Lemongrass is a Malaysian flowering grass with a distinctive lemony fragrance, which has made it a staple in the cuisines of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. In the 20th century it was introduced to South America and Madagascar, and is now naturalized in tropical areas worldwide. The fragrant leaves and stems are not palatable on their own, but are used to flavor other dishes or steep into a tea. For example, the iconic Thai chicken soup, tom ka gai, uses lemongrass, coconut milk, lime leaves, cilantro, and galangal.
Lemongrass’ distinctive smell is a product of a number of essential oils, one of which is citronellol, a terpenoid that is also found in certain roses and scented geraniums. In a clinical trial, this compound was found to lower blood pressure in rats. Distilled lemongrass oil is a staple in aromatherapy and skincare products, and is said to brighten mood and improve cognitive function.
Lemongrass grows well in Southern California if given enough water, and a mature plant will grow into a large stand with flower heads as tall as 8 feet.
Growth: bushy clumping grass, up to 5’ tall
Light: part sun-full sun
Water: generous water
Soil: well drained loam
Hardiness: USDA zones 9-11