Lemon Grass

lemon grass
Illinois Extension photo: Herb Gardening | Lemon Grass

Cymbopogon citratus

Lemon grass is a grass like plant with long slender foliage growing to about 2-3 feet tall. Leaves are grayish-green in color. Stems and leaves impart a strong lemon flavor when used in cooking. Because lemon grass is not winter hardy in colder climates, it is best grown as a container plant.

Growing: Tender Perennial

Lemon grass is easily grown from stem cuttings or divisions. If lemon grass is found in the produce section of the grocery store, those stems can often be rooted. When grown in pots use pots with ample drainage holes and filled with a prepared soil mix. Outdoors place the container in a full sun location and water as needed to keep soil moist. Do not overwater as that can lead to root rot. Fertilize about every two weeks with a general purpose liquid fertilizer. Before frost, move the plant indoors to a very bright light area for the winter. While indoors, water as need and reduce the frequency of fertilizer applications.  


Leaves and the stems can be harvested for use. Leaves are cut and used as needed either fresh or dried for later use while the tender white portion of the stem is most desirable.  


Leaves are used to flavor fish, soups, curries, sauces, and teas. The stems and leaves are used in Vietnamese and Thai dishes.  Larger parts of the stalk can be added to stews or soup and removed much as you would a bay leaf.