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Lemongrass

Lemongrass

Plant text by Naomi Lacey, feature photo Wikipedia

Common name: Lemongrass
Scientific name: Cymbopogon citratus
Family, and related species: Poaceae

Description including form (tree, climber etc), other similar species

Small clumping grass grows to a maximum 1m high with thicker white stems producing bright green leaves with a slightly razor like edge.

Role/ characteristics/ use in permaculture

Works brilliantly as a border plant or barrier plant to contain a patch of sweet potato for example and is an excellent soil conditioner.

Is an excellent insect deterrent and also grows well in pots so is good to keep around outdoor living areas and near doors.

Has many culinary uses, particularly Asian style foods, makes wonderful tea and essential oil and is an excellent mulch when leaves are cut back.

Indigenous people used the warmed leaves to place on aches and pains and also made medicinal tea from it.

Ecology and habitat requirements

Lemongrass is native to tropical Australia and Asia. It prefers a full sun position, lots of water and a well drained, organic soil. It can handle periods of little watering but much prefers to watered regularly. It also likes lots of nitrogen so regular fertiliser application or companion planted with legumes such as mung bean or hummingbird tree is a good idea.

Occasionally lemongrass may suffer from leaf blight but if the affected leaves are removed the plant recovers quickly. The main predators to watch out for are the neighbourhood cats who enjoy munching the leaves to their hearts content.

Access to plants

Lemongrass is easily propagated by division or can be found at most local nurseries.

References

Norrington, Leonie, 2001, Tropical Food Gardens: A guide to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables, Bloomings Books, Melbourne, Australia

Backyard Gardening Blog, 2014, How to grow lemongrass

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