by Jennifer Poindexter
Did you know you can grow your own sponges? Luffa sponges come from a type of gourd known as the luffa plant.
Would you like to grow this plant in your garden? You’re in the right place. I have lots of experience growing gourds.
When I first began, I did everything wrong. I grew gourds on a whim and paid a high price for it because they took over my growing area for many years.
After a rotten experience, I did the smart thing and decided to do a little research. I took my new information and began growing luffa plants and other gourds with a better outcome.
If you’d like to know how to grow luffa plants the right way, here’s the information you need:
Growing Conditions for Luffa Plants
Whether you’re growing luffa plants to eat or enjoy as a sponge, it’s important to start things off the appropriate way.
Luffa plants desire a growing location with full sunlight. This should equate to around six hours of direct sunlight each day.
They need well-draining soil that remains evenly damp. The soil should be high in nutrients as well. If you can create these conditions in your growing location, luffa should grow well for you.
Keep in mind, luffa plants are annuals and should only be grown in planting zones six and higher as they don’t tolerate frost and have a lengthy growing time.
Now that you know what luffa plants need from you, let’s discuss how to go about growing them.
How to Plant Luffa Plants
Growing a luffa plant is straightforward. If you live in a warmer planting zone and have 150 to 200 days of warm weather, you can directly sow the seeds in their growing location.
Ensure the growing area has all the conditions mentioned above. If so, till the soil and place the seeds an inch beneath it.
Be sure to space the seeds one foot from each other to avoid overcrowding. Also, don’t plant the seeds until all threat of frost is over.
The other option for growing luffa plants is to start the seeds indoors. You should begin this process six to eight weeks prior to the final spring frost.
Fill a growing tray with well-draining, nutrient-dense soil. Place one seed per cell of the growing tray and ensure it’s pressed well beneath the soil and covered.
Mist the soil gently with a spray bottle of water and continue doing this throughout the indoor growing process.
This will keep the soil damp without oversaturating the seeds which can lead to rot. Be patient with luffa seeds as it can take up to fourteen days for sprouting to occur.
After the seeds have germinated, continue to care for them indoors until all frost is gone. Harden the seedlings off for one week prior to moving them to their outdoor location.
When ready, plant the seedlings in a prepared bed placing each plant one foot apart from the next. Once the luffa is thriving, it’ll begin by growing a long vine.
From the vine, the first male flowers will form. After the male flowers are established, the female flowers will begin to grow.
You now know what to expect when growing luffa plants. Follow these steps to plant luffa using the method you’re most comfortable with.
Caring for Luffa Plants
Raising luffa plants isn’t a difficult task. In fact, you only need to do two minor things to best care for them.
First, you must water luffa plants properly by watering them deeply. Apply water until the ground around the plants is thoroughly saturated.
The water should reach the roots during this time as well. In the coming days, if the luffa plants need more water, they’ll dig deeper.
In turn, this will lead to a deeper root system which typically equates to healthier plants. Don’t apply more water to the plants without testing the soil.
By inserting your finger into the dirt surrounding the plants, you should be able to feel if there’s moisture at your first knuckle. If there is, hold off on watering the luffa plants. If not, it’s time to water the plants deeply again.
The other thing luffa plants will need from you is support. You should provide a strong trellis, such as a cattle panel trellis or a well-built wooden trellis, when growing luffa plants.
As mentioned previously, luffas come from a type of gourd. These fruits can become quite heavy when growing.
If left on the ground, they can rot. This was the one major mistake I made when I first began growing gourds.
I didn’t support them, they rotted, and since I live in a warmer climate, the seeds from the rotten fruit overwintered. Then the gourds ended up taking over my growing area the following year.
By supporting your luffa plants, not only does it keep the fruits healthier, but it also ensures the plants won’t rot. They shouldn’t have the opportunity to reseed either.
Ensure you provide the right amount of water and support to your luffa plants to keep them healthy and productive.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact Luffa Plants
Luffa plants aren’t usually bothered by many pests and diseases. However, there are a few issues you should be made aware of in the off chance they develop.
The diseases which aren’t necessarily common, but have been known to show up around luffa plants, are leaf blight, leaf spot, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.
These are typically fungal issues which can be treated with a fungicide and by removing damaged parts of the plant.
However, the best way to treat fungal disease is to deter it before it starts. You can do this by ensuring you grow luffa plants in well-draining soil and full sun.
This will provide heat and keep overly saturated conditions to a minimum. Cold and wet soil is where fungal disease likes to form. Don’t allow your plants to grow in these circumstances to keep fungal issues away.
You may also deter spider mites by spraying them forcefully with soapy water. Diatomaceous earth is another option for treating cucumber beetles.
If you suspect that pests and diseases are infiltrating your luffa plants, be sure to act quickly. The faster you move to remove the issue, the less time for your plants to be destroyed.
How to Harvest Luffa Plants
This is probably the portion of our discussion you’re most curious about. Once you’ve grown luffa sponges, how do you get them from the plant?
The harvesting process isn’t difficult. The fruits of the luffa plant are edible. You may use them to eat or for a sponge.
Your intention will determine the harvesting process. If you’re going to use the fruit for a sponge, let the gourd finish growing on the vine.
After the first frost, remove the gourd from the plant. Be sure to remove it at the correct time, or the fruit will rot on the vine.
At this time, the skin should be shriveled, discolored, and the fruit should feel rather light. These conditions make it easiest to peel the gourd.
Cut the fruit at one end and shake it until all the seeds fall out. You may save and dry them to plant luffa again next year.
Once this is finished, cut the other end of the gourd. Then roll it back and forth on a hard surface like you would a rolling pin. This process loosens the skin.
When the skin is loose, begin to peel it away until the inside of the gourd is all that remains. Lay the fibrous contents in the sun to dry fully.
It’s vital that the sponge is fully dry before storing or it will form mold. Once your sponge is dry, you may store it in a box or cloth sack to protect it until you’re ready to use.
You may also begin to use the sponge in the shower or in the kitchen. Be sure to let it dry between uses. The sponge should last approximately one month. When it’s done, compost it.
You’ll have some luffa fruit which will form on the plant too late in the year to reach maturity. Anything which develops in the middle of summer or later, probably won’t make an excellent sponge.
What do you do with it to avoid waste? You can eat it! In many cultures, this is why gourds are grown.
If you choose to eat the fruit of the luffa plant, it tastes similar to a summer squash. Therefore, when the fruit looks large enough, use a sharp knife to cut it from the plant.
You may eat it raw in a salad or cook it for a different texture. This is another method to harvest luffa depending upon the purpose.
This concludes our discussion on growing the luffa plant. This plant could make a nice addition to your garden as it produces interesting and versatile products.
Whether you’re searching for different edibles to add to your growing area or you like the idea of growing eco-friendly sponges, the luffa plant could be for you.