Growing Lemongrass in the UK

Apparently, lemongrass can be grown from seed in the UK. This is something I’ve never tried, and I know it would need a heated propagator or at very least a kitchen windowsill.

Instead, if you don't have a neighbour who grows lemongrass, wait until February, then buy a couple of lemongrass stems from the supermarket. You need to be sure they have bases on, which you can check by fiddling around with the packing until you can see the bottom of the lemongrass – if it has a solid base, you can get it to grow, but if you can see rings (like a miniature leek in cross section) the base has been removed and it probably won’t root.

There are two schools of thought about getting lemongrass to root: the ‘glass of water’ school and the devotees of the ‘pot of sowing compost’ route. As I had two stems to root, I decided I would try one each way. If you’re trying to get roots in a glass of water, remember to change the water every day and if you’re rooting it in damp compost, it’s worth cutting a circle from a plastic tub and laying over the soil surface so the stem pokes through a hole cut in the middle: this keeps the moisture levels up by preventing evaporation. In either case you need a heated greenhouse or warm windowsill to put the glass/pot on.

My experience suggests that the stem in potting medium roots better. That’s the one on the right of the photograph, the one on the left is from the water. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Once all risk of frost is past, I simply plant my lemongrass out in a sheltered spot on the allotment: it can make five feet in height (it’s a grass, remember?) so give it some space, but if you want to eat it regularly, I’d say take out stems on a regular basis as soon as it makes around 24 inches of growth. This year I’ve put mine in the top of the strawberry bed – by the time the net comes off it will be well established and then it can grow there until October, when I will take a couple of stems, with roots, and set them in a pot to overwinter in the house, while the rest gets dug up, topped and tailed and frozen. The top tier of my strawberry bed has a tree stump in it, so there wasn’t really much room for strawberries, but a fast-growing and tropical grass will like that location and benefit from the feeds we give the strawberry plants too.

Lemongrass works just as well frozen as fresh, so you can cut it to convenient lengths, peel away tough and flavourless outside layers and open-freeze on a tray before packing into a resealable bag. An outlet of a couple of pounds for good fresh lemongrass stems from a supermarket should – with care – provide a lifetime of fresh lemongrass for cooking, plus lots of rooted stems you can simply slice away from the parent plant with a good trowel and give to friends to grow. It likes to be reasonably moist, and enjoys free draining soil (which also makes it easier to harvest) but isn’t too fussy as long as it has lots of sun in summer and isn’t in a harsh wind.

The first frost will take the plant down though, so remember to get some indoors and into a reasonable sized pot, several weeks before there’s any risk of air chill.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Blogger Paul and Melanie said...

Thats so cool. I'm kinda tempted to try it but have to admit I don't really know what I'd do with it once it'd grown. What kind of dishes do you put it in?

May 11, 2011 at 11:46 PM  
Anonymous plant vegetables said...

thanks for the tips! I can really use some help planting lemongrass.

May 17, 2011 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Paul and Melanie - there are loads of recipes here: but our favourite is just to cut a stem and add it to plain basmati rice when cooking - gives a flavour that's better than Jasmine rice!

May 23, 2011 at 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,
By accident I found out that lemongrass loves tomorite.

It causes the plant to send out new growth. Not sure how often to feed though. Mine is growing like mad at the moment.

I originally got mine as a single bare rooted plant off ebay. Now it has 7-8 new side shoots.

Good luck!

June 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you give it any citrus feed or any other type of feed?

At the base of my measly two-stem plant, there is some sort of white fungus-looking growth as well as some browning of the leaves. Any idea what to do here?!

April 20, 2012 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Anonymous - it sounds as if your plant is a little waterlogged - I think you might want to repot it, into a better draining soil. It takes about 18 months to 2 years to get established to produce side-shoots. Browning of the leaves is usual in winter, I find, and you can just trim those leaves off and new green growth will appear.

It does like to be fed, but I use a seaweed feed rather than a proprietory brand.

April 23, 2012 at 4:32 AM  

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