Lemongrass is a perennial tropical herb with a citrus aroma and flavor that boasts many uses in the kitchen. The herb is delicious in teas, which are often used medicinally to treat headaches and stomachaches. It is also a key ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, including soups, curries, and salads.
While it is common to grow lemongrass plants around garden borders to deter common pests and improve privacy, you might not have the space to accommodate the large plant. Fortunately, you can still grow the functional and ornamental beauty in pots, taking up little space in your home or backyard.
Why Grow Lemongrass in Pots?
Lemongrass grows very quickly and will cover any ground where plants aren’t already growing, reaching 6 feet in height and 6 feet in spread. This can be problematic if plants in your garden haven’t quite sprouted. By planting in a container, you can contain the growth of the plant and leave your garden beds to other herbs, fruits, veggies, shrubs, and flowers.
Also, keeping the herb in pots means it is accessible year-round. By planting in a container, you can place it strategically for easy access from the cold outdoors to your kitchen. This is because lemongrass cannot withstand temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures between 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit are best.
Tips for Growing Lemongrass in Pots
Now that you know why growing lemongrass in pots might be right for you, here’s how to get the plants started. Learn all about the top care tips below!
Choosing a Container
Choosing a container is one of the most important things to keep in mind when growing lemongrass in pots. Look for a 5 gallon pot that is about 14 inches in diameter since a pot any smaller could break as the roots grow. Alternatively, you can grow in a smaller pot and transplant into a larger size as the roots grow. A pot with drainage holes is essential to preventing overwatering. Terracotta or clay work well as they absorb extra moisture.
Note: Remember the plant is toxic to children and animals, so place it somewhere out of reach.
Soil and Fertilizer
High quality potting mix consisting of rich, loamy soil and organic matter is ideal for growing lemongrass in pots. Make sure you plant only one stalk in each pot to avoid overcrowding, which could stunt growth. Ensure the root system is about an inch below the soil surface. Poorly draining, clay soil can result in root rot because of a lack of drainage.
During the summer months (June through September), fertilize your lemongrass plant weekly with a balanced fertilizer that has a 15-15-15 formulation. If the plant is indoors, fertilize monthly instead.
Organic fertilizers are best if you are using your lemongrass for cooking.
Sunlight and Watering
Lemongrass requires a warm, sunny location to thrive. So, place your lemongrass in a well-lit location outdoors with eight or more hours of sun per day, or place in a south-facing window indoors. It may scald if it gets too much sun, so consider placing the pot in shade in the afternoon.
Lemongrass is hardy in zones 9b to 11 and will overwinter. If you want to continue growing the plant or live in a different zone, bring the pot indoors.
The herb is somewhat drought tolerant, though watering when the top inch of soil is dry is best. Remember to check daily. Avoid letting the plant sit in wet soil as the roots do not appreciate too much moisture. Begin by watering once per week and adjust your schedule based on weather. Remember that container plants usually need watering more regularly since the small amount of soil dries out faster.
Harvesting lemongrass from containers is the same as harvesting lemongrass from the ground. The herb is generally ready for harvest about three to four months after planting, or when the stalk reaches about a foot in height. Remove the stalks one at a time with a sharp, clean knife or pruning shears. Cut the leaves near the base of the stem, wash, and then use as you wish.
Remember, you don’t need seeds to grow your own lemongrass! Instead, grow it from scraps by propagating a stalk from your local grocery store. Look for a stalk that still has some of the root attached at the store, though roots should grow regardless. Remove the tough outer leaves and place the stalk in a jar filled halfway with water for propagation.
Place the jar in a location with six hours of sun per day and change the water daily. New roots will grow within about a week and the lemongrass stalk will be ready for transplanting in three weeks.
It is no secret that fresh herbs make the meal, so why not grow your own in accessible containers? Whether you place them in a windowsill or on your patio, lemongrass plants fill the air with a lovely citrus aroma. Growing the herb in pots is convenient and also ensures the plant won’t take over your garden. Plus, if you live somewhere a little cooler, you can bring it indoors and continue to enjoy it.
Do you have any tips for growing lemongrass in pots? Share in the comments below!