For gardeners looking to get the most bang for their buck, certain edible landscaping plants, such as lemongrass, can fill two desires. This ornamental grass increases curb appeal and offers tasty fresh herbs for the kitchen. Fast-growing lemongrass is as handsome waving in the summer breeze as it is appetizing in your soups, stir-fries, and teas. It’s native to Sri Lanka and India, just like the crossandra. The foliage also adds gorgeous color in autumn gardens when it turns burgundy and red. According to the ASPCA, lemongrass is toxic to dogs and cats.
- Botanical Name:Cymbopogon citratus
- Height:24 – 36 inches.
- Spacing:12 inches.
- Depth:Top of root ball at soil surface.
- Spread:12 inches.
- Light Required:Full Sun, Partial Shade
- Form:Thick masses of green and yellow stems.
- Soil Requirements:Well-drained average soil.
- Growth Rate:Fast
- Pruning:Cut off blades at base to rejuvenate. Harvest as needed after 12-15″ tall.
- Foliage:Tall slender Grass. Will die back but regrow readily in mild winter areas.
- Comments:This fast-growing 2-3 foot fragrant herb has the scent and flavor of lemons. Best when used fresh. Cut and crush the top leafy portion for tea or select the bottom part of the stalk for food flavoring. Repels mosquitoes and is deer resistant. Has thick masses of green and yellow stems. Flavor foods, drinks and ice cubes, potpourri. Tends to have the best flavor when used fresh, instead of dried. Bottom 6 inches of the stem used in soups, curries, salads and fish. Top leafy part may be cut and crushed to make tea. In the North it can be grown in the garden in Summer but should be brought indoors in Winter.
Lemongrass grows with abundance in areas where conditions mimic the warm and humid habitat of its origin. The plant likes lots of heat, light, and moisture: Provide this, and your lemongrass will grow and multiply quickly.
Lemongrass is fragrant and also known as a pest repellent. The smell of the plant’s oil seems to deter unwanted insects, such as mosquitos.
In its native habitat, lemongrass grows in full sun, even in hot climates. At least six hours of direct sun per day will meet the plants’ energy needs. Plants growing in shade will be sparse and may attract pests.
Lemongrass plants prefer rich, loamy soil. You can create this ideal soil by adding several different soil amendments: compost, manure, and leaf mold are all enriching additives that you can add at planting time.
Lemongrass prefers moist soil for best plant growth, but once established, it will tolerate drought. A 3-inch layer of mulch can help conserve soil moisture and will enrich the soil as it breaks down.
Temperature and Humidity
Lemongrass thrives in hot, steamy climates. The time for growing lemongrass outdoors is similar to the timing for tomato planting—when night temperatures are in the 60s, it’s time to plant. Lemongrass is very frost sensitive, so if you plan to overwinter the plant indoors, bring it inside before temperatures get into the 40s.
As a grassy plant, lemongrass needs a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for its best growth. You can use a slow-release 6-4-0 fertilizer that will feed lemongrass throughout the growing season. You can also water your lemongrass plants with manure tea, which will add trace nutrients.
Lemongrass plants that live for more than one season benefit from an annual haircut to tidy up plants and remove dead foliage. The plant will naturally die back for the winter, when you should leave the browning leaves alone to protect it from frost. Shear the ornamental grass to about 6 inches high at the end of winter, when plants are in their resting phase. Lemongrass plants will rebound quickly and send up new shoots when warm weather returns.