How to Grow Lemongrass-Indoors or Out

If you are reading this, then you probably already know about the myriad uses for lemongrass, both in your own kitchen and in the kitchens of the best chefs. You also no doubt know that the lemon-grass herb plant is used widely in the perfume industry, but also as a natural mosquito repellent and as a calming, medicinal herb. It can, of course, be used dried or powdered, but it is when lemongrass is fresh that that lemony essence is most pronounced.

But finding it in your local grocery store can be a challenge, if not an impossible feat, not to mention the expense and the waste from having to purchase so much at one time when only a small amount is necessary.

The solution? Grow it yourself!

lemongrass herb plant growing outside

Lemon Grass is actually really easy to grow! First of all, it is a perennial, which means that it will come back year after year in many climates, growing all year long in the warmest ones. It also lends itself well to both growing outside and inside, so where it is the coldest or when you want to have fresh lemongrass year round, you can move it indoors or outside as needed.

Growing Lemongrass Outside

Lemongrass is actually a tropical plant, so those of you who have warm weather year round can easily grow lemon-grass plants as part of your landscape. In ideal conditions lemon grass will reach 3 to 6-foot high and do double-duty as a decorative ornamental grass. Lemon grass forms a rhizome, or bulb, but does not aggressively spread, so normal harvesting and occasionally cutting back of the longest top growth will satisfy the more formal gardener, though most people will just let it grow au’naturalle to wave in the breezes.

Lemongrass prefers sandy, well-drained and fertile soil, though it will grow well in all but the heaviest or constantly wet soils. Sun, on the other hand, is a must. Plant it in the sunniest location, unless you live in the desert, where lemongrass will prefer partially shaded afternoons. Most herbs (lemongrass is no exception) prefer to have constant moisture, so don’t allow it to dry out completely between waterings. In the desert, your lemongrass plants will benefit from heavy misting in the morning.

Your lemon grass plant will also thrive beautifully with regular feeding, once monthly or so, of a nitrogen-based fertilizer, such as High-Yield Garden Fertilizer 8-10-8, though this may not be necessary if you plant your lemongrass in beds that you compost or add organic materials to regularly. If however, you grow your lemongrass in a pot, fertilizing will be needed. As always, mulching will retard weed growth while maintaining moisture around your lemon grass plants.

Growing Lemongrass Indoors

Lemongrass growing indoors

Lemongrass is very adaptable to growing indoors, though it will do its best when allowed to breathe outside during the warm seasons. Due to its potential size, you should plant it in a pot equal to or close to five gallons and in the sunniest location possible, preferably in a south or southwest facing unobstructed window. Lemon grass plants can be kept under control and grown in a smaller pot by harvesting more often, which means removing the stalks, bulb and all, along the outside of the plant. You can always pass these along to friends or even take them to your local farmer’s market if you have an abundance. Lemongrass plants that are kept exclusively indoors have been known to adapt their size to smaller pots, though the harvest potential, of course, won’t be as large. You should also regularly feed your indoor plants, being even more diligent when they are in smaller pots. The potted lemongrass plants will quickly deplete nutrients, as do any potted plants, and rely upon you for their sustenance. Soil condition also deteriorates over time, so amending your potted plants’ soil with Earthworm Castings on a regular basis will prevent you from having to re-pot again and again. And watering will usually be more frequent. Depending upon the size of the pot and the size of the plant, you may have to water 2 to 3 times a week to maintain a good moisture level for healthy growth. If this sounds like too much work or you are contemplating a vacation, then work Terra Sorb into your soil.

And Finally You Harvest!

First, be aware that most insects will turn their nose up at this pleasant lemony scent, but that cats seem to find it most attractive. Lemongrass plants are naturally pest resistant, but other methods may need to be utilized to fend off the neighborhood feline prowlers.

Now, you can start trimming leaves (for tea and soups) once the plant is at least one foot tall; if you like a clipped and uniform appearance, you can keep the top cut and dry what you don’t use right away. The snipping also releases more of the lemony essence, so cutting before a get together can be beneficial. You can start harvesting the stalks when they are at least 1/2-inch in diameter. You should always use a sharp knife to cut them off at the level of the soil, rather than trying to break them off or pulling them up, as you can inadvertently damage the rest  of the plant.

