How to Grow Lemon Grass Indoors

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Lemon grass adds a subtle and refreshing flavor to soups and salads
Lemon grass adds a subtle and refreshing flavor to soups and salads (Image: zitronengras image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com)

Lemon grass--botanical name Cymbopogon citratus--is an aromatic perennial plant that originated in India. A staple of Thai and Asian cuisine, lemon grass has a refreshing citrus scent and a delicate, yet tangy, flavor, with none of the tartness of actual lemons. This versatile herb can be sliced, chopped, or crushed, and used in soups, stews, salads, teas, and main dishes. Lemon grass is not difficult to grow indoors, where its graceful, gray-green leaves make it an attractive houseplant as well as a flavorful addition to recipes. By following some simple guidelines, you can have pots of lemon grass brightening your kitchen windowsill.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp, clean knife or scissors
  • 6- or 8-oz. glasses or small vases
  • Small clay pots
  • Commercial potting mix
  • Perlite
  • Commercial water-soluble fertilizer at a 20-20-20 formulation

Cut several freshly-purchased stalks of lemon grass--making sure the white bulbous end points down--so that there is between 9 and 12 inches of stalk remaining.

Put the stalks bulbous side down in glasses with a few inches of water, and place them in bright, indirect light.

Transplant the lemon grass into clay pots that you have filled with seven parts potting mix to three parts perlite when the stalks have developed small white roots--usually within seven to 14 days. Plant them so the crown--where the roots meet the plant-- is just below the surface of the potting mix, and water well.

Place the pots in a place where they will get six hours of sun a day--on a southern-facing windowsill is ideal--and keep potting mix consistently moist.

Keep your lemon grass at normal room temperatures. According to online nursery Santa Rosa Gardens, temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees during the day are optimal. Temperatures at night should be somewhat lower--between to 55 and 60 degrees.

Water your established lemon grass deeply, irrigating until water runs out of the drainage holes, but don't water too frequently. Let the soil dry out a little between waterings.

Feed your lemon grass with a half-strength solution of a balanced water-soluble fertilizer with a 20-20-20 NPK formulation twice a month during the growing season, usually from April to November. Don't fertilize at all in the winter months.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can use the entire stalk of lemon grass, but because of its fibrous quality, you may want to remove larger pieces before serving.
  • The delicate lemon flavor of lemon grass makes it a natural partner for garlic, chilies and cilantro. For a lemony twist on an old favorite, try it in salsa.

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