Tips for growing your own loofahs! This spring plant luffa in your garden and have homegrown sponges by the end of summer.
Luffa sponges are something everyone has seen at one time or another, but no one is quite sure where they come from. I guess people assume that they are man-made or may be related to an ocean sponge, but the truth is you can grow them in your garden! Check out these tips for Growing Loofahs (Luffa) Sponges.
I originally wrote a post about loofahs in August 2010. I am excited to be updating it now in 2019!
What is a Luffa?
Technically it is called a Luffa, but many people misspell it. So much so, it has kind of stuck. A luffa is a vegetable that is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. That is the scientific name for the gourd family of flowering plants. Cucumbers, gourds, melons, squashes, and pumpkins are all in the same family!
Luffas are interesting because you can harvest and eat it when the fruit is at a young age (supposed to be good in curries), or you can leave it on the vine to grow and dry out. By allowing the plant to age, this creates the fibrous network inside of the fruit that people use for sponges and scrubbers. That is why people call it a sponge gourd or luffa gourd.
What Zones can grow Loofahs?
Typically zones 7 and higher can grow loofahs with no problem. They need a long growing season to mature enough on the vine to create the fibrous insides. Some zone 6's may get lucky and be able to grow them if started early indoors.
Where to get Luffa Seeds?
In the spring and summer when hardware stores have the seed packets out, you can typically find them with the other vegetable seeds. You can also order your Luffa seeds from amazon if you are having a hard time finding them! I found mine at Home Depot with the other seed packets.
Tips for Growing loofahs
I have grown loofahs several times now. The biggest tips I can give you for a successful crop is this.
Give them a sturdy trellis and room to spread out.
These plants love to vine and spread out as much as possible. This helps the pollinators get to their beautiful yellow flowers and maximizes your yield at the end of the season. These vines send out little tendrils that will grab onto just about anything they are perfect along a fence line.
They also love full sun, and thrive on compost.
Loofahs love water. I think that is why they do well here in Florida. If we haven't had rain for a day or two, I will turn the sprinkler on them for a little while. They need plenty of water and well-draining soil.
I consider the loofahs to be a low maintenance plant. Knock on wood, but I haven't had a problem with pests on my loofah plants. Although some do say that they tend to get cucumber beetles or powdery mildew. Keeping a little be of spacing and good air circulation helps prevent the downy mildew.
I do put fertilizer in with the seeds when starting the plants and then once a month I do give them a bit of liquid fertilizer to help them continue to grow.
When to Harvest Loofahs
This photo was from the first year I grew loofahs. I did not have enough space set up for them. As the summer heat starts to pick up in August, you will notice your vines begin to fade. Allow the loofahs to stay on those vines for as long as possible. This will help them dry out naturally. Once the fruits feel lighter and begin to yellow, you can pick them.
Allow them to sit in a cool, dry place for a few days to dry out even more. The peel should become brittle and easily flake off when it does. You can peel your luffas.
What is left is a fibrous spongey structure that can be stored and used for years. There will also be seeds inside. Be sure to remove them and save them for next year or share them with a friend.
How Many sponges do you get per plant?
That depends on the environment you give your plant. Each vine could yield up to a dozen or more loofah sponges. Realistically I would say to expect six good sized loofahs per vine.
Once you have harvested your loofahs, you can cut them in pieces, so they are more manageable and last longer too! We have even added them to hand soaps.
The vines are full of beautiful yellow flowers that open in the morning and close during the heat of the day! They must have very sweet pollen because first thing in the morning my yard is buzzing with bees, ants, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc.
Wherever you choose to plant your loofahs be prepared for a wall of yellow flowers! This is also a great location to hang up a hummingbird feeder. They are a great way to attract hummingbirds to your yard. (learn more tips for attracting hummingbirds here)
How to Use Loofahs
Now that you have grown your loofahs, you can use them for so many things.
- These are great to replace plastic scrubbers in the shower.
- Cut them up and use them in hand soaps.
- Use them to scrub dishes in place of sponges.
- Any sponge or scrubber use...these can do.