Lemon grass is a perennial herb that will grow into a large clump with a citrus scent. It can spread, so it is a good idea to keep the grass in a pot or trough. Houston's sunny climate and frequent rainfall make it a perfect place to grow lemon grass. The plant can be started from seed or from a fresh stalk picked up at the supermarket. Indigenous to India, lemon grass is also grown and widely used in Asian countries. The grasses main requirements are light, water and heat--which are easy to come by in Houston.
Planting Lemon Grass from Seed
Fill the seeding flats with the starter soil. Sow the seed an inch apart in the flat and cover lightly with vermiculite. Water and cover with the lid. Keep the flat damp and in a warm, sunny location. Almost any time of the year in Houston is a good time to start the lemon grass, but December's cool temperatures from off the Gulf might keep it from germinating. Warm temperatures are best so for the greatest chance of success start the seeds in spring or fall. If seeding in summer, keep the plant out of the midday heat. Lemon grass enjoys heat, but the area's 100 degree Fahrenheit days would be too much for the plants.
Move the plants to the pot filled with regular potting soil, when they are are easy to handle. Keep the pot outside in a warm sheltered spot with full sun. Summer heat in Houston can top 108 degrees Fahrenheit, so the plant may need to be moved to part sun to keep it from burning. Keep it in the sun in the morning before the full heat of the day hits and then move it out of direct light. In other seasons, keep it out in full sun. Keep the plants moist and fertilize monthly with a liquid fertilizer added to the water at half dilution. Houston's high humidity should make watering once a week adequate.
When the stalks are as big around as pencils you can start harvesting them. Only harvest what you will use at any one time since the plant is best used fresh. Use the stem, leaf or root. Try using them in some Texas BBQ sauce for a lemony zing.
Planting Lemon Grass from a Stalk
Cut off the ends of the withered leaves and place the end in a glass of water. Leave it in a sunny warm spot until the end has sprouted roots at least and inch long. Avoid putting the glass in a window in direct sunlight in Ssmmer as the high temperatures in Houston will burn through the glass and kill the little plant.
Fill your pot with potting mix and plant the stalk, root side down. The roots should be covered but try not to cover all the stalk. Fresh leaves will sprout from the start in a couple of weeks. The average rainfall is abundant so just water the lemon grass when the dirt is completely dry. This will vary with the weather. Fertilize it monthly and keep it moist in a sunny sheltered area outside.
The plant will fill out and spread as new shoots spring from the root. You can harvest when the shoots are big enough to grasp and pull out of the body of the plant. Alternatively, cut them at the soil and use fresh. Keep a shoot growing as it will spread again and give you more lemon grass. The pot will need to be moved inside in the unlikely event of snow. Houston's few days of freezing generally last only a couple of hours so the pot can remain as long as the cold doesn't last longer.
Things You Will Need
- Lemon grass seed
- Seeding flat with plastic cover
- Seed starter mix
- Pot or trough
- Potting soil
- Watering can
- Lemon grass stalk
- Glass of water