Growing Lemongrass in San Diego, CA
Lemongrass - Cymbopogon flexuosus (East Indian) / Cymbopogon citratus (West Indian)
As with most of my herbs, I grow lemongrass in a pot. I thought about growing it in the ground; however, when a four inch pot of lemongrass fills a five gallon squat pot (dimensions 12x11 (I think it may be bigger) ) in one year, I decided against it. My family wouldn't eat enough to control it. In fact, I don't know enough people who enjoy ethnic cooking to control it.
Lemongrass grows fast! Very fast. It is a sun tropical that thrives best in rich, acid, well draining soil. Lemongrass is a perennial. It stops growing in the winter and then starts again, with a vengeance, in the spring. Plant in a large pot, watering thoroughly. Mulch the top of the pot with mini sized decorative bark. This holds moisture in the soil and provides the nutrient hungry lemongrass with decomposing organic material. Feed with tropical plant food as instructed on the package (This is one of the few instances that I can recommend liquid plant food, it needs food that it can metabolize quickly.). Water frequently in the hot seasons, not allowing it to go dry. Once the cooler nights start ease off on the watering, keeping the soil moist, but not wet. As with all tropicals, hot and wet is good- cold and wet is deadly.
Harvest the individual leaves as needed and whole stalks as much as you want up to 1/3 of the plant. The stalks are cut from the root at soil level. Stop harvesting when the weather cools in the late autumn.
Lemongrass can be grown from seed. Place seed on top of a prepared peat pellet and then put the pellet into a zippered plastic bag (sandwich size). Poke small holes in the top and place in a north facing windowsill. This way the seeds get needed light without the burning heat of the sun.
Or. Nursery transplants can be potted in rich well drained potting soil or planted in well amended, well draining garden plots. Excellent drainage is a necessity. Mix the garden soil 60:40, 60% organic matter and 40% garden soil, plant the herb and mulch heavily.
Note: At the base of lemongrass a lot of dead sheaths develop. Keep them cleaned out. If an excess of water is caught in them, it may rot the new growth and kill the plant.
As with other tropicals, lemongrass is susceptible to salt burn. In pots, simply leach salts and feed with acid forming fertilizer. in the ground add small amount of soil sulfur and cottonseedmeal, top dressing the plants with fresh organic matter.
Lemongrass has a sweet citrusy fragrance and a woodsy lemon flavor. It is good in cooking and potpourri and makes a refreshing hot tea. Lemongrass is a wonderful addition to the herb garden.