With the recent news that the State of Florida is in for an infestation of giant mosquitoes this summer, many homeowners are looking for ways to protect their homes and families from the annoyance and painful stings of these pests. For gardeners living in Florida and elsewhere, growing lemongrass can provide some protection.
Sometimes called mosquito grass, lemongrass is a clumping grass that grows quickly. It contains citronella and gives off a strong citrus odor that is offensive to mosquitoes. Ideal as a container plant, lemongrass can also be used in countless recipes. In fact, it is a staple in Asian cuisine and brings a light, lemony flavor to any dish. It may also be brewed as tea to soothe upset stomachs and sore throats. Bring lemongrass inside for the winter and enjoy it as a fragrant houseplant, as well.
To grow this multi-functional plant, home gardeners will find it easiest to start from root stalks or cuttings, rather than from seeds. Snip off the root end of a stalk of lemongrass while it is still firm and green, and place the base in a bowl of water. Put the bowl in a sunny location and roots should begin to sprout in one to two weeks. Once a stalk grows roots one inch long, it is ready for transplant into a container or into the garden. Make sure to leave three feet between lemongrass plants and allow up to six feet for height, though the plants can certainly be trimmed.
Since lemongrass requires lots of nitrogen to grow, add compost or fertilizer to the soil every month. The plants will also require a lot of sun, so make sure to water regularly so the roots won’t dry out. When well cared for, lemongrass offers a wonderful fragrance, ideal herbal seasoning or tea leaves and important protection from mosquitoes and other summer pests.