How to grow lemongrass in cold climates

This is my first time growing lemongrass in a cold country like in Europe.

For self-sufficient gardeners in this area, growing tropical plants like lemongrass outdoor are unusual. Especially in the winter, when the temperature goes below 0 degrees Celsius.

In case you don’t have a greenhouse, growing tropical plants is quite challenging in this climate.

Lemongrass | Citronella grass | Oily head

Cymbopogon spp.

Lemongrass is a tropical plant in the grass family. The species I got is the East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus.) It is also called Cochin grass or Malabar grass. This species is native to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Burma, and Thailand. In my country, we call it ‘ta-krai’ according to the genus Cymbopogon.

Except for for cooking, we use it as herbs

I experience lemongrass since I was a child. I would see my grandma knotted it and threw it into the boiled water, making a hot bath. It smells like heaven, refreshing, and healing. I love its fragrance. We use it for cooking especially in meat dishes

Moreover, it is used as a mosquito repellent from lemongrass oil. One of my friends in Bangkok is researching in this niche as well.

I sometimes crave it when I want to cook meat. However, buying lemongrass in the store is quite expensive here in Germany. So I had an idea to grow them and wish they will continue growing year after year like in my hometown.

Though lemongrass is a tropical plant. In a warm country, it is a perennial plant. It grows back every year. But in a cold country, it usually would not survive the climate during the winter months if leave it outdoors.

Somehow, I wanted to give it a try. And I think we can manage to keep it alive over the winter in the house and bring it outdoors again in the summer.

How to grow lemongrass from seeds

This is how I grow my lemongrass from seeds. First, have your seeds ready. I got my seed from a garden center nearby.

You can also buy a young plant. I saw some online shops have it available. But growing lemongrass from seeds is easy. Here’s how I did it.

  1. In spring start to sow seeds indoors. Sow lemongrass seeds on top of the soil without covering. Then water them and keep them moist until the seeds germinate. Place them in the bright area.
  2. If the root reaches the bottom of the pot. Repot into a bigger pot and keep them moist.
  3. Watch out for the weather. If it’s frost-free, you can put them outside. (I waited until the night temp. reaches 15ºC then I placed the pot on the balcony. But you can put them out when the night temp. over 10ºC.)
  4. In summer, you can grow them in the pot throughout the season or plant them in the bed where they get full sun.
  5. In the fall, pot them and bring them into a greenhouse (or in the house at night, and bring them out in the daytime for getting full sun.) 
  6. Preparing them for winter by trimming the leaves. In the winter, place them indoors where they get bright light. Water them only when the topsoil is dry.
  7. Wait until the next season, when the night temp. reaches 10ºC then plant them outdoors under full sun.

The video below shows grown lemongrass (in the pot), ready to be transplanted to the bed. See the root health at 5:19.