Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), renowned for its tart flavoris a herbaceous plant of the family Poaceae. It’s about a grass. Easy to grow, this aromatic of tropical origin can be planted in the ground or in pots, depending on the region, because it is very chilly and does not tolerate low temperatures. Let’s take a look at the cultivation and harvesting of what is also called Lemongrass or Verbena from India, Lemongrass from Java and Lemongrass from Madagascar.
Plant real Lemongrass
We buy Indian verbena a boon in his favorite garden centre. Even if in this form, it is agreed that it can be planted at any time, it is still preferable to transplant its Lemongrass between May and the end of August.
The pot planting method is as follows:
- Choose a pot of at least 30 cm in diameter or a container with a capacity of around ten litres,
- Make sure the container is fully drilled,
- Fill the jar with a mixture consisting of:
- 80% potting soil,
- 10% sand,
- 10% clay garden soil, which tends to retain water.
- Dig a hole in this substrate,
- Take the Lemongrass plant out of the bucket after soaking it in water for 10 minutes, then install it in the planting hole,
- Backfill the soil by packing all around the foot,
- Water copiously.
Continue thereafter to monitor the substrate which must always stay wet. Water as needed.
Planting in the ground takes place in the same way as in pots. Care should be taken to dig a hole about 40 cm square and as deep.
Real Lemongrass loves sunny exposures, sheltered from cold winds because she absolutely needs heat. She appreciates the moist, sandy, nutrient-rich, cool soils. It is absolutely necessary that she benefit from enough space in the ground allowing its root system to develop well and above ground since it can grow.
Admittedly, it grows very well in pots, but you will benefit from a much more abundant harvest if Indian Verbena is planted in the ground. However, its establishment in the vegetable or aromatic garden is only possible in the mediterranean regions because of the mild climate, this grass can spend the winter outside. Laying a mulch is still useful because even moderate frosts are possible. Everywhere else, Lemongrass should be grown in pots.
Caring for Lemongrass
Apart from his lack of hardiness and therefore its vulnerability as soon as the thermometer goes down below 10°C, the real Lemongrass has no particular disadvantages. It can therefore be grown by amateur gardeners without experience provided they respect the only big requirement of this plant, namely watering supported.
Watering should be regular et copious, even more so in summer when temperatures are high and summer rains are rare. This aromatic plant needs a lot of water throughout the vegetative period, which begins in May and ends in October.
During the rest periodthat is to say from November to the end of April, it is necessary to think drastically reduce watering to prevent plant dieback.
Indian verbena cannot be pruned. However, it is strongly recommended toremove stems as soon as they dry so as not to tire the foot unnecessarily, as is the case for the vast majority of plants.
This grass which grows rapidly gains even more vigor if you think of giving it nettle manure or even comfrey manure. Under good conditions, its stems cheerfully reach 150cm tall. But we can quite content ourselves with depositing a little mature compost as well as a bed of dead leaves on the surface of the substrate in autumn to meet the nutrient needs of this beautiful aromatic.
Split the stump
After some time, the Lemongrass gains momentum. Thus, it is possible to multiply the plants by dividing the clump in the middle of spring. Be careful, however: to avoid the risk of making a skin reaction due to contact with essential oil which is found in the leaves, it is prudent to wear trousers rather than shorts as well as long sleeves and gardening gloves before handling this aromatic plant. Its essential oil is not toxic, but you just have to know that many people are sensitive to it.
After good care, Indian Verbena will eventually feel cramped in its container. We know it’s time to repot it when its roots come out of the pot. In any case, it is useless to plant a whole field of Indian Verbena if you do not wish to sell your harvest on the market, because a single plant of this condiment plant is enough to meet the needs of a family.
This subtropical plant is a great chilly. Not at all rustic, it must be protected as soon as the temperature falls below 8 or 10°C. Below, it may suffer, and below 0°C, it will not resist. So it’s good before the frosts set in that we have to think about bring in the Lemongrass grown in a pot to place it in a greenhouse, in the veranda or in the kitchen (provided you have a very large room!).
The one grown in the ground, must be the subject of all attention. We protect our roots with a thick carpet of dead leaves and wrap it in a winter sail. It can be discovered in the spring, when the risks of late frosts are no longer to be feared.
Pests and diseases
Lemongrass is not the target of any particular pest. As for illnesses, they fortunately rarely strike this aromatic. At most one can observe on a confined Lemongrass vine the presence ofpowdery mildew or of rust. These two maladies cryptogamiques disappear spontaneously, without any treatment, as soon as the plant is placed in an airy situation. If it is installed indoors, the room must be well ventilated so that everything is back to normal in just a few days.
Harvest Indian Verbena or Lemongrass
Harvesting Lemongrass can be done after three or four years of cultivation. It occurs from May until autumn, as needed. We do not pull the stems by handfuls but one by one by pruning fairly low without cutting too close to the collar in order to give new shoots a chance to develop later.
Of frequent pickings do not run the risk of impoverishing the foot, on the contrary, it allows the leaves to gain in volume and to be even more tender. And we stop all picking three weeks before overwintering the Lemongrass in containers because it must have very abundant foliage to be able to spend the winter indoors.