Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tropical grass that grows in dense clumps up to six feet high and equally as wide. Though it flourishes in tropical climates, lemongrass is cultivated in abundance in California. The sharp straplike leaves are about an inch wide and droop gracefully. The evergreen leaves are bright bluish-green and release a citrus aroma when crushed — it is the leaves that are used to extract lemongrass oil for medicine and perfumery. The lemony aroma from lemongrass comes from citral, an antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral essential oil; it is used to relieve stress, soothe aches and pains, as an insect repellent and deodorizer, and to treat disorders of the digestive tract. Small lemongrass plants can occasionally be found in the herb section of our local nurseries; though they often come in small two-inch pots, under ideal conditions the plant's clumping habit will quickly propagate sufficient stalks for your Thai recipes.

Lemongrass is in the grass family (Poaceae) and is native to India and the nearby island of Sri Lanka. In Davis' subtropical climate, plants can be grown outdoors year 'round in areas of bright light, though they may scorch in full unprotected sun. Lemongrass prefers fertile loamy soil, but is tolerant of other soil types given sufficient moisture... this plant is somewhat drought intolerant, especially when planted in pots. Lemongrass is a tender perennial that suffers leaf damage from frost and will die back to the roots in a hard freeze. Propagate this plant by division in spring and summer. To harvest your lemongrass, dig up a clump, separate the sections, and either replant what you don't need or share it with a friend. Most Thai recipes use the light colored stalk base, but the leaves can be used for a variety of other recipes or as an air freshener; stalks can be frozen until ready for use.

For a listing of other plants found growing in Davis, visit our Town Flora and Culinary Plants pages.

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