Growing Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemon grass is an easy-going tropical plant that is quite happy in full sun and average garden soil. It is a tender perennial, hardy only in Zones 9-10. Where temperatures dip below 20°F in the winter, Lemon Grass should spend the summer outdoors but be brought in for the winter. You can either plant it in the ground (after the last frost in spring) and then pot it and bring it indoors before the first fall frost, or you can grow it in a pot year round.In the summer, give Lemon Grass full sun (6 hours minimum), water it as you do other plants in your garden, and feed it a 1/2-strength solution of a balanced (20-20-20) water soluble fertilizer regularly from April through September--monthly for plants in the ground, biweekly for container-grown plants. In the fall, acclimate plants gradually to indoor conditions (you're essentially reversing the hardening-off process) by allowing them to spend days outdoors and bringing them in at night. Bring them in for good before they're hit by a frost. In winter, set pots of Lemon Grass in your sunniest window, water only when the surface of the soil mix is dry to the touch, and do not fertilize. Lemon Grass tends to look the worse for wear in northern winters, no matter what you do. Don't worry--it will perk back up once it goes outdoors again in spring.Lemon Grass forms dense clumps that can grown 2-3ft tall every 1-3 years, depending on how vigorously they are growing. they become quite woody in the center, so you may need an old pruning saw (don't use a new one--you'll quickly dull its blade) to cut the clumps into pieces.Harvest by cutting out entire culms (stems) at any time of the year. Chop them, and use them fresh.

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