Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) has been making a yearly appearance in my garden in some way or another for some time now, but never like this. My new yard’s sun and sandy, well-draining soil turned out to be the perfect place to grow the sort of plant I have only seen in the tropics. Until now.
Despite my predilection for tropicals this year, this particular planting wasn’t inspired by Thailand, although it is the country with which this grassy herb is probably most closely associated. Instead, it was inspired by an empty wallet. I started off the growing season with a new garden and a clean slate. I wanted to incorporate some long-leaved grasses into the design, but I could not afford large perennials that would make an impact this year. Lemongrass grows quickly and can take on a nice size and a full shape if the weather allows. I decided to take advantage of the new space to see what I could turn out in the ground rather than in a pot. I positioned the plant next to a few other tropicals: Bronze roselle aka False roselle (Hibiscus acetosella) and tropical sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa). I was really pleased with the result and few visitors to the garden were aware that these beauties were all edible until I pointed them out.
I grew this plant from a few healthy stalks purchased at the supermarket and set in a glass of water until they formed roots. The entire thing cost just a couple of dollars total. There used to be an article outlining the steps on this site, but I think it was lost in the move to a new design. Regardless, it really is as easy as I’ve described above.
The only other trick to keeping a healthy plant worth mentioning is that it likes a great deal of moisture. For that reason, I half-buried an old, bottomless container into the ground and planted within that. The slight raised area allowed me to focus more water onto that particular plant, without drowning those around it. I found that I did not need to go to the extreme of creating a bog, but you can plant lemongrass at the margins of a pond or in a bog if you have one. The plant is fairly forgiving – you’ll know you are under-watering when the leaf tips go brown and crispy. Overwatered plants tend to rot at the base.
Now that the killing frost is approaching, I will be harvesting the entire plant. Some of it has already been used in a key lime marmalade, and the bulk of it will be chopped and frozen for future use. I really like the grass blades steeped in hot water as a tea, so I plan to keep a few stems in a large pot by my desk that can be enjoyed through the winter and replanted outdoors next year.