Your luffa plant will grow you a bumper crop of what we call loofahs. Probably the best plant to grow for those wanting to make a homemade spa!
How To Grow Luffa From Seed In The UK
Luffa is a relatively straight forward crop to grow for a lovely edible gourd. However, for growing loofah you will need to do everything you can to extend the growing season. The more sunlight the better and this is particularly true in the UK with our unpredictable weather!
By following these tips and tricks you should get the ultimate loofah harvest. You can buy luffa seeds from Franchi Seeds of Italy via this link.
- Your luffa vines can grow to be between 10-20 feet. So make sure to get a sturdy structure in place well before you even think of planting your seeds. Trellis or a fence for preference, but we have seen wooden structures used, just avoid bamboo as it may not take the weight.
- Choose a spot which will receive between 6-8 hours of sunlight a day as a minimum in Summer. This will allow the luffa to ripen and dry on the vine ready to be harvested.
- Dig in some well rotted organic matter. This will aid in drainage as well as feeding your vines. Loofah are related to melons, cucumbers and other gourds so they will take as much as you can throw at them nutrients wise.
- Start your luffa seeds indoors as this will give you the extra time that you need. Sunshine hours are vital for ripening on the vine. For those of you living in sunnier climates you may want to plant the seeds directly, but in the UK we recommend starting indoors at the start of April. This is also true of USDA zones 6, but any zone lower will really struggle to grow luffa without a heated greenhouse. USDA zones 7-10 can plant outside in May.
- Use biodegradable pots as you will be able to plant out directly without disturbing the roots. Luffa seeds take around 14 days to germinate. We find that soaking them overnight first helps a lot and you will get a better germination rate. Keep them at a constant temperature and use an LED light, even a basic model like this one will have timers etc. This will give you a very quick growth from germination.
- To reach full maturity will take between 90-100 days so not a quick crop, but around two weeks from germination they will be ready to plant out. Plant them together in 2’s or 3’s. The vine of the luffa will grow incredibly quickly and this will mean they can grow stronger together.
- Watering is now your main focus. The loofah vines will need reliable watering, not wet soil but you should not allow the soil to become dry. The best way to avoid the soil drying in the hot weather is to apply a layer of mulch. This will hold in the moisture.
- You can harvest the luffa when they are small, eat them like zucchini and they are very tasty. If you leave them until they are around 2 foot in length then they are fibrous and not for the dinner table.
- When they are ready to harvest the green outer skin will darken and dry off, while the luffa is still on the vine. Take your sponges off and soak in a tub of water.
- You will need a bit of time and patience here as there is a lot of fibrous seeds all tangled up together. You can remove this and put the seeds to one side for the following year.
- Cut the loofah to the desired length, sometimes 2 inches is the right thickness and these can be set in soap, or you may want 1 foot lengths to then be hung up. Have a plan in mind and once cut to length, leave in the sunshine to dry off for a few days. Each vine will produce between 10-20 gourds, so take some younger ones for the dinner table and leave as many as you need for gift giving and homemade spa ideas!
You can, of course buy loofah plugs via a reputable online nursery like Sutton’s who have three plug packets available here.
How Long Does A Natural Loofah Last
In theory around 4-5 weeks, but if it is kept dry in between use then that time will be extended. You can wash your natural loofah in the washing machine, set to a higher temperature, but do allow it to dry out naturally. Using a tumble dryer will harm your machine with the fibrous nature of the loofah!
You can extend this time by incorporating your loofah into handmade soaps! DIYnatural have a great recipe that you can check out here. But a homegrown organic loofah is the ultimate addition to any Christmas gift hamper!