By: Amy Grant
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tender perennial that is grown either as an ornamental grass or for its culinary uses. Given that the plant is native to regions with long, hot growing seasons, you may be wondering, “is lemongrass winter hardy?” Read on to learn more.
Is Lemongrass Winter Hardy?
The answer to this is that it really depends on what region you live in. As mentioned, the plant thrives during long, hot growing seasons and if you happen to live in an area with these conditions and very mild winters, you’ll undoubtedly continue growing lemongrass in winter months.
Temperatures must remain consistently over 40 degrees F. (4 C). That said, most of us will have to take some precautions when preparing lemongrass for winter.
Overwintering Lemongrass Plants
Grown for its 2 to 3-foot (.6-1 m.) spiky leaves aromatic with the scent of lemon, lemongrass needs lots of growing space. A single clump will easily increase to a 2-foot (.6 m.) wide plant in a single growing season.
Growing lemongrass in winter is only possible when those months are extremely mild with little temperature fluctuation. When overwintering lemongrass in cool climates, it may be wise to grow the plant in containers. These can then be easily moved into a sheltered area during winter months.
Otherwise, to protect plants grown directly in the garden, lemongrass winter care should include dividing them prior to the onset of cold temps. Pot them and bring them inside to overwinter until the next season, wherein they can be replanted outside.
A delicate plant, lemongrass is easily propagated via stem cuttings or, as mentioned, divisions. In fact, lemongrass purchased from the produce section of the local grocery store can often be rooted.
Container plants should be potted in containers with adequate drainage holes and filled with a good quality prepared soil mix. When growing outside, place in an area of full sun and water as needed but take care not to overwater, which may lead to root rot. Fertilize lemongrass every two weeks with an all-purpose liquid food. Prior to the first frost, move the plants indoors to an area of bright light for lemongrass winter care. Continue to water as needed, but reduce fertilizer during these cool months until it’s time to take the plants outdoors again in the spring.
Harvest as much of the plant as possible for later use if you don’t have a suitable indoor space for growing lemongrass over winter. The leaves can be cut and used fresh or dried for future use while the most desirable tender white interior should be used fresh when its flavor is at its peak. The tough outer parts can be used to infuse lemon flavor to soups or teas, or can be dried to add aromatic scents to potpourri.
Fresh lemongrass can be kept in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days wrapped in a damp paper towel or you may decide to freeze it. To freeze lemongrass, wash it, trim it and chop it up. Then it can be frozen right away in a resealable plastic bag, or freeze it first with a small amount of water in ice cube trays and then transfer to resealable plastic bags. Frozen lemongrass will keep for at least four to six months and allow you a longer window in which to use this delightful, delicious lemony addition.
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How to Winterize Citronella Geraniums
The citronella geranium, also sometimes called a "mosquito shoo" geranium in mail order plant catalogs because of its lemon scent, is from the genus pelargonium, the scented geranium family. It is categorized as an annual, but the citronella geranium can last for many years if brought indoors during winter, or by propagating the plant through cuttings you keep indoors during winter. If left outside after temperatures dip below 32 degrees F, the plant will die.
Place the citronella geranium in a pot with some commercial potting soil if it is currently in the ground.
Trim the geranium even across the top, removing approximately one-third of its height. Use small pruning shears for this and cut at a 45-degree angle above a leaf node on each stem.
Trim off any brown or diseased-looking stems and leaves.
- The citronella geranium, also sometimes called a "mosquito shoo" geranium in mail order plant catalogs because of its lemon scent, is from the genus pelargonium, the scented geranium family.
- Use small pruning shears for this and cut at a 45-degree angle above a leaf node on each stem.
Place the pot in a sunny location, preferably south-facing to get as much of the winter months' sun as possible, and water regularly. Indoor heating may dry the soil more frequently than the outdoor weather did.
Grubs, the larval stage of insects such as Japanese beetles, could be living in soil of a potted geranium if it spent the warmer months outdoors. If you find flying bugs appearing in your house during the winter (when they should be dead or sleeping) and suspect the geranium pot was the culprit, next season re-pot the plant into fresh potting soil from an unopened bag, and then bring the plant indoors for the winter.
Citronella geraniums can also "sleep" inside your house in a cool, dark location, such as a basement, as long as the temperature stays between 45 and 60 degrees F. If you want to do this, you can trim them much shorter, to about 6 inches from the root. Remove them from the basement in February and place in a sunny indoor location to wake them up and get them ready to move back outdoors after all chance of frost has passed.
- Grubs, the larval stage of insects such as Japanese beetles, could be living in soil of a potted geranium if it spent the warmer months outdoors. If you find flying bugs appearing in your house during the winter (when they should be dead or sleeping) and suspect the geranium pot was the culprit, next season re-pot the plant into fresh potting soil from an unopened bag, and then bring the plant indoors for the winter.
