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I am growing some lemongrass (in a pot) and it's doing very well so far: over the past month, it went from a stump, to about 20-30cm high, with long thin leaves.

My question is: what the best way to encourage its growth in such a way that it produces the strong stalks that are typically used in cooking (afaik, the soft part of the leaves aren't good for that use). And how/when should I go at pruning/harvesting them without stunting further growth?

PS: probably not relevant but just in case: my local weather is about sub-tropical levels of hot and humid (Japanese Summer).

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WHy the soft part is not good in cooking? – lamwaiman1988 Jun 28 '11 at 9:40
@gunbuster: Not sure about proper terms, since lemongrass is essentially just one stalk of leaves, with the base of the leaves bunched together and layering to create a harder core... but the softer part of the leaves is not commonly used for cooking, afaik. It just doesn't carry much of the taste and definitely has a much more bitter/"grassy" aftertaste. Either way, I'd be happy with even general advice on making it grow and best way to harvest it... – Dave Jun 28 '11 at 11:07
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As per winwaed said, you got a pretty good climate for them.

Lemongrass love sun, love water.

Give them sun. Give them plenty of water.

They would like a sandy soil which have good drainage and yet good ability to retain water. If you soil retain water pretty good, then you can add some sand in it for better drainage.

Use a BIG pot which is wider than 1 feet. My recommendation is 1.5-2 feet wide pot.

Cut their leave once a month or longer to encourage growth. If you don't cut, it would be weak. Cut the whole leave, don't cut in a halfway.

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thanks. this sounds like exactly the info I am looking for. So the proper way to prune would be to cut the thin soft leaves at their very base? (leaving only the stalk?) All of them or only a fraction? – Dave Jun 29 '11 at 0:12
CUt the whole leave. – lamwaiman1988 Jun 29 '11 at 1:12

It sounds like you have an ideal climate. This site suggests you don't want to let the roots get too long, but the leaves do indeed grow long:

The root system may take weeks to develop properly. Do not become impatient. The grass may start to grow long before the roots are ready. This is normal. Wait until the roots are at least 2.5 centimetres or two inches long. They are now suitable for planting. Do not let the roots get much longer than this. They can become brittle and may break off easily. Handle them with a lot of care.

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