Lemongrass is one of my favourite scents and one of the first herbs we decided to plant in our Sydney garden. It is so easy to grow and once you have it, you generally have it for life! It is an aromatic herb and fast growing perennial plant that has many uses.
There are two common varieties of lemongrass.
• West Indian Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and
• East Indian Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) which has purple tinged stems.
At Booyong we have the West Indian Lemongrass.
Growing – Due to its clumping and grass like growth, Lemongrass is often used as a hedging plant and can effectively be used to hold mulch and compost on a slope. It is also said to deter wallabies and other wildlife from entering an area.
We intend to grow it around the edge of the Herb Spiral on the top side to stop the grass from growing into the garden and to dissuade the Kangaroos and Wallabies from entering. As the hedge develops, we will chop and drop the lush green leaves to feed the soil.
Care – This herb is drought tolerant and requires little care, we’ve hardly watered the plant at Booyong and it did very well in the drier season. Our plant is Sydney gets a little more water and has provided more lemongrass that we could possibly use. It requires full son and well-drained soil but has proven to be incredibly hardy.
If you are in a warm climate and have the space Lemongrass can be grown in the soil. It has thrived in our Sydney garden and is well established having grown up to 1.5 metres high and about 1 metre wide. If you live in a cooler climate with frost, we recommend growing it in a pot so it can be moved under cover and protected during the colder months. Having said that if it dies off due to frost it has been known to re-emerge in Springtime as the weather warms (this is not guaranteed). If you do choose to grow it in a pot ensure that you pot it on as it grows as it does require lots of room and the size of the pot will have an impact on the thickness of the stem.
Feeding is not required.
Pruning – The more you cut it, the more it will grow. Cut back any dead foliage in late winter or early spring and chop and drop the leaves to add nutrients to your soil. Honestly, Brett chops our established plant back vigorously regularly, it is so incredibly hardy and when he does the scent is just beautiful.
Be careful of the leaves as they have sharp edges and should be handled with care to avoid paper cut like wounds.
Companion Planting – Good companions with Coriander, Basil, Thyme, Mint, Lemon Verbena, Echinacea and Marigold. We use our lemongrass to protect the Mint plant in the heat of Summer and it works a treat.
Pests and Diseases – We have had no pest issues in the 7 years we’ve had lemongrass growing in our garden. Apparently root rot can occur if the plant is overwatered.
It is said that you can dry Lemongrass and burn it for bug repellent as it has insect repellent properties.
It may also repel mosquitoes and if you grow it near your door, however this is only when the wind blows or animals brush against it and smell it’s scent.
Harvest – Lemongrass can be harvested from a few months old and all year round. Most plant growth occurs during the warmer months. Once established you can just grab a stalk low to the ground and firmly pull it and use as required. I did not know this and was cutting it previously – never again, it pulls out easily!
Cut off the top of the stalk, leaving about 25cm for use.
Wash and remove the outer layers near the base and use the white interior of the plant in your cooking by either cutting it finely, bruising it or grinding it in a mortar and pestle.
Propagation – Lemongrass can be easily propagated in three ways, dividing cuttings, sprouted from a fresh stalk (With roots) purchased from a grocery store, or by seed.
If you are sprouting from the grocery store, place the stalk in a jar of water on the window sil until roots develop (up to 3 weeks), refreshing the water every few days to avoid fungi or mould. When roots are well established place in well-drained soil in a pot and transfer to the garden or a larger pot when the weather is lovely and warm.
If propagating by seed, expect the seeds to germinate in about three weeks. Sew seed 5mm deep and 50 cm apart in Spring or Summer when the weather is warm. We collected seeds from our plant in May this year.
If pulling up and transplanting the plant, do so in early Spring to mid Summer. Just pull the stalks out gently, cut off about 30 cm’s from the roots and separate pieces with 2-3 stalks to replant.
If seedlings pop up in the garden, remove them to a place you wish, share with friends or place them in the compost. Having said that we get very few seedlings popping up from our established plant.
