Lemongrass plants form part of the cymbopogon genus which covers over 50 types of grasses from the Asiatic and southern Indian regions.
This evergreen perennial grows in long tall stalks and has a ton of applications from cooking to medicine. Plus, lemongrass makes a really pretty garden plant.
Whether in-ground or as a container plant, lemongrass is a fun and vibrant addition in herb gardens or even for beginner growers.
What is Lemongrass Plants Used For?
It’s rich in minerals and vitamins and bright, beautifully fragrant. However, not all types of lemongrass are edible. Some variants of lemongrass are used in cosmetics. Others used in repellents.
Lemongrass is also believed to have medicinal applications and prevents the growth of some bacteria and yeast. It’s also shown to improve sugar and cholesterol levels.
Lemongrass also has landscaping applications. They may not seem very visually exciting but it’s green foliage and tall stalks can add texture and interest to your garden.
How Do You Identify Lemongrass?
Lemongrass grows in long stalks with pale, bulbous bases and a strong citrus scent. Some describe the look similar to that of spring onion.
Many times, lemongrass will grow and clump and produce pretty white flowers on the end of thin stalks. Most varieties will grow anywhere between 2 to 5 feet high and 2 feet wide.
So, how do you know which type of lemongrass you want to grow?
Here’s our guide to the most common types of lemongrass plants for gardens:
Ornamental / West Indian Lemongrass
This is the most cultivated type of lemongrass because of its many culinary applications. Native to southern India and Sri Lanka, ornamental lemongrass, or cymbopogon citratus, forms in dense clumps and can grow anywhere between 3 to 6 feet.
It grows little sprays of pinkish brown flowers which usually appear in late summer. This variety is the least fussy and can grow in most climates, provided it’s brought indoors or insulated in extremely cold conditions.
West Indian lemongrass is the way to go if you want something to add that kick of citrus to your cooking.
East Indian Lemongrass
East Indian lemongrass, or cymbopogon flexuosus is a cultivar not only with culinary application but works quite nicely as a border or hedging plant. It produces beautiful seed pods and will improve soil retention.
Also known as Cochin grass or Malabar grass, this variant can be added to a meal for a wonderful lemony ginger undertone.
It’s also known to be used extensively in essential oils, believed to cure spasms and muscular pain. Just know, it needs quite a bit of space to grow.
Also known as mana or nard grass, cymbopogon nardus is the key component of most insect repellents. It’s also what is used to make citronella oil for cosmetics.
Native to parts of India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia this cultivar grows into a brilliant, beautiful green. You can grow this cultivar easily indoors, provided you ensure good drainage.
Even grown naturally it has insect repellent effects.
The cymbopogon winterianus cultivar stems from Java island in Indonesia. It produces tall arching stems, which range in shade from yellow to a reddish purple.
It was traditionally used as an antifungal agent and to treat patristic infections. If planning on growing this cultivar, use sandy or loamy soil and ensure it gets plenty of sunlight.
Australian lemon-Scented Grass
Cymbopogon ambiguus is grown natively throughout most parts of Australia. This is believed to be a powerful medicinal herb for teas and tonics.
Scent grass is really easy to propagate and requires little attention once planted. Just ensure it’s in a sunny spot to avoid water-logging of soil.
Also known as cymbopogon martinii, this Indian cultivar of lemongrass is used to create palmarosa essential oils which are said to have cleansing and moisturizing qualities for the skin.
This lemongrass gives off a beautiful rose-like scent, which is why it’s so sought after by cosmetic companies.
Cymbopogon schoenanthus is native to southern Asia and north Africa and is best known for its applications in teas.
With many names like camel’s hay, fever grass and geranium grass this cultivar is even used in hair dyes and women’s shampoos.
How to Grow Lemongrass at Home
Lemongrass is great beginner growers because it’s somewhat hardy as long as it’s not left to freeze. You can propagate lemongrass plants from seeds, cutting or even dividing the bulbous base.
It’s recommended to plant during the spring time and your lemongrass will be ready for harvest anywhere between 75 and 100 days after sowing.
When you’re growing lemongrass be sure to:
Use a nutrient dense soil.
- Ensure good-drainage and avoid water-logged soil.
- If growing in a pot, use a larger size pot so as to give it plenty of room to grow. Use a premium quality potting soil with good drainage.
- If growing in your garden, space out your plants at least 24-inches apart from each other. Consider enriching your soil prior to planting to give your young plant a better chance at growing.
- If growing indoors, place your lemongrass near a bright, south-facing window.
Lemongrass Care Tips
Due to it’s tropical roots, lemongrass does enjoy a good level of moisture, but take care to allow soil to dry out completely between watering.
Lemongrass like it hot so ideally place it somewhere where it will get plenty of sunlight. Should you be planting outside, in an area which experiences strong winds, consider moving it somewhere more sheltered.
The biggest test when it comes to caring for lemongrass plants is how to deal with cold weather. Dropping temperatures can damage your plant.
Consider keeping your lemongrass in pots and moving them indoors in winter or buy thermal covers for your plants in the winter.
Once you’ve harvested your lemongrasses, cut it into smaller pieces and store in the fridge or freezer. When frozen, lemongrass can be preserved for up to 6 months.
Wrapping Up The Types of Lemongrass Plants
When it comes to cooking with lemongrass, there are so many different ways you can pair it. Lemongrass is known to pair beautifully with things like chicken, coconut milk, peppers and other common ingredients in the Thai cuisine.
Alternatively, steam and cool your lemongrass for a chilled tea. Have it handy for when you’re cooking but even to keep the bugs and mosquitoes away. Plus, it’s non-toxic to dogs.
Whichever cultivar of the lemongrass plant you choose, you’ll enjoy having this exotic, aromatic plant around.