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Lemongrass mama stalks, ready to plant

Lemongrass mama stalks, ready to plant

After almost a month of sun-bathing on the ledge of my screened-in porch, my lemongrass mama-stalks have put out an abundance of roots. They are now ready for planting in dirt. From there, they will send up side-stalks and grow into a beautiful lemongrass plant. Each stalk now has numerous curly white roots, and tall green leaves reaching for the sky. Time to put them in dirt and let them multiply in the summer sun. The middle jar holds the original trio of lemongrass stalks:


First 3 stalks: two rooted, one did not.

First 3 stalks: two rooted, one did not.

This batch got a slow start, compared to the other two jars. One is standard size, two are quite small, and one, though it turned green and still looks healthy, hasn’t produced any roots. None of these has grown small side stalks, which is the means by which your lemongrass patch will grow and thrive. These two will probably do so, they just need a little more time. I’ll plant the non-rooting one two, to keep them company. 


Up close and personal with ready-to-plant mama stalks

Up close and personal with ready-to-plant mama stalks

I cut these two stalks shorter than the first batch, but they did fine. Note the small stalks poking up from within the stalks, beyond the outermost leaves. These two are quite ready to get growing…


Side stalks reaching for the sunshine and hungry for dirt

Side stalks reaching for the sunshine and hungry for dirt

Time to get pots full of dirt and put these mama stalks into their element. In just about a month, we’ve gone from grocery store produce section to garden-ready. I’ll put all these stalks in porch pots, and then get some rooting for a patch in my raised-bed garden. Can’t have too much lemongrass, no ma’am, no sir….

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. cheryl Reply

    With those squiggly side stalks, they look like magical little sea creatures!

  2. asha Reply

    Oh, thank you thank you thank you. Thank you so much for posting this. I have wondered about and searched for this topic. I always stalk the local Asian markets for lemongrass and when it’s not available I die a little.

    Thank you!! [I just found your blog and thanks to your lemongrass post I’ll be bookmarking it. 😉 ]

  3. Carolyn Jung Reply

    I keep wanting to try growing my own, too. A friend of mine kept telling me how easy it was to start lemongrass in just that — a jar of water. Now, I’m trying it for sure!

  4. Kyle Holtmann Reply

    Hi, was just wandering how much will grow from one stalk of lemongrass?

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Kyle, one stalk of lemongrass will produce 2 or 3 very small side-stalks, growing up right out of its base. That’s only enough for about one batch of soup, so I like to start a bundle of stalks at one time so that I can get a good, hearty patch of lemongrass going to last me all summer. My basic pot is three stalks in a pot the size of a standard pitcher, and I get a half dozen or so of those going to start me off. In my book, you can’t have too many, since they make such beautiful plants.

      • NJ Reply


        I have a question about the lemongrass starter stalks – do they need to be full bulbs? The lemongrass I found at Earthfare in Raleigh didnt have a whole bulb at the bottom – I guess they cut a long stalk into pieces and sell the peices.
        Will those pieces also root in water? I bought a packet which had 3 of such pieces and have put them in a glass of water.. Its been a couple of days and I havent seen any roots yet..
        If it needs the whole bulb, then I might as well discard these.
        Thanks for any info/advice.

        • Nancie McDermott Reply

          Hello, NJ! So sorry to say that only a full plump-based lemongrass bulb will send out roots and grow into a starter stalk. Same problem with lemongrass stalks sold in some local grocery stores here in Chapel Hill, NC. They are cut off above the root end, leaving only an abrupt and lifeless end point, which will never take root. You’ve now had about one week in which to let these stalks have at the process of rooting, and my guess is that they have not put anything forth, as they lack the essential portion, that root end and bulb. One good area source for me is Whole Foods Market — here in Chapel Hill they have big bins of healthy lemongrass stalks with the bulb end intact. My local Harris Teeter tends to carry only those chopped-off ones, which would have some flavor for cooking, but not as much as they should given that that bulb is the flavor-heart of each stalk. Asian markets also tend to have good healthy whole lemongrass stalks, so see what you can find out there by casting a wider net. And let’s tell produce managers that no lemongrass is better than this version which is poorly handled before it even gets to the grocery store.

  5. lornasass Reply

    I can’t wait to try this. I had no idea you could do this!

