A Complete Guide to Growing Lemongrass Indoors
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an aromatic, perennial grass with long, lanced shaped, green leaves that are full wonderful oils that provide a lemon scent.
These oils not only smell delightful, they have an amazing range of medicinal uses, and also add a lovely flavor when cooking to enhance many dishes, especially Asian.
Outdoors, lemongrass does best in warmer climates that are frost free (eg US zones 9-10), but it can readily adapt to an indoor environment, if it receives the proper indoor plant care.
This article contains everything you need to know about caring for lemongrass indoors.
Not only do we cover all the essentials such as light, temperature, soil, fertilizer and so on, we also cover some of the key health and beauty benefits of lemongrass, plus, we share some of our favorite lemongrass recipes.
So please read on and enjoy, as you learn more about this wonderful addition to your indoor herb garden.
How to Grow Lemongrass Indoors
Lemongrass loves plenty of direct sunshine so will do well when placed by a south facing window.
If your winters are long and dark, a good idea might be to treat your lemongrass plant to the added brightness of an indoor grow light.
When growing lemongrass indoors, temperature won’t be such an issue, as it’ll be protected from the deadly effects of frost.
Cool to warm conditions are perfect for lemongrass. Try to avoid temperature extremes where possible.
Watering Lemongrass Indoors
As with all indoor herbs, when growing lemongrass in pots, it’s important to keep up your watering during the summer growing months.
Make sure that you don’t overwater though by over soaking the roots. Just keep the soil moist through regular watering rather than occasional soakings.
During winter, you can pull back on watering as the lemongrass becomes dormant.
It’s never a good idea to let your indoor plant dry out completely.
Soil Mix for Lemongrass
Lemongrass needs a loose, well-draining soil mix suited to edible plants. The addition of perlite to a soil can help improve drainage.
Sprinkling perlite or small gravel on the top of the soil can help maintain moisture during the warmer months.
You’ll be rewarded if you feed your lemongrass regularly during the warmer growing months with a diluted, balanced fertilizer.
During the summer harvest season for lemongrass, your plant growth will be strongly encouraged by regular snipping for use in the kitchen.
Regular harvesting should keep your leaves down to about 4inches (10cm) in length.
If you are using lemongrass frequently in your cooking, then it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about pruning.
In fall, as you see your lemongrass leaves turning brown, make sure that you trim them down to around 4 inches in height. Stop fertilizing until they begin to grow again in spring.
The two most common ways of propagating lemongrass are by planting stalks or by sowing seeds.
Growing Lemongrass from Stalks
The fresh stalks you buy in supermarkets will often root when planted indoors in a pot with soil mix.
The best time to grow lemongrass using fresh stalks is late spring, when the weather gets warmer.
Place in a sunny window sill, keeping the soil moist and roots will soon begin to appear.
As the plants grow, roots may appear through the bottom of the pot, in which case you should transfer them to a larger pot of at least 6” in width. .
Growing Lemongrass by Seed
Sow seeds in early spring by sprinkling thinly on the surface of small pots containing well-draining soil mix.
Press the seeds down gently, just below the soil surface. Place the pots in a saucer of water to water from below.
Use a heated propagator to help speed up the germination rate.
Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, they’ll need to be transplanted. Take 3 seedlings and place them in a small pot in a location that receives warm sunlight.
If roots begin to appear through the bottom of the pot, transfer the plants into a larger pot of at least 6 inches in width.
How to Harvest Lemongrass
You can harvest lemongrass all year round by cutting complete stems, or cutting leaves down to 4” in length.
If needed, you can store lemongrass stems in the refrigerator, but the best results are achieved when cooking with fresh lemongrass.
Types of Lemongrass to Grow Indoors
There are around 55 species of lemongrass, but only the West and East Indian varieties are used in cooking.
Cymbopogon citratus is the most commonly used variety with its bluey green leaves and lovely lemon flavor.
Cymbopogon flexuosus is an East Indian variety that is also popular with cooks with its strong taste and aroma.
Aside from its culinary benefits associated with Asian cooking or Thai food in particular, lemongrass has a number of health and beauty benefits you may not be aware of.
Lemongrass Health Benefits
Lemongrass is high in antioxidants which scientists have proven help fight free radicals and inflammation in the body.
Drinking lemongrass infused tea is said to reduce both anxiety and bloat. Try for yourself with this easy recipe.
How to Make Lemon- Herb Water
Using a large glass vessel or carafe, combine 5 or 6 lemon slices, 5 to 6 fresh crushed lemongrass stalks, ½ cup (18g) fresh basil leaves and ½ cup of fresh orange mint leaves.
Cover everything with water and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Strain and serves the flavored water from a glass jug, decorated with some sprigs of fresh herbs.
Lemongrass Beauty Benefits
Being high in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, lemongrass can provide nutrition to both the hair and skin.
Lemongrass can help control oily skin when used as an astringent. Add a few drops of lemongrass essential oil and a teaspoon of witch hazel to ½ cup of distilled water to create an excellent spry for your skin.
Try adding a few drops of lemongrass essential oil to your shampoo to keep your hair looking silky smooth and shiny.
Trouble Shooting- Common Lemongrass Care Issues
Lemongrass doesn’t generally suffer from pests or diseases.
Diseases such as rust and root rot are usually caused by too much moisture from over watering or lack of drainage.
Here are some issues that may be faced when growing lemongrass indoors;
Problem: Bright yellow spots on leaves
Cause: The fungal disease ‘leek rust’
Solution: For mild infections, immediately remove and destroy infected leaves
Problem: Shrivelling leaves
Cause: Serious rust infection
Solution: There is no solution for rust infection once established. Remove and destroy the plant.
Problem: Looking dry and colorless
Cause: Not enough water
Solution: Keep up your watering, especially in summer
Lemongrass Chilli Chicken Recipe
Over the years I have collected a number of recipes that showcase the lovely flavor of lemongrass. This is one of my favorites. It takes about an hour to prepare and cook and serves two.
- 12 oz / 350g chicken (cut into bite size chunks)
- 3 1/2 f/oz / 100ml chicken stock
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 2 large lemongrass stalks (finely chopped)
- 1 red chilli (deseeded and finely chopped)
- 1/2 head of broccoli
- 1 tablespoon of superfine castor sugar
- 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce
- A handful of fresh mint, cilantro and / or basil to garnish
1) Mix the lemongrass, chilli, garlic and fish sauce together in a bowl
2) Put the chicken in a seperate bowl and add half of the lemongrass mix
3) Stir well, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes
4) Heat the oil in a wok on high heat
5) Add the remaining lemongrass mix to the oil and fry for a minute to release the fragrances
6) Add the chicken mix and fry for 4-5 minutes, coloring the chicken pieces evenly
7) Add the broccoli and fry for a further minute
8) Pour the chicken stock into the wok and add the sugar
9) Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the stock down to the consistency of a thick sauce
10) Serve immediately with steamed rice and garnish with herbs
How to Grow Herbs Indoors – The Series
Mint: how-to grow-mint-indoors
Rosemary: how-to grow-rosemary-indoors