Beware: Can cause cut fingers – Lemongrass

I find Lemongrass grows pretty well during Melbourne’s warmer months.  Over winter it tends to hibernate and if you get frost it may not last the winter.  This is what one of my lemongrass plants looked like last May.

It is in a spot in the garden which is probably a bit too shady for it really – it tends to like a fair bit of sun but still grows well enough in partial shade to be able to harvest the occasional stalk.  I have another plant which I propagated from seed last Spring which is in a position which is definitely too shady for it, so today I transferred it to a pot.  It looks pretty sad doesn’t it?   Note the snail shell under the leaves – I often find them hiding in the middle of the clump.

To move lemongrass, or indeed any plant that will tolerate being moved (some don’t react at all well to having their roots disturbed) simply dig the plant out of the ground with as much of its root ball as possible.

With a plant like lemongrass, which can be moved pretty happily (and is often propagated by division), I simply put the spade into the ground about 10cm from the plant, mirror this on the opposite side and then the adjoining sides to create a square.  I then ease the spade under the plant.  If the plant lifts easily then you are probably taking sufficient roots with it for it to survive.  I replanted this plant in a pot so I could give it more sun than any of my spaces in the ground allowed.

After transplant I gave it a trim, a dose of liquid fertiliser and a general tidy up and hopefully it will now happily produce some new stems.

The growing season for lemongrass in Melbourne seems to be from about Nov/Dec until about May.  My plants don’t really produce much regrowth until this time of the year after being pretty dormant since May.  It probably isn’t really advisable to harvest much from the plant during spring as you may take any new growth with any stalks you harvest.

To harvest during the rest of the year simply pull off the stalks by grasping the stalk as close as possible to ground level and tugging.  I do find that the tops of the leaves irritate my skin and they are also quite sharp so it is best to wear gloves when harvesting.  Despite often reading that lemongrass rarely goes to seed I find that my plants flower and produce seed pretty much every year.  The seed is easily saved and can then be sown in late Spring (I have problems getting it to germinate much before November).

Alternatively lemongrass can also be propagated by dividing existing clumps.  Or you could buy a healthy looking stalk with its base attached and try placing it in a glass of water to grow roots and then plant out.  I haven’t actually tried this latter method but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work.   I would love to know if anyone has successfully propagated a plant from lemongrass sold for culinary use.

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17 Responses to Beware: Can cause cut fingers – Lemongrass

  1. Frogdancer says:

    All I know is that I have the healthiest looking pot of lemongrass I’ve ver seen.
    I think it likes the cat giving it a prune every day. She loves nibbling away at it!

  2. I hope to grow lemongrass next year. Thanks for the heads up that the blades are so sharp.


  3. Veggiegobbler says:

    Thanks for that info. My lemongrass looks terrible – it was in the sun and now I’ve moved it to the shade. Now I’m a bit confused.

    • Liz says:

      It may just need time to recover after winter – it is a tropical plant so it does like the warmth. My best ever plant got about 6 plus hours of sun in summer but unfortunately I had to move and relocate it when I made the raised beds – it hasn’t done nearly as well where it is now – it only gets about 3-4 hours of sun a day.

  4. This is something I haven’t grown but it may not thrive in our climate.

  5. Leanne says:

    I want to grow lemon grass and I tried that other, buying fresh lemon grass and putting it in water, but it rotted before there were enough roots. So how did you get yours going and how do I grow some?

    • Liz says:

      The simplest way is probably just to buy a plant. Ceres has them as do many nurseries I’ve been to – you just have to keep an eye out – now would be a good time to acquire one and get it established before winter.

  6. drew says:

    This is my first time at growing lemon grass after seeing it in abundance in my travels through Malaysia.
    I bought some small potted plants and planted them in late winter.
    Nothing much happened until the summer heat arrived. It has exploded (all 3 plants) with plenty of leaf growth. It is mid-feb and I am still waiting for the stalks to thicken to a point where harvesting and cooking can take place.
    I was told: plenty of water, plant in all-day sun and compost.
    My question is how to store it for winter cooking when the stalks get thick enough to harvest?
    And when is harvesting time? May?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Drew, Really glad your lemongrass is doing well. Regarding storage I don’t store a lot of mine – I tend to leave the stalks on the plant and then harvest them as I need them. The plant is perennial so even if it doesn’t grow much in winter the stalks sit there quite happily, except if you live in an area that gets frost then you run the risk of the plant dying and losing your crop if you use that method. I have frozen lemongrass before with reasonable success. From memory I just froze whole sections of stalk and then thawed before cutting it, or used it whole to flavour soups. I think it would work to cut first and freeze in a bit of water in ice-cube trays. The way I have preserved it most is by processing it into a curry paste which I have then frozen. Regarding harvesting you can harvest anytime really, it depends how you want to use it – but before it gets too cold if you don’t think the plant will get through winter. I use immature stalks whole to flavour soups – removing the stalk before serving. Presuming the plants get through winter the new stalks that grow in Spring should be thicker early and so you should be able to harvest new growth a lot earlier. I am harvesting this years growth from my mature plants now.

  7. Jan says:

    Hi Liz, A guy at the nursery advised me to cut my lemongrass down to ground level when the weather turns cold and it will bang out come the spring. Waddyareckon?

    • Liz says:

      I’ve never tried it but it could well work. I leave mine and harvest occasionally from the plant during winter. It does pretty much go dormant in winter so it might be worth a try. I have 2 plants so I will give that a try with one and see what happens. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Joaquin Vellucci says:

    Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

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  10. Suheb says:

    I can confirm that the culinary stalks bought at a supermarket do indeed give roots in a glass of water. The trick is to only have the bottom inch submerged. The roots don’t need to be very long before you pot. My 4 stalks are now growing wildly in a small pot.

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