  6. NJ Reply

    Thanks for your advice.. I happened to read on your blog about the worthlessness of the stalk without the bulb and so last Friday got some stalks from Whole Foods in Durham. And just today I see the beginnings of the roots!!! Thanks a lot! I cant wait to see the plants grow.. I dont use is in cooking, but use the leaves in Indian masala chai. Kind of gives it a gingery taste..

    • NJ Reply

      Update – I potted up my lemon grass stalks that were growing in water. All 5 stalks had lots of roots and a few new green shoots coming out the sides of the stalks! Thanks for the wonderful tip.
      I got the stalks at Whole Foods for less than $2! Can’t wait to harvest some leaves for my tea!

      • Nancie McDermott Reply

        So glad your lemon grass shows so much delight at being rooted and ready to grow for you in your garden. Has the color deepened from a sort of straw-green to a vivid fresh green color, both stalks and leaves? It’s magical to me, every time. As long as it doesn’t freeze, it should keep on growing for you. It’s slower this time of year, but it keeps on happening. I’m harvesting some of mine this afternoon to make Thai curry paste for my cousin’s birthday dinner tomorrow.

  7. NJ Reply

    Another update- the stalks dwindled indoors over the winter with fungus. So I got some more in Spring and this time they look much healthier after 2-3 weeks in water. Lots of new shoots and roots. Only problem I see is that the tall stalks will need to be tied to some support when planted in soil, since the roots arent long enough to anchor the plants yet.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Hi, NJ: How is your lemongrass looking today? Have you planted them yet? You mention needing to tie them up to anchor, since roots are not that long/strong/sturdy. That would work, but you may find that you can bury them deeply enough that they stand straight without that. I don’t anchor mine. Not too deep, but consider that the ‘mother’stalk you will be planting, is a supplier of new stalks, not a stalk that you will actually need to harvest. The new babies sprout from the sides of that stalk, usually below its plumpest part, and they will grow up out of the dirt. So it doesn’t need to be above the dirt where you would cut it off, it will just get surrounded by easy to harvest stalks later this summer.

  8. Emy Reply

    Hi! I have been keeping my lemongrass in water about 2 weeks. 3 of them have roots now (about 1cm). When is the best time to move them into soil? Do I have to wait until root is about 2-5cm or could I move to pot now? How deep should I plant my lemongrass? Thanks a lot 🙂

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Hello, Emy! Thanks for your message and hooray for you, getting your lemongrass going already. No downside to waiting a little longer so that your lemongrass ‘mother-stalks’ are all ready to send out healthy shoots. Compare yours to my 3rd and 4th photos above, to see if you have lots of vibrant roots. There should be some very thin, hairlike roots in addition to the little plump white ones. In terms of depth, you want the base submerged in dirt, so that all the roots and the bottom of the bulb are covered in dirt. Not terribly deep, but so that all the roots have good shelter for growing. I’ve got two batches rooting right now, and will be posting soon (in about a week I think) on getting this year’s crop off to a hearty start.

      • Emy Reply

        Thank you for your reply. Now all of my 6 stalks of lemongrass have roots. Some of them have that hairlike roots too. One more thing, how big pot should I use? I have 6 inch plastic pots. I plan to move one stalk into one pot. Some people say that 6 inch is enough, but others say that it has to be at least 12 inch. I wonder if my 6 inch pot is enough or should I buy bigger pot, since pot could be really expensive here. Thank you 🙂

        • Nancie McDermott Reply

          Emy, What you want is more of a lemongrass patch, with lots of stalks growing all together kind of like a fountain of stalks flowing upward. Consider putting multiple rooted stalks into a little circle of three in a bigger pot, such as a 12 inch pot. They will fill in, look lovely, and leave you lots of stalks to choose from. One stalk alone in a pot will take a long time to produce cuttable stalks, and once you cut them, it’s all puny again. Consider putting 3 rooted stalks in a triangle shape, about 6 inches apart, and each one angled back toward the edges of the pot. Kind of an upsidedown tripod. Plant them into the dirt, about 1/2 inch under the dirt, as the stalks you want will sprout from the sides of these stalks, and end up at about dirt level which is what you want. Does this make sense? YOu’ve already rooted them, that’s the hard part, and hats off to you!

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