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Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass which is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. Native to India and tropical Asia, lemongrass has in recent years become increasingly available in most European supermarkets due to the popularity of Indian and Thai cuisine. It has a subtle citrus flavour and can be used dried, powdered, or better still - fresh.

You have two choices when it comes to growing your own lemongrass at home. The first is to purchase some fresh stems from your local supermarket and pot them on. The second is to grow lemongrass from seed.

Potting up lemongrass stalks

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Propagating vegetatively is easier than growing from seed. First select a bunch of lemongrass which is as fresh as possible and then check to make sure that the basal plate is still intact as then it can be treated as a rooted cutting. This is extremely important as no basal plate means no roots.

Insert the basal plant end into a 3 inch pot containing a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. You may wish to mix in some extra horticultural grit or vermiculite to improve the drainage further.

Gently water the cutting and allow it to drain before sealing inside a clear polythene bag. Now transfer the cutting to a warm, bright area. You can expect to see new growth from two to three weeks at which point the polythene bag can be removed.

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Pot plants on as needed and harden off for a week or two before placing them outside in their final position. Remember that these are tropical plants so do not plant outside if there is a risk of freezing weather or late frosts.

Lemongrass prefers a rich, free draining soil in full sun in order to produce a good size clumps.

Keep lemon grass plants well watered throughout summer and feed with a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks. Harvest individual stems of lemon grass as and when required by snapping them off at the base of the plant.

To overwinter lemongrass, lift the plants in early autumn, and pot up as before. They will need to be kept under protection in a cool room or greenhouse with a minimum winter temperature of 7C (45F). Keep the compost just moist throughout winter. Alternatively grow lemon grass plants permanently in 25-30cm (10-12") containers in a warm greenhouse or conservatory

Growing lemongrass from seed

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Sow lemongrass seed from late January to March on the surface of a good compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Do not place a layer of compost on top of the seeds as they need light to initiate germination.

Water by gently lowering the seed tray into a bowl of water, stopping once the compost has changed to a darker colour. Remove from the bowl and cover with a light layer of horticultural grit or vermiculite.

 Place the seed tray in a propagator at a temperature of 20-25C (70-75F) or seal it inside a clear polythene bag. Keep the compost moist but not wet. Germination is often slow and intermittent, taking anywhere between 21-40 days before the seedlings emerge.

When seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be carefully pricked out and potted on into individual pots containing a good quality multi-purpose compost. From this point they can be kept in cooler conditions. When lemon grass plants are well grown and all risk of frost has passed, acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days. Plant lemon grass outdoors, in a warm, sheltered spot at 30cm (12") apart, on moist, well drained soil, in full sun.

Hakcipta Yosri file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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