Lemon Grass (Cymbopgon citratus)
About This Herb
Lemon grass is an aromatic clumping grass with long, blue-green leaf blades and a branched set of flowers. Native to India, lemon grass is an ornamental grass with leaves and stems valued for their citrus aroma and lemony flavor in recipes, especially Thai cooking
How to Grow Lemon Grass
In tropical regions lemon grass is a perennial plant, but in our region this herb is grown as a tender annual. Because lemon grass is a tropical plant, it needs warm weather and moist soils. A good alternative is to plant lemon grass in containers that can be brought inside before the first frost of the season.
Locate a sunny spot that can accommodate this herb that grows 2-3 feet tall and just as wide. Prepare a spot with rich, well-amended soil that’s also well-drained.
Lemon grass can be started from seeds, but it require some patience. Most gardeners opt for lemon grass transplants to get a head start on the season. If planting in a container, make sure it’s large, like a 5 gallon bucket, to support a mature plant.
Wait for night-time temperatures to be a reliable 55 degrees before planting lemon grass or moving containers of lemon grass outside.
Space plants at least 2 feet apart because they can grow that wide during the summer.
Add a layer of organic mulch, like straw or dry untreated grass clippings to help maintain soil moisture.
Lemon grass needs to have moist soil to encourage growth. Don’t let roots dry out. A layer of organic mulch, like straw, will help maintain soil moisture (even in containers).
Feed plants every few weeks with a liquid plant food or diluted fish emulsion solution.
When lemon grass leaves are at least 12 inches long and the stalk is about 1 ½ inches around, cut them to the bottom of the stem. Prepare for cooking by removing the tough outer portion of the stalk.
To overwinter lemon grass, dig up a few stems and cut the leaves to several inches tall. Repot the stems in a smaller container. Place in a sunny window and keep soil moist.
How to use Lemon Grass in the Kitchen
Fresh lemon grass leaves can be used to make tea or infuse citrus flavor in vodka, but they are too tough to eat. The stalk is the part of the plant that gets used in cooking. Because the outer layer of the lemon grass stalk is fibrous, be sure to peel to reach the soft, light yellow portion inside. Slice thin or chop fine before adding to a recipe like a marinade, stir fry dish, soup or tea.
Companion Plants for Lemon Grass
Plant lemon grass with these companions:
Materials for Lemon Grass Success
- High-quality compost
- Potting soil and a large container
- One or more lemon grass transplants
- Organic mulch