Description: Lemon grass is a perennial plant which grows in clumps and has long thin green leaves. The leaves have a lemon fragrance and can be used to make a herbal tea. They can be harvested year round and excess can be frozen. The base of the stem can be peeled and then chopped or minced for use in Asian cookery.
Base of lemon grass plant
Lemon grass has medicinal properties. It is an insect repellent and any surplus leaves make excellent mulch which will deter pests. Lemon grass will flower in the tropics but rarely in cooler areas
Size:Lemon grass varies from !m in cooler climates to 1.8m in warmer regions.
Conditions: Lemon grass will grow in full sun or light shade and is best suited to tropical and subtropical areas. It thrives in damp, well drained soil rich in compost. It is frost sensitive but will survive mild frost if mulched well with straw. If it is damaged by frost do not cut back until danger of frost is over.
Lemon grass can be grown in large pots. In cooler climates where there are heavy and frequent frosts pots can be moved under cover during winter.
Lemon grass grows well with lemon balm, salvia and near most types of mint.
Propagation: Lemon grass is usually grown by division. Plant in damp fertile soil ensuring the rhizome is completely covered. Firm the soil around the base of the plant and mulch well, especially in dry climates. Keep the soil moist but not water logged.
Lemon grass ready for planting
Close up of rhizome
Young plants can be purchased from plant nurseries and transplanted into a larger pot or the garden.
Lemon grass plants can be bought at a nursery
Lemon grass can also be grown from seed bought in packets at your local nursery. The optimum temperature for germination is 13C to 18C (55F to 65F). Plant seeds 5mm (¼”) deep and keep the soil moist. It can be difficult to get seeds to germinate so division is the preferred method of propagation.
Packet of lemon grass seeds
Lemon grass can be cut back hard at the end of winter (after any risk of frost is over) to encourage the growth of fresh shoots. When harvesting the leaves it is best to cut them near the base rather than pulling leaves off which can cause damage to the plant. Manure or compost added at least twice yearly encourages strong growth. Lemon grass growing in pots benefits from a regular dose of nitrogen based fertilizer.
When to Plant: Divide clumps of lemon grass to grow new plants in late winter (tropics), spring or autumn but not during hot weather. Plant seeds from spring to early autumn.