- Citronella geraniums can also "sleep" inside your house in a cool, dark location, such as a basement, as long as the temperature stays between 45 and 60 degrees F. If you want to do this, you can trim them much shorter, to about 6 inches from the root. Remove them from the basement in February and place in a sunny indoor location to wake them up and get them ready to move back outdoors after all chance of frost has passed.
Katelyn Kelley worked in information technology as a computing and communications consultant and web manager for 15 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2003. She specializes in instructional and technical writing in the areas of computers, gaming and crafts. Kelley holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and computer science from Boston College.
Tips Freeze the Lemongrass
- Cut the outer leaves and top part of the lemongrass.You’ll only need the bottom part for cooking. However, this is not to say that the top parts don’t carry any purpose. You can use them to make tea or bag up to use in marinades.
- You can now puree, mince, or chop the bottom part of the lemongrass.
- Ideally, lemongrass is preserved properly when it is frozen in small amounts, so keep this in mind.
- Wrap the lemongrass with a plastic wrapper and place it in a sealed jar, double freezer bag, or a plastic freezer container. Doing this prevents the lemongrass from getting dry or absorbingany existing odors from the freezer. If your plan is to preserve the lemongrass for several months, then you can use a vacuum pack to freeze it.
- Separate the inner green leaves, chop or scissor them, and freeze them in another sealable bag.
How to protect herbs in winter
Some herbs (and the pots they're growing in) are at risk from cold winter frosts. Find out how to protect them, in our guide.
Published: Sunday, 24 March, 2019 at 3:00 pm
By protecting your herbs over winter you can prevent losses due to waterlogging and frost. Follow our simple guide to prolonging the life of your herbs, before the hard frosts arrive.
Want to keep herbs going through winter? In this No Fuss video guide, Alan Titchmarsh demonstrates the simple process of lifting herbs for winter to grow indoors on the kitchen windowsill. This nifty technique can also be used for other perennial herbs like mint, marjoram (oregano) and lemon grass:
You Will Need
Wet conditions kill more herbs in winter than the cold, so place container-grown perennials such as oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary in a sheltered position against a wall or the side of the house or garage. This will reduce the amount of rainfall hitting the pot by around 25 per cent.
Avoid overwatering container-grown herbs by lifting each pot to assess its weight. If the compost is too dry, the pot will be light, so water the plant sparingly in the morning (not at night as the water may freeze). If the pot is heavy, the compost is too wet, so raise the pot off the ground to allow it to drain.
Trim evergreen herbs into a dome shape (it’s a good idea to remove any remaining flowers in the process). This will help to protect them from high winds or snow. Don’t prune back too hard, as this will create deep cuts that may not heal.
Protecting herbs in winter – pruning evergreen herbs into a dome shape
Protecting herbs in winter – raising the pot onto bricksRaise terracotta pots off the ground, either standing them on bricks, ‘pot feet’ or on blocks of wood. This will expose the pots’ drainage holes, allowing them to drain more freely than if placed directly on the floor. Because water expands when it freezes, this action may also prevent pots from cracking.
Use horticultural fleece or hessian to protect container-grown olives and bay trees from hard frost. As well as wrapping the leaves, it’s important to also fix a thick layer of bubble wrap around the pot itself, as the delicate plant roots may be touching the inside of the pot.
Protecting herbs in winter – wrapping the plant in fleece
Place basil and other tender herbs in a well-lit, frost-free position, but be wary of windowsills as temperatures much below 5°C will kill them. Avoid watering these plants in the evening so they don’t have wet roots at night, and harvest basil leaves from the top, not from the sides. Open greenhouses and cold frames during the day if temperatures are warm.
How to Use Lemongrass
The obvious first use for lemongrass is to make some killer Thai food, and by all means, only a fool would stand in the way of that. It’s a great addition to any kind of sauce or soup that’d benefit from a zippy citrus flavor. Most people simply add the whole leaves in while cooking and then remove them before serving, although it is possible to dry the grass and make a powder. Whatever the case, if lemon-y tang is what you’re after, lemongrass can play that game. Here are some of the other ones it likes:
Garden borders to prevent erosion : Because lemongrass clumps, it’s a very useful plant to have on the edge of garden beds. The clumping action will mean that the roots are grabbing all the soil and preventing it from washing away.d
Garden borders to prevent insects : The other great benefit of putting lemongrass around the garden is that its strong scent repels many plant pests, so having it right there at the end of the garden means bugs will just brush past and head to the next lunch line.
Mosquito repellant for people : Lemongrass has the natural component, citronella, which we are all familiar with from tiki torches and bug spray. Well, why not just put a bunch of lemongrass around sitting areas or even make some all-natural spray.
Medicinal tea for better health : As with most herbs, lemongrass comes with an assortment of antioxidants, antibacterial, and anti-bad stuff properties. It can be steeped into delicious teas, say combined with ginger or mint, and enjoyed for the flavor while simultaneously helping our bodies.
An air freshener where it’s needed : With such a fragrant existence, lemongrass just naturally perks up the aroma of a room, either masking unwanted smells or enhancing the overall good vibes wafting around.
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