Health Benefits – like many herbs and spices, Lemongrass is high in vitamins including vitamins A, C and traces of B group vitamins. It is also high in minerals including magnesium, folate, iron, potassium, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.
Lemongrass has medicinally been is used to treat stomach aches, high blood pressure, colds and flu symptoms, fever, and many other common ailments. Please seek professional advice as this post is for general interest only.
Eating – Lemongrass is a strap leafed herb used extensively in South East Asian cooking. After removing the roots and outer layers the white stalk of the lemongrass can be bruised and placed in curry’s, soup or stock. Remove the stalk prior to eating to add lemony flavour.
Lemongrass can also be used as a skewer for fish or chicken in the BBQ. Using a sharp knife, split 3 of the lemongrass stalks lengthways and thread it through a piece of chicken or fish prior to grilling
Lemongrass can be used to add a vibrant citrus flavour the clear spirits like vodka, by bruising the stalk and allowing it to steep until desired flavour is achieved. Shake occasionally and remove the stalks prior to drinking.
It also makes a refreshing tea. Just add the bruised stalks to a pot or teacup, cover with boiling water and let it infuse. Remove the stalks and drink the tea. Our friend Manesh makes the best black tea with Lemongrass and Ginger ground in a mortar and pestle – it’s delicious and we often leave stalks on he and Jyoti’s doorstep.
If you’re wanting to keep lemongrass tea throughout the year the leaves can be dried and stored in a airtight, clean and dry jar for use.
Beauty – You can do a home herb facial by placing a few stalks of bruised lemongrass in a bowl covered with boiling water. Place a towel over your head and place your face over the bowl, the steam will open your pores and clean and soften your skin. So, refreshing!
You can also use a home distiller to make your own oil and add it to soaps and candles. That is something I would like to try!
Lemongrass infused Sunflower oil
Fill a glass jar with dried lemongrass pieces and fill the jar with sunflower oil. Seal the jar and place it in a cool, dark cupboard for four to six weeks, shaking occasionally.
In one of our books, 101 Easy homemade products (by Jan Berry) we found a recipe for Lemongrass Cream Deodorant. I’d love to try this however I am allergic to the use of Lemongrass on my skin.
• 43 grams sunflower oil infused with lemongrass
• 28 grams beeswax
• 28 grams shea butter
• ¼ cup coconut oil
• 1 tbsp baking soda
• 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
• ¼ teaspoon essential oil
1 teaspoon of lemon grass infused sunflower oil.
Place the beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil in a heatproof jar. Set the jar in a saucepan containing 1-2 inches of water and heat over a medium low-burner until the wax is melted, remove from heat.
Stir in the baking soda, arrowroot, and lemongrass essential oil, Stir frequently over the next 5-10 minutes as the mixture cools. It will turn thick and creamy. Spoon the finished deodorant in the jar. The texture will stay soft and spreadable.
To use scoop a small amount out of the jar, using the tip of your finger, rub it into your underarm area. Use as required. Shelf life 9-12 months avoid water from being introduced into the jar.
Lemon grass Infusion Recipe from The Tropical Spa, by Sophie Benge
• 250 grams Lemongrass
• 250 grams of boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the Lemongrass, cover and let it stand for 20 minutes until the liquid cools down, strain and use as a refreshing rinse.
In the bath – You can use Lemongrass by placing a handful of leaves in an organza mesh bag under running bath water and the placing it in the bath while you soak – So refreshing.
Poppy and Perch also have a great recipe for a homemade body scrub.
• 1 & 1/2 cups epsom salts
• 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
• 2-4 drops lemongrass essential oil (use according to your preference) or a stick of fresh lemongrass
• 4-6 drops lavender essential oil (use according to your preference)
Instructions – Melt the coconut oil using low heat in a microwave safe dish or on the stovetop. Pour the oil into a mixing bowl.
Add the essential oils and stir to mix thoroughly. If using fresh lemongrass, smash down with the back of a knife and either chop finely or blitz with a blender, then add to oil.
Stir in the salt and mix well until all ingredients are combined (the oil should hold just all the ingredients together).
Place scrub in an airtight container and store your scrub in a cool place.