By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
You’ve likely heard of a luffa sponge and may even have one in the shower. But did you know you can also try your hand at growing luffa plants? Learn more about what is a luffa gourd and how to grow it in your garden.
What is a Luffa Gourd?
Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula), also known as loofah, vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourds, are grown mainly for their useful fibrous tissue skeleton. Young fruits can be eaten as squash, used in stews or even used in place of cucumbers.
The luffa gourd plant is an annual tropical or subtropical climbing vine. When the fruit section of the plant matures, it can be used as an organic bath or kitchen sponge. Some people even use the juice of this very beneficial plant to treat jaundice.
Luffa Gourd Planting
Growing luffa plants is an enjoyable project but not one for the impatient. Luffa is cold sensitive and takes a very long time to mature into a dried sponge, so luffa gourd planting should not be attempted if you don’t have the patience to wait.
Sow gourd seeds 8 to 12 inches apart along a fence as soon as the ground is warm enough in the spring to work and all danger of frost has passed. To facilitate germination, scrape the seed coat with a file or allow seeds to soak for at least 24 hours. Seeds are very slow to sprout so gardeners should not lose faith. Seeds can also be started indoors several weeks before the last frost. Plant one to three plants in a hill and space hills 6 feet apart.
Luffa plants like full sun and organic soil. Mulch should be used, away from the stem, to help retain moisture and protect the plant.
Luffa Plant Care
Caring for luffa is very similar to caring for cucumbers or melons.
Keep plants moist, but not saturated, and provide sturdy support for best results as part of your luffa plant care.
Once the plants begin to grow, you can remove all the first flowers, any male flowers and the first four lateral branches. This will result in stronger fruit.
Remove luffa fruit from the vine before the first frost. Follow instructions for cleaning and preparing the fruit, depending on how it will be used.