Lemon Grass: Direct Sow or Potted Herb Plant
How to Sow and Plant
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Sow in full sun in average soil after danger of frost in spring.
- Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Sow seeds evenly and thinly and barely cover with fine soil.
- Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings emerge in 14-21 days.
- Thin or transplant shipped plants to 12 inch apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches tall.
Planting Potted Plants in the Garden:
- Select a location in full sun with average soil.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.
How to Grow
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Fertilize regularly with Gro-tone All Purpose Organic Plant Food.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- Harvest leafy tops when they are about 10-12 inches tall. The leaves may be used to flavor teas and soups.
- Collect stalks at the end of the season before frost when they are about a half inch in diameter.
- Snap stalks off at their base. Only the bottom of the stalk is edible.
- Use the inner part of the stalk, slice into rings or strips and bruise segments to release their flavor.
- Chopped pieces of stalk may be frozen in ice cube trays for future use.
- Lemongrass may be dried for storage. Place stalks in a 120 degree F oven for 2-3 hours, with the oven door cracked open. Check to make sure the stalks are not getting singed.
Common Disease Problems
Leaf Blight: This fungus causes reddish brown spots on leaf tips and margins that look like premature dying of the leaf. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plant parts. Practice good garden hygiene at the end of the season and discard, do not compost, possibly diseased plants. Space plants to allow for adequate air circulation. Avoid overhead watering which may spread fungus spores.
Little Leaf or Grassy Shoot: This fungus disease causes stunted growth. Burpee Recommends: Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Purple leaf tops and sides: This can be a symptom of a phosphorus deficiency. Burpee Recommends: Have your soil tested for nutrient recommendations. Apply bone meal as needed.
Rust: A number of fungus diseases that rust colored spots on foliage and stalks. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Smut: This can attack flowering lemongrass. The flowers are covered with conical cream colored fungus that flakes off at maturity starting from the tip. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plants and practice crop rotation. Harvest before plants produce flowers.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Caterpillars: These may bore into plant stems. Burpee Recommends: Handpick and remove. Look for holes at the base of the plants and remove borers. Rotate crops.
Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with Insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendation for your area.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Will lemongrass repel mosquitoes? Yes it does! Plant around seating areas and pathways.
Is lemongrass hardy at all? Lemongrass is a tropical plant and hardy only in zone 10.
If I cut my lemongrass back will it regrow? During the season it will regrow.
Can I overwinter lemongrass indoors? Yes, as long as you have enough light. Water only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. The plant will not thrive as well indoors but should perk up when planted in the garden in spring.
Should lemongrass be used only as a seasoning? Can I eat the shoots? Lemongrass is rather fibrous and not good for eating directly. Only if the lemongrass is finely minced would it be considered edible. Treat it more as a bay leaf which you remove after cooking.