Lemongrass stalks after being harvested

The outside leaves are usually tough and may have to be removed before use, though bruising them and adding them to recipes, and then removing them before serving, is common practice. The lemony essence is quite strong, so start with very small amounts before adding more. Entire stalks can be kept in the fridge for several days by keeping them in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Some people also chop pieces of the stalks and freeze it for later use. The leaves preserve best when dried.

If you have further questions about growing lemongrass or any other gardening questions, you are welcome to Ask Our Master Gardener, a service that is completely free and always helpful.

Happy Gardening!

40 Responses to “How to Grow Lemongrass-Indoors or Out”

  1. J.P.I. says:

    Hello, I’m looking for information on how to grow lemongrass here in South Carolina. I can also grow it indoors, if it will grow there. I’ve got the space. But where do I locate the lemongrass seeds? Thanks, J.P.I.

  2. Karen says:

    J.P., you can grow lemongrass outdoors and according to your Zip Code you are in Hardiness Zone 8a, which means it should most likely remain as a perennial plant, although if you have the threat of a severe winter you might want to protect it with some extra mulch around the root system, or dig it up and bring inside. If you want to grow it indoors it would need a sunny and warm location away from drafts and heating/air conditioning vents. Soil and water conditions would be the same as outside.

    Lemongrass prefers full sun and some room. A mature plant can reach 6 feet in height and be up to 40 inches wide. It wants a well-drained, loamy soil, so make sure you don’t have heavy clay, or that water does not stand in the area you’re planting. If you can check the pH it should range between 5.1 and 8.5. It doesn’t like to dry out, either, so it will need to receive even moisture throughout the summer growing season. You could also grow it in a pot, which would keep it at a slightly smaller size.

    We do not carry the seeds but we do sell the East Indian Lemongrass (cymbopogon flexuosus) variety plant on our website. They are beautiful, healthy starts that will get you harvesting sooner.

    Happy Gardening,

  3. Justina says:

    I have a lemongrass plant that is full grown and has seed. I am trying to figure out what I can do with the seeds, how to dry them and prepare for seed or tea. Do you have any recommendations or videos?


  4. Karen says:

    Saving the seed from lemongrass would be like saving any other seed. Make sure it has matured and then save it in a cool, dry location. While it can be sown from seed, it is usually easier and more successfully propagated from cuttings or culms that are sold in a grocery store. Seed germination is a bit erratic and it require sowing in early spring in small pots and in a 55-65 degree temperature range.

    You would use the long leaves to make tea, sorbets or infusions for bathing. The peeled, lower stem is the portion you use for cooking.

    Here is one video:

    Happy Gardening!

  5. joanne says:

    i live in zone 6 and would love to have lemon grass in pots on my patio..would i be able to cut them down in fall and leave them outside like i do other ornamental grasses. will they return the next year on their own?

  6. jstutzman says:

    Hello Joanne. Lemon Grass would not survive the winter in zone 6. However you could bring it inside for the winter and replant it each spring. You would have to live in zone 8 for it to come back in the spring. Happy gardening!

  7. YingDonaldson says:

    Well, I planted Lemongrass last year and they were died this Winter. I am in South Carolina, Zone 7. If I moved them inside in Winter, what should I do with them? How to storage it? Please advise? Thank you!

  8. Karen says:

    Lemongrass is only hardy to Zone 9, so if you are in a Zone 7 area of South Carolina you will need to bring the plant indoors in the winter. You could try growing it in a container so you can easily move it indoors as temps drop, or dig and pot up before the first frost. Lemongrass needs full sun, up to 6 hours of sun per day, and it should be fertilized every month with a general purpose, higher nitrogen fertilizer. If you grow it in a pot, use a well-drained potting mix. If you plant outdoors in the summer and it becomes too large, try taking cuttings late summer to bring inside for next year’s outdoor plantings.

