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Luffa, Lufa, Loufa - A Versatile Plant

Updated on August 25, 2014
naturegirl7 profile image

Yvonne is a Louisiana Master Gardener and a former president of the Folsom Native Plant Society. She gives talks about sustainable gardens.

Luffa Sponges are good for the Skin

Luffa Sponge
Luffa Sponge | Source

Luffa Species - the Sponge Gourd

The versatile Luffa Gourd is an easy to grow member of the Cucurbit (squash) family. The pithy interior of a dried mature Luffa can be used as a therapeutic bath sponge or back scrubber. Young Luffas (also called Chinese Okra) are delicious and can be used in okra dishes.

We have been successfully growing Luffa aegyptiaca since the 1970s. We would like to give you tips on growing and using the wonderful sponge gourds.

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Luffa aegyptiaca

Luffa Sponge Gourd, that we grow.
Luffa Sponge Gourd, that we grow. | Source

Luffa Sponge Uses

Luffas have attractive flowers and the mature gourd contains a spongy pith which makes excellent health and beauty sponges. It is also called, "dish rag gourd" because the sponges can be used to scrub dishes and other surfaces without marring them.

They are quite expensive to buy in beauty supply stores, but when you grow them yourself they cost a few pennies each. Luffa sponges make great gifts when combined with bath salts or herbal soap. Just arrange them in a basket with some wash cloths and a few candles and voila, you have a thoughtful gift.

Mature Luffa Sponge Gourd

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Luffa Vines

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How to Grow Luffa Sponge Gourd

Luffa gourds are easy to grow from seed. We always keep seed from each year, for planting on the next. The seeds will keep for several years and I have successfully grown Luffas from seed that was 4-5 years old.

If you want to get an early start, plant the flat black seeds in pots in a greenhouse or sunny window about 6 weeks before the last frost in spring. Luffas are members of the Cucurbit family. Most species of this family need ground temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to sprout.

Plant the luffas in hills or a row. Dig a hole about 2 feet deep and add well rotted manure and /or compost. Work it in and fill the hole back up with good garden soil. Plant the seeds or young plants and form a slight indentation in the soil so that the water will be held around the plants. Water well.

The vines grow vigorously in warm weather, so some sort of support must be provided. A trellis, fence or even a tree will suffice. Don't be surprised if the vines grow over 20 feet.

As with most members of the Cucurbit family, fertile well-drained soil, amended with well rotted manure is required.

In a few weeks, the vines will begin to run and before you know it, flower buds will appear. There are male and female flowers. The large, yellow male flowers form clusters. The smaller female flowers appear on the end of the small fruits.

The gourds can be eaten like okra when they are still green. If you want sponges, you must let the gourds mature on the vine until the skin is tan or brownish.

Then pick them and peel the skin off and shake the seeds out. Be sure to save the seeds for the following year. (See the video below about peeling a luffa.)


Luffa Vines

Luffa vines grow quite long and can be trained onto trellises or fences. They make excellent sustainable screens. We have used sponge gourd vines on a trellis to block the view of our chicken coop.

One year, when we lived in the suburbs, the vines did so well that they got away from us and climbed up into a neighbors pecan tree. He didn't notice it until fall, when the tree leaves fell to reveal 20 or more sponge gourds hanging from the tree.

Our Luffa "Tree"

One year, the Luffa Gourd grew up into the neighbor's pecan tree.  We had plenty of Luffa sponges that year.
One year, the Luffa Gourd grew up into the neighbor's pecan tree. We had plenty of Luffa sponges that year. | Source

Peeling the Luffa Gourd to Reveal the Sponge Video

Luffa Sponge Care

Luffa sponges are an organic product and should be kept dry in between uses. The video below gives you some tips about cleaning and caring for loofah sponges.

Caring for a Luffa Sponge

© 2011 Yvonne L. B.

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    • naturegirl7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L. B. 

      4 years ago from South Louisiana

      We waited for the vines to die then pulled them and the gourds out of the tree. Most came out and the rest fell during the winter.

    • profile image

      rebiccola 

      4 years ago

      So how did you get the luffa sponges down from the neighbor's pecan tree? I am planning on growing luffa this year, and I was just thinking that the best trellis might be our tree... but how to get them down? Thanks!

    • naturegirl7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L. B. 

      6 years ago from South Louisiana

      Thanks for the comments. Luffa gourds have so many uses and are not difficult to grow. I put one in a pot and it overwintered in my greenhouse. I then sat the whole pot in a larger pot in my garden and added some aged chicken manure. Now I have a young luffa gourd and many blooms.

    • profile image

      Mariah Namagembe 

      6 years ago

      Luffa in Luganda is called Kyangwe.

    • profile image

      Mariah Namagembe 

      6 years ago

      In Uganda people have always used this Luffa plant to wash their bodies.

      No wonder why Ugandans have a very soft skin.

    • naturegirl7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L. B. 

      7 years ago from South Louisiana

      Peggy W, Thanks for the comment. Wow, in Wisconsin? You must have started them really early.

      I'm running out of luffa sponges and I needed a quick screen for the chicken coop, so I decided to grow some luffa this year. I hope I have a bountiful crop.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We actually grew the loufa sponges one year in Wisconsin on our chain link fence and had a great crop that we shared with neighbors. Had no idea that the young ones were edible. Thanks for this interesting hub and for bringing back some fun memories. Up and useful votes!

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