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Lemon grass or citronella: cultivation and care

This is a plant that has digestive and repellent properties, as well as working very well in decoration and gastronomy. Find out how to grow and care for citronella.

There is a plant that can be used for medicinal, gastronomic, ornamental purposes and even to repel mosquitoes. Lemongrass or citronella has very special characteristics that make it cover all these possibilities, as well as having a simple way of growing.

It seems surprising that the plant used to repel insects is the same one that forms the base of Thai curry. It is that, due to its citrus contributions, lemongrass or citronella has wide use in gastronomy.

On the other hand, the care it requires is basic. Although, because it is adapted to tropical climates, it is not very resistant to cold temperatures.

What is lemongrass or citronella?

Its scientific name is Cymbopogon citratus, but it is known as lemongrass, lemongrass, lemon verbena, grass, lemongrass, or citronella, depending on the region of the planet. It is a species native to Southeast Asia, especially in countries like India or Sri Lanka. The genus Cymbopogon has more than 55 species and belongs to the Poaceae family, better known as grasses.

In this family are located the plants that form the basis of world food, such as wheat, sorghum, corn, or oats. Lemongrass, although less well known, also has a strong influence on gastronomy. It is usually used in infusions such as tea, terere, and mate in sectors of South America. Also, in different soups and season fish or shellfish.

This plant belongs to the perennial category since it can survive for more than 2 years. It has a robust format and a set of clusters with spikes and flowers, combined with long aromatic leaves.

It can measure up to 1.5 meters in height, but one of its most notable characteristics is the solid stem, from which its characteristic flavor emerges.

Different uses of the lemongrass plant

It is one of the most versatile plants in terms of its forms of use. Gastronomy, medicine, and ornamental application are some of the fields in which citronella shows effectiveness.

  • Digestion: lemongrass has digestive properties, from which it derives its application for different infusions.
  • Gastronomy: it is a very popular ingredient in the cuisine of Southeast Asia to flavor meats or rice. The stem should be crushed and added to any boiled concoction, be it rice or noodles. Lemongrass is used as the base of Thai curry to season fish or vegetables.
  • Repellent: it has properties to repel mosquitoes, which is why it is used as a base for the production of oils for that purpose.
  • Aromatic: thanks to its citrus fragrance, lemongrass is also applied in perfumery and aromatherapy oils.
  • Cosmetics: used to improve oily skin and wrinkles.

Citronella candles, for example, have a double function: aromatize and keep mosquitoes away.

Lemon grass or citronella care

It is a plant whose origin is in hot environments, so it adapts better to tropical and subtropical climates. It is under these conditions that it grows most naturally. Regarding home care, it is important that it grows in spaces with good direct sunlight.

The temperatures must be warm since citronella does not support frost. In the case of living in very cold areas, with temperatures below 0 degrees, it is advisable that it grow in a pot indoors. On the other hand, it requires soil fertilized with manure or any regular fertilizer.

During the summer months, it is advisable that the plant is outside, in direct contact with sunlight. In this case, it must receive frequent watering.

For the last days of the warm season, take it indoors, but with plenty of light. Also, reduce the water levels a bit.

Ways to grow lemongrass or citronella

There are different ways to grow a lemongrass plant for the first time. Thanks to its ease of care and growth, it is possible to carry out the action through its cuttings, its stems, or its seeds. None of these options presents major difficulties.

By cuttings or suckers

When the plant has reached considerable growth, it should be transplanted from the pot to the ground. At this stage, it is possible to pull up suckers or cuttings, in order to grow a new specimen of lemongrass.

Cultivation of lemongrass or citronella through stems

In addition to its application in the kitchen, the stems of the plant can be used to generate new specimens. In this case, they should be placed in a glass of water, which should receive plenty of light.

Within 2-3 weeks, roots will start to appear. Meanwhile, you have to renew the water whenever it turns dark.

Once the roots are denoted, cut the upper end of the stem and transfer it to a pot with fertilized soil. After the first 2 weeks, renew the substrate and fertilize it with worm humus or some compost. Repeat the action 2 times a month and, meanwhile, water constantly.

By seeds

For this method, it is advisable to have a place that gets a lot of light and has a warm temperature. Seeds require these conditions to start growing.

In addition, it is important to start the process at the end of winter, in order to take advantage of the spring months. Once the first seedlings appear, deposit 2 or 3 of them in a pot and move them closer to a window.

When planting citronella seeds, choose late winter so that the warm season will aid growth.

By division of kills

Another way to reproduce the plant is by multiplying it through the division of the bush. It is a very simple task that consists of separating the plant and transferring the root ball to another pot.

In this case, growth will be even faster and easier. It is enough to apply frequent irrigation, fertilize the soil organically and provide good light.

Multiple benefits

Citronella is an essential plant if you have outdoor spaces, such as terraces or gardens. Especially when the months of extreme heat arrive since it works as a natural mosquito repellent.

However, it is also an ideal species for decoration. Its bushy growth graces any patio.

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