    Happy Gardening,

  9. Will says:

    Hello Karen! I am wondering how long it would take lemongrass seeds to grown as we are now in June. We live in New York and have a rooftop with plenty of sunshine. If I plant seeds, how many should I plant and how long would it take to grow? If I wanted to buy a small 4” plant that is already on its way, can you point me in the right direction to a product? Thank you!!

  10. Karen says:

    Will, starting the seeds indoors, use a 2-3 inch layer of seed soil, or equal parts coarse sand, peat and compost. Plant seeds approximately 1 inch apart and 1/4-inch deep. Cover the seeds with thin layer of compost or vermiculite and gently dampen the soil. Cover the seed tray with provided cover or clear plastic wrap and place in warm location, 70 to 75 degrees until sproutednot in the sun. Once sprouted, remove the plastic wrap and place in full sun until the sprouts become stable seedlings, usually in two to four weeks.

    If you want to get a head start with growing the lemongrass, we have plants available for sale here, Enjoy your fragrant new herb!

  11. […] is another really easy to grow herb. You can even grow it inside (find out more here). Lemongrass has many great properties it is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and […]

  12. Moonblue54 says:

    I live in coastal Alabama. I’ve been growing lemongrass for years. I bought 4 or 5 stalks at an Asian market for $1 and they’ve been the best plant investment ever! My original plant had grown huge. I thought the unusual harsh cold snap we had last year reduced had killed it. I was getting ready to throw it out, but the pot was so large and heavy I never got around to it. Glad I didn’t! It started regrowing and now the leaves are over 3 feet tall and it’s a beauty!

  13. Sulj says:

    I stay in zone 7b and I have a patio where I would like to grow lemongrass plant. Can I cut them short and leave them out over winter? OR would it die? Can I just grow a small pot and not repot it (so if it dies in winter, I can get a new one in spring?)

  14. Karen says:

    Lemongrass is only hardy to Zone 9, so you would not be able to leave it outside over the winter. It will freeze and die. If you plant it in a pot, you can bring it indoors and place it in front of a sunny, draft-free window and overwinter it, or let it die and buy a new plant in the spring.

    Happy growing~

  15. Quid says:

    Hi, I live in zone 8b. Is there any way that I can get my lemon grass to live outside during the winter? I hear that lemon grass is fine in zone 8 but I also hear that it only grows in zone 9? Its very confusing.

  16. jstutzman says:

    Hello Quid. Lemongrass is hardy down to zone 8, so with some good mulching, your plant should be just fine.

  17. Kati Olson says:

    will lemongrass grow well in West Virginia, eastern panhandle?

  18. jstutzman says:

    Yes Lemongrass will grow in your area. Without knowing your zip code, we can’t determine if it would grow as an annual or as a perennial. GHS

  19. Lindsey says:

    Hi, I live in Oklahoma. I’m using the lemon grass to help with Mosquitos. How do I help it bush out more to make it prettier and how do I harvest the stalks to make lemon grass?

  20. jstutzman says:

    Lindsey, Your plant will fill out better as it gets larger. For harvesting tips, read this article. Good luck with your lemon grass plant! GHS

  21. Barb says:

    I live in central Florida and have two lemongrass plants that have gotten HUGE! Probably 15+ feet tall and happy. One I trimmed down to about 5′ and it is back and taller than ever. From what I’ve read, they typically only grow to 6′. Suggestions? I don’t want the plants taller than my house! How often can I trim back? Thanks so much!

  22. Richard Clark says:

    I have a spot that get morning to noon sun on the East side of my house, will that be a good place to plant my lemon grass or do I need to find a spot that gets more sun? My zip is 77437.

  23. jstutzman says:

    Richard, that would be a fine spot for your Lemon Grass plant. GHS

  24. RxL says:

    Hi! I am looking at planting Lemongrass in containers, more for ornamental purposes, and placing them on my front lawn patio about 10′ away from the house. My house faces north and my zip is 92563. Any suggestions and tips? When and how do I prune so that it stays somewhat neat? Thanks!

  25. Karen says:

    Can I plant lemongrass outside in zone 5 in late April?

  26. Justgh says:

    I live in Palm Beach County, Florida (33405), and I cannot get my lemongrass plants to flourish. They are in containers and get direct eastern sunlight from around 8am until around 1pm. I water them when the soil becomes dry. Still, however, They have not grown and tend to develop dry, dead leaves.

