Lemon Grass

Growing Lemon Grass Herb Plants in Northeast Florida Gardens

(Cymbopogon citratus) 

Lemon Grass / Cymbopogon citratus For Northeast Florida Origins:

Lemon Grass is native to India and Tropical Asia. It thrives in warm subtropical climates making lemon grass a great, easy care perennial herb for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area herb garden. 

Lemon grass plants grow quickly when the weather warms up during the summer months. They will need dug and divided every few years.  

Growing Season for Lemon Grass Herb Plants in Northeast Florida:

Lemon Grass is an herbaceous plant, it will turn a bright red color in late fall and winter before going dormant for the winter. For the most part, in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida area landscapes Lemon grass can be harvested late into December. The foliage will re-emerge early the next spring.

Sun Exposure for Lemon Grass / Cymbopogon citratus in Northeast Florida:

Plant Lemon Grass in a part shade / part sun exposure, or in full sun locations in our Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida area landscapes.

Soil Preference for Lemon Grass in the Northeast Florida garden:

Lemon Grass can be grown into just about any soils providing they are not waterlogged. Amend your planting site with generous portions of compost for best results.

Water and Fertilizer Requirements of Lemon Grass Herb Plants:

Water your newly planted lemon grass herbs every day for the first week or two after planting and taper watering back to every other day, then every third day. After a few weeks your lemon grass plants should be almost surviving on their own with just a weekly watering, unless planted into an above ground container. To keep your lemon grass growing nice and healthy in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida area, remember to water potted plants two to three times per week.

In general herbs require little in the way of fertilizer. To much fertilizer with herbs can be worse than not enough. Over fertiliztion can lead to lush green growth with a reduced quantity of volatile oils in the leaves. Reduced oils, means reduced flavor and aroma in your herbs.

However, in Florida’s sandy soils you may find your plants in some need of som help, particularly if compost wasnt added to the soil when planting. Try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed at one ounce of each per gallon of water. Put into a sprayer and water every other week or as needed with the mixed solution.

If you find your plant struggling at any point, make up a batch of compost tea and water generously. Repeat as needed weekly or biweekly.

Size of Lemon Grass When Mature:

Lemon grass plants will grow to 2-4 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide in as little as one growing season when planted from a one gallon S & J Nursery pot. 

Sowing Lemon Grass Seeds into Northeast Florida Soils:

Lemon grass is not generally grown from seed, as the plants do not reliably set seed in most areas, right now my lemon grass has blooms, but the seeds are not formed yet, Its December 20th and so far we haven’t had a freeze, its a race against the frost for seeds with lemon grass. If you want to give it a try here’s a link for sowing lemon grass seeds.

Click this link to open a new window for help with germinating lemon grass seeds.

They can be easily propagated vegetatively by removing a few shoots and a small portion of their root system from the outside of your growing clump and transplanting them into your garden where you would like them to grow. You can also buy lemon grass shoots or “starts” and put them into a cup of water in a sunny window. Unrooted stem cuttings will grow new roots in just a few weeks.   

Harvesting Your Lemon Grass / Cymbopogon citratus in the Northeast Florida Landscape:

Lemon Grass can be harvested fresh any time during the growing season here in our Jacksonville and St. Augustine area gardens. Simply trim back foliage of outer shoots to 1/2 inch from the ground level.

Any part of the plant is usable from the ground up, most people use the white shoot part at the base of the plant and disregard the leaves because that is the way you would find it at the market. But those leaves are very useful!

Clean lemon grass leaves thoroughly and tie into little bundles. Throw them into the freezer for use whenever you need a hot relaxing bath for your tired sore muscles, use them to make an antiseptic tonic to replace harsh chemical acne treatments, or throw your lemon grass bundle into your tea as you brew it for extra flavor and a nice relaxing brew.

Lemon grass is used heavily in Asian cuisine. Sliced, crushed or smashed leaves and shoots are added to dishes during cooking. 

Lemon Grass tea is made by picking and leaving the leaves to dry for a few days. Brew the dried leaves in hot water for just a few minutes, strain or remove the grass and add a sweetener if desired. I skip the drying part when lemon grass is available fresh from the garden and just bruise up the leaves a bit by rolling the bundle around between the palms of my hands before dropping into the hot water.

Lemon grass has a strong lemon fragrance that makes it a great addition to a scented garden.