Thursday, October 25, 2012

Divided and Multiplied

I live in a rented apartment. That hasn't stopped me from planting perennials that will outlive my tenure here, but it does make me mindful that the improvements I make in terms of soil quality, plant communities, etc. will not come with me. You can't take it with you, right? But you can bring it in for winter and or divide it up to share with friends. At least that's the case with lemongrass.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a large perennial grass native to areas more tropical than East Tennessee. It does well through our humid summers, especially if kept well watered, but it needs protection over the winter. This year is the first year I put the lemongrass directly in the ground as opposed to keeping it in a container. The plant thrived and grew to be several feet tall. Now that it's getting colder, I wanted to dig up the plant, divide it, repot it, and bring it in for the winter.

Here's a list of the steps I followed. Photos below.

0. Water the plant for several days before the uprooting. This will give it a good store of hydration and make the soil softer to dig.

1. Cut off 2/3 of the grass. Lemongrass has barbs that catch and stick if you touch it in the wrong direction, so wear gloves or handle with care. The blades of grass can be used fresh in cooking or dried or frozen for later use. Cutting the grass helps prevent the plant from drying out further once we've disturbed its roots.

Harvested lemongrass
2. Dig around the plant in a wide circle. The rule of thumb is that plants root out as far (if not further) as they extend their foliage. I know I severed small roots in the process, but preserved the main body of the roots.
Digging around the plant

3. Carefully pry the plant out of the ground. Go slowly and gently.

4. If you're going to divide the plant, do that once it's out of the ground. I used a sharp saw and divided the plant into rough quarters. Place the severed quarters (or pieces) in a waiting bucket of water while you pot up each one.
Lemongrass cut in half! This felt violent.
5. Immediately repot the segments into generous sized pots (i.e. several inches of extra space around the clump) and fill with good potting soil. Gently tamp it down as you work to eliminate air pockets. Water thoroughly to settle soil.

6. If the weather will be warm enough, leave newly potted lemongrass segments outdoors to adjust to their new settings. Once they seem established in the pots, you can move them inside to a sunny window.

7. Keep them carefully watered through the winter. Transplant back or move outside in spring!


  1. Thanks, I would've forgotten about mine!

  2. Glad to remind you! This cold rain (in E. TN) may mean it's time to bring them indoors. Are yours still out?