Maintaining a vegetable garden is a rewarding way to save money, but gardeners are often limited to growing edibles. With loofas--otherwise known as vegetable sponges or dishcloth gourds--you can grow pretty, edible flowers and tasty fruits, and turn them into scrubbing pads, exfoliant soaps and back scratchers.
Loofah gourds are most vigorous and productive when planted in full sun, but they will tolerate light shade. To increase the amount of available light, grow plants against a white-colored wall to reflect the light back on the plant, or trim nearby tree branches, when practical.
These gourds, like many plants originating in hot climates, are not thirsty. If you live in an area with moderate rainfall, you may not need to irrigate at all, but a good rule of thumb is to water plants when soil is dry 2 inches below the surface.
Culture and Climate Requirements
Plant three to six seeds together in hills spaced 3 to 4 feet apart as soon as the soil is warm in spring. Loofahs require 120 to 200 days to grow to maturity (150 to 180 days average), depending upon species. If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, consider starting your plants indoors a few weeks early and transplant when danger of frost for your area has passed. Loofahs are easy to grow; since they are not heavy feeders, they will even do well in poor soils.
Loofahs are vigorous vines that may grow up to 30 feet and hold several heavy gourds, so they need strong support. You can grow them on a sturdy trellis, a fence or even the side of your house--using cup hooks screwed into the fence or wall to support the vine every few feet. Vines are more productive when trellised, according to Ecobites.com. You may harvest as many as 10 to 20 fruits per plant.