Growing Loofah: My first attempt at growing loofah taught me that it is not for the impatient gardener, but so worth it! Loofahs are certainly a fun plant to grow and I will even say it was fool proof, because the first season I did EVERYTHING wrong. I planted it too late, in too crowded of a container, and harvested it months past the proper date. Despite all of this, I still ended up with a few cute loofahs. YAY!
I’m not going to torture you with a bunch of chit chat before you get to the actual guide to planting, so here is the basic rundown. First, soak the seeds in water for at least 24 hours, or scrape part of the seed edge with a file. After the threat of frost has past, plant your loofah seeds 8 to 12 inches apart, in rich soil, where it will be in full sun. It will take about 14 days for the vines to germinate. Once they do, they will grow pretty long, so give them plenty of space as well as sturdy trellis to grow up. It’s also suggested to fertilize every 4 to 6 weeks. It takes a while before you see any fruit, so be patient. Knowing when to harvest is easy. Just leave them on the vine until they have turned dark yellow or brown and start to separate from the fiber inside. You can easily tell by giving the fruit a gentle squeeze.
Soooo, did I do any of this the first year? Not even close. Did I still end up with fruit? YUP! It was my first time growing loofah and I was doing so halfheartedly. I didn’t really want to take it on if it was going to be tedious or high maintenance. As you can see in the picture below, I planted the seeds mid June (?) in a crowded raised flowerbed, and spaced the seeds only an inch or two apart. I also didn’t soak or scratch the seeds before I planted them. Yet despite doing everything wrong, by July the loofah vines were happily making their way up the hog panel.
It was at this time I had started my front yard project of ripping out the lawn and putting in the dry riverbed, so I ignored them for a few months. You can read about that story by clicking here.
But we are here to talk about loofah, not about what an awesome job I did on my front yard… but it does look awesome.
Let’s talk about the glorious day I was finally able to harvest the loofah. It was a beautiful February day. Yaaa… I waited way too long. I could have picked them back in December, but I kept waiting for them to turn black. I simple Google search would have told me they were ready, but life has a way of distracting you. So they were left on the vines way past their pick date. Luckily this didn’t have any affect on them. This is another reason why I love this plant so much. They are so forgiving.
I knew the weather was going to be all over the map, rainy one day, hot the next, so I brought the loofahs inside to finish drying. They are ready to be peeled once you can hear the seeds rattling around loose inside. At that point gently pull the top off where it connected to the vine and shake as many of the seeds out as possible, saving the seeds for the next season. TIME TO PEEL!
At this point fill a bucket or sink with cool water and soak the loofah for about an hour or so. I also filled the inside of the loofah with water to speed up the process and to keep them from floating. That’s right… you spent all that time drying them, now you’re going to soak them again.
Now get to peeling. It’s literally as easy as peeling a banana. No need to be gentle either, they can take it. Once you have the peels off, give them a good wash in hot soapy water and leave them out to dry.
Natural loofah have many great uses. They are excellent in the shower to exfoliate with scrubbing off dead skin leaving your skin smooth, soft, and healthy looking. They are also excellent to use cleaning your dishes, rather than using a synthetic sponge that eventually ends up in the landfills. Instead, when the loofah is at the end of it’s life, you can throw it in the compost.
Growing Loofah is fun, easy, and environmentally friendly. They would also make pretty cool holiday gifts saving you a bit of money. I love the fact that you can put either a lot or very little time into growing them and still enjoy the rewards. This year hubby and I set up a much larger area and trellis for them to grow. In the next few days I am going to take the seeds I collected from this years harvest and plant them in the new spot. It’s still not a big spot, but let’s see what happens!