Tips for Growing Lemongrass in the Coastal Bend

When life gives you lemongrass...

Lemongrass is a pretty stand of sweet-smelling grass. Unlike the grass in your lawn, which requires endless mowing and a ton of water, lemongrass requires no work while giving a lot back, and its green and reddish flowers are gorgeous.

It is a tropical plant from India and Indonesia that grows in a dense clump, similar to pampas grass. Lemongrass grows beautifully in pots. Use the largest pot you can find to start your transplant. Just make sure to bring it indoors during a freeze and your potted lemongrass will last for many years. To protect lemongrass in the ground from a freeze, cut the plant as much as possible down to ground level — this is a good winter practice to stimulate new growth whether or not temperatures reach freezing — then apply a thick layer of native leaf mulch around the plant. Once the weather warms in spring, your lemongrass will explode into a dense, lush stand.

This plant has an extensive list of commercial and home uses. Most of the lemon-flavored teas on the market are flavored not with lemons, but with lemongrass. The essential oil is commonly used to treat oily skin, acne, dandruff and even rheumatoid arthritis, and it’s used as the active ingredient in some bug repellants. For home use, lemongrass tea is prized in many cultures to fight colds, fevers, digestive ailments and body aches. For a luxurious bath, steep lemongrass in hot water.

Of course, it’s also an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes. To cook with lemongrass, peel the outer skin and chop the stalks finely, or grate the lemongrass and use a mortar and pestle to grind it into a paste or simply toss it into a food processor, as it can be chewy if not finely processed.