    I would greatly appreciate any suggestions!

    Many thanks,


  27. jstutzman says:

    GHF, since lemongrass wants full sun, it might be that the morning sun is not bright enough for them. And, they probably need some fertilizer. You might try moving them to a place where they can get six to eight hours of midday sun, generally a southern exposure. They should grow very well outside. As long as they are in a well-drained soil and draining pot, it's OK to water them more frequently. Don't let them get fully dry between waterings. Since you are in a warmer climate, it wouldn't hurt to give them some water daily during the summer months. During the summer you need to feed lemongrass weekly with a water-soluble, high-nitrogen fertilizer. The rest of the year, a monthly feeding will suffice. Also make sure they are in a large enough pot, something close to a 16-inch diameter per plant. In the winter make sure they’re in a south-facing window to receive as much light as possible. Also watch for spider mites, one of lemongrass’s only pests. If you spot them, you will notice pale specks on the leaves. Give the plant a nice bath with a dilute dish soap (not the antibacterial kind) like basic Dawn, and a good blast with the hose.

    I hope this helps and that you get a great crop of lemongrass.

    Master Gardener
    Garden Harvest Supply

  28. jstutzman says:

    Karen, you should wait till your last spring frost date. This Average Last Frost Date map will give you a good idea. Good luck, GHS

  29. jstutzman says:

    Hello RxL. Prunning can be done totally as you see fit. You will need to make sure the lemongrass plant recieves full sun in that location. Otherwise you should be ready to plant. Good luck! GHS

  30. Cory olson says:

    I live in North Dakota, depending on the year winters can be harsh. Can lemongrass make it? I would hate to have to dig it up and bring it in every year

  31. Ceejay says:

    I live in New Orleans (zone 9?) and have a lemongrass plant growing in my backyard. It was planted last July and is now 5-6ft tall. I do absolutely nothing to it. It gets sun from the east and south, and is shaded from the western sun exposure. I ripped out my lawn a few years ago, and the plants I planted are suffering in the intense heat we have this summer. Since the lemongrass is doing so well in the backyard I would like to dig up my current plants and grow lemon grass. If I do that, the lemongrass would be in FULL burning hot sun all day, with no shade at all. I’ve read that they love full sun, but would that be too much? Physical and financial limitations would make this an ideal plant for that area. I LOVE it and would plant it everywhere if I could! I also read that it repels snakes, and i believe it because there are snakes in the woods nearby but I have never seen one in the area of my yard where my lemongrass is growing. Thanks in advance!!

  32. Ida says:

    I have two lemongrass plants and would like to plant them in the ground. They are growing fine on the patio and winter is coming. We live in Minnesota south of the Twin Cities and 55122 zip. can I plant them and maybe trim them down some?

  33. jstutzman says:

    Ida, lemongrass will not survive outside in your area. You will have to bring them inside or start with new plants in the spring.

  34. jstutzman says:

    Ceejay, congrats on your growing lemongrass plants! You have read correctly, lemongrass loves the heat. You just don’t want them to dry out, so make sure they have a source of moisture. Here is more reading info on growing these plants; growing lemongrass in the south.

  35. jstutzman says:

    Cory, lemongrass will not survive your winters in North Dakota. You will either have to dig them up or start with fresh plants in the spring. Happy gardening!

  36. Susan says:

    I bought a 4″ pot of a clump of lemongrass. Seems like there are about 50 tiny 8″ seedlings (?) in this clump. Is this correct? Should I separate them? Leave them? I’m growing them indoors for now (zone 5). Thanks.

  37. jstutzman says:

    Susan, that sounds about right, and no you do not need to separate the plant. However, you certainly are able to do so without harming it. Good luck, Joe

  38. Joni says:

    I live in Yuma,Arizona. Could I plant Lemon Grass on South side of my house? How would it do during the hot summer?

  39. Carol says:

    My lemongrass plants were inside for the winter in Zone 6B. They are dried and brown even though I watered them. Will they come back or should I throw them in the trash?

  40. jstutzman says:

    Carol, they should be thrown away.

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