Spotlight on Spice: How to Grow Lemongrass

How to grow Lemongrass by
How to grow lemongrass in a jar (by

Growing and harvesting your own spices & herbs might be too unrealistic, like planting a nutmeg tree or a clove tree far from the equator; too labor-intensive, like hand-pollinating a vanilla orchid or processing green pepper into black peppercorns; too big to fit in your house or even your yard, like a 50-foot tamarind tree. 

Or maybe too easy, like growing your own lemongrass plant.

lemon grass plant at penang botanic gardens ready to be harvested

Lemongrass is a herb – a delicious, aromatic, healing herb – but don’t let that flowery characterization imply that the plant itself is anything more than a grass.  A weed.  A clump of long blades that will spread, and keep growing back each year. 

Lemongrass is a spice you can grow, so let’s get started: 
  1. In the late spring or early summer, buy a few lemongrass stalks at your local Asian grocery store.  Make sure the stalks look fresh, green, and firm.
  2. At home, prepare the lemongrass stalks as if you were going to cook with them – peel off the loose, outer layers of each stalk, then chop off the thin, upper green blade.
  3. Place the stalks into a jar filled with water, and keep near a sunny window in your house.
  4. Within a week, you should start to see stringy, white roots form, and a few days after that, new green stalks shooting up.  However, the timing will depend on the climate you are living in.
  5. Transfer the plants to a well ventilated pot with good drainage, and cover with rich organic soil about an inch above the roots.  You can also plant lemongrass outside in warmer climates, but best to keep an eye on it since the perennial will spread in a garden or yard.
  6. Place the pot outside in a sunny spot, or inside near a sunny window.  Water every few days to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater.
  7. After a couple of months, you should have a large cluster of green grassy blades shooting up. Once the blades are at least a meter long, you can start harvesting them when needed for your lemongrass recipes.  Harvest all the stalks by autumn (you can keep the leftover lemongrass stalks in your freezer).