Thursday, November 20, 2014
East Indian Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is one of the quickest and easiest herbs to grow from seed or divisions. It's also one of the most useful herbs to have in your garden.
Plants started early in the growing season will produce many leaves for harvest, and become quite a large plant by the end of the year. The useful part of the plant is the long blue-green leaves, which can easily reach 4 feet in length. They are thin and flexible, so they bend over and give the entire clump a soft grassy look.
East Indian lemongrass is the species used commercially for lemon scent and flavoring in a wide array of products. The fresh or dried leaves are useful in tea or other drinks, as well as soups, stews, fish, meats, or any dish that would benefit from a lemon flavor. Leaves can be harvested any time of the year, but they do have a sharp edge which can slice your skin similar to a paper cut, so be careful when cutting them.
The essential oil from this species has also been found to have strong anti-cancer qualities.
As cool weather arrives in the fall, the leaves take on a reddish-bronze coloration.
In locations with nearly year-round growing conditions, the plants send up tall flower spikes in the late fall or early winter. These plumes of flowers can reach a height of 7-8 feet, adding to the ornamental appeal.
If you allow the plumes to remain all winter, seed will be produced and you're likely to find many lemongrass seedlings coming up in the surrounding area in spring.
As the common name indicates, Cymbopogon flexuosus is native to India. In some regions this species is known as cochin grass or Malabar grass. It is recommended for USDA Zones 8-11, but can be grown as a container plant anywhere. In fact, the plant in the top photo is about 6 feet tall in a 1 gallon pot!