the end of winter. At this point, your beauties go through a resting period and you can shear them at about 6 inches (15 cm) high. New growth will emerge when the spring starts to come with its warmth.
What makes Lemongrass plants one of the favourites among herb-loving gardeners is their high tolerance to drought. Although these beauties will require some extra attention in their first growing season, they will do just fine with little water once established. They will grow at their best with regular moisture, but too much water can result in root rot with time.
For an optimal watering routine, make sure you check their soil from time to time. When the top half of the substrate is dry, you can provide your Lemongrass with fresh water. Still, the frequency of watering will always be different depending on the season and weather.
If you live in a region with frequent rainfalls, these plants will not demand supplemental irrigation at all. During hot and dry summer months, it may be necessary to water your plants more often than usual.
If you are thinking about making more of these showy companions, we come bearing good news! Lemongrass plants are very easy to propagate thanks to their clump-forming growth. All you have to do is dig out your plants, divide their roots, and voilà! You will have as many new Lemongrass babies around as you want.
As always, it is up to you how large your divided Lemongrass parts will be. The point is, each slender leaf of these plants usually grows attached to bulb-like roots. This interesting feature brings all leaves the potential to become a newborn clump, so you will have better chances to propagate your plants successfully.
Once you have your Lemongrass plants out of the soil, you can divide their bulbs with a sharp spade. Plant each division into their permanent location in the garden and provide them with a nice soaking. You can also grow them in pots and transplant them outdoors when the last danger of frost has passed, usually in spring.
Even if Lemongrass plants are not as showy and flower-rewarding as other ornamentals, they deserve a chance in every collector’s garden. Their evergreen foliage adds an attractive tropical touch to their surroundings and also comes with a charming lemon-like perfume. And when they need so little effort on your part, how could you still resist them?
Are you growing Lemongrass? Share your experience in the comments below!