Want to Grow Your Own Lemon Grass in any Climate without Buying an Expensive Plant? Here's how
Lemon Grass Can Grow Anywhere!
The pungent and aromatic lemon-y aroma of this exotic grass exudes a fabulous aroma of herbal lemon that can really enhance spicy dishes. Just smash the grass to pound out the oils in the glands of the green stalks, and toss in to the end of the cooking process to impart those aromatic and flavorful qualities.Like any herb, fresh is best. How do people outside of zones 9 and higher acquire fresh lemongrass when we traditionally can't even locate the herb for sale in our communities? Mail-ordering live plants is prohibitively expensive, and there is no guarantee that a healthy plant will arrive intact, disease-free, and ready to root!
The secret to fresh lemongrass is to sprout some for yourself, from the stalks directly. With proper timing, patience, and a good spot in a sunny window, anyone can enjoy this vigorous, beautiful, and delicious herb anywhere in the world!
First, Locate Lemongrass in the Grocery Store
Fresh lemongrass is commonly available at grocery stores in plastic clam-shells among the herbs. It looks like rugged stalks of thick grass, and is often quite pricey in regular markets. Fresh lemongrass is often only irregularly available, like many herbs, that may not be reordered with much regularity in communities where there isn't a large-enough number of shoppers regularly purchasing the item.If you can't find lemongrass at your regular grocery store, check out places that serve a "foodie" population, like Whole Foods, or Central Market, or Publix. If these places are available in your area, or are prohibitively expensive, look to local Asian or ethnic grocers who are very likely to have fresh lemongrass, particularly if they serve a southeast Asian and Indian population.
Sprouting Lemongrass is Easy With Diligence and a Sunny Window
Lemongrass is a grass. Grass is very naturally weedy, and will sprout and try to take over wherever it happens to be. (It is related to bamboo, after all, and everyone knows how invasive bamboo can be!) All anyone has to do to get the lemongrass started is plop the stalks 1/2 to 2/3 the way in a glass of aerated water. Daily change the water and aerate it, to get oxygen to stimulate plant sprouting.
What does that mean? Aeration? Oxygenating water? It's simple, really. Take your cup or glass and fill it halfway with water. Hold your hand over the top of the cup to seal it shut. Then, shake it a bit harder than you would a martini for a few seconds. Water in the air of the empty portion of the cup will get caught by the free-flying water, trapping it temporarily in the water. From there, place the stalks in the cup of aerated water. Easy, right?
Keep the stalks on a sunny windowsill, in this aerated water that is regularly changed, and they will sprout.
You will see green long before you are ready to transplant the plant into quality tropical potting soil. Be patient!
Wait until the white roots extending from the underwater portion are at least an inch long, possible two or three, and that there is a large number of them forming. This could take up to two or three months! Be patient, and keep changing that water!
Ready to Pot the Lemon Grass Up? You Might Be Able to Grow It Outside, Anyway
Growers in zones 9 and 10 can place their plant outside, year round, but even growers in zones 7 and 8, marginal for anything tropical, can sprout their plant early enough in the season that they can place the budding stalk in a prepared garden bed outdoors, and produce a large, vigorous, and healthy plant that will produce plenty of stalks for cooking and potpourri. When winter looms, take cuttings and pull them inside to start soaking for a winter potting, followed by transplanting back outside in the spring. Voila! You've cheated winter and can grow your own lemongrass in the ground in your garden, to enjoy the textured foliage and graceful, delicacy of the beautiful, scented grass.
I Want to Grow It In a Pot! What Do I Do?
Once the lemongrass has sprouted, and it's gotten mature enough to put into a pot, it will look like a tiny, little stalk. Do not be fooled. This clumping grass can easily spread to three feet across, and even up to four feet high! You will need, at minimum, a five gallon pot, and expect the pot to dwarf the vigorous grass enough to cause some browning of the outer stalks!
Lemongrass is tropical, and likes rich, damp soil, but it still likes good drainage. Your potting mix should include enough sand to ensure good drainage, and a rich, fertile substance like vermiculite to promote vigorous health. For potting mix, seek natural mixtures for tropical and subtropical plants, if you can, but don't worry if all you have available is mere miracle gro. Lemongrass is a grass, and grasses are vigorous, aggressive, and will thrive in a wide range of soil conditions, as long as there's something to eat in that good drainage.
Fertilize like you would any potted plant with a slow release fertilizer applied monthly.
Lemongrasses thrive in full sun. Pick your sunniest indoor window, and let the soil dry out between waterings.
Okay, You've Got Lemongrass Growing. Now Here's How to Harvest It.
Right, so the lemongrass has been in the pot at least two months, and it is starting to take over a little bit. Take quality kitchen shears, and try to clip out a stalk of the grass about an inch above the root line. What will happen is the thick stalk will regrow as if you just grazed it a little. This will also help slow down the vigorous grower, which will likely need to be repotted every year.
Personally, I never bother to repot the lemongrass, at least not in the traditional sense. I keep two plants alive. One is in a pot, the other is in the ground. When the one in the ground dies, I start it up again by using a good, sharp hand trowel to cut out stalks of lemongrass with their roots from the potted plant, and plop that into the ground. If the one in the pot dies, I start again soaking shoots from the one in the ground.
One lemongrass plant will be enough for you and your family and all of your friends. They are prolific, very large, and using fresh stalks means using much, much less!
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