How to Grow Luffa

Wait…. what?? I thought it came from the ocean.

Nope. Luffa is in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae, also called cucurbits) and grows similarly to a winter squash. If harvested young, it tastes like a summer squash, and if left on the vine to mature it can be used in the bathtub. Go figure.

What is it?

Luffa, also known as loofah, vegetable sponge, or dishcloth gourd are often grown for the fibrous flesh of the mature luffa gourd. These gourds can grow to 2 feet long and 7 inches in diameter. If you want to eat the luffa, it is best harvested when less than 6 inches long. Young luffa is delicious in stir-fry and tastes similar to a summer squash.

Can I grow it?

Growing luffa takes a lot of time and patience. Luffa needs from 150 to 200 or more frost-free warm days. Luffa requires plenty of sun, warmth, consistent water, and a large trellis. Not all climates have a sufficiently long (and warm) growing season to grow luffa successfully. In USDA Zones 7 and higher, luffa seeds can be started outdoors. Zone 6 growers should start seeds indoors. It is not recommended for zones below Zone 6.

How does it grow?

Plant luffa seeds in full sun with rich soil as soon as any danger of frost has passed. The seeds may take up to 14 days to germinate. The young vines are susceptible to weeds and pests. Luffa produces a vigorous vine long before it produces first male flowers, and then finally female flowers, so be patient! A large vine is necessary to support large gourds. Allow luffa to mature on the vine to produce the maximum amount of fibrous flesh. The gourds do not tolerate freezing and should be removed from the vine immediately after the first frost or they will rot.

How do I harvest it?

If you are growing for the luffa “sponge”, leave the gourd on the plant until it feels lightweight and the skin begins to shrivel and turn yellow. It’s best to peel it at this stage, when the skin is easily removed. Cut the luffa from the vine and cut off one end, and shake out seeds. (Save the seeds from your largest luffa to share and plant next season.) Cut off the other end, roll the luffa on a table to loosen skin, rip skin apart at seam, and remove all skin. Let luffa dry completely in the sun before storing to prevent mold.

How do I use it?

Use a luffa sponge in the shower, kitchen, or scrubbing around the house. When using a luffa, let it dry completely between uses to prevent bacteria build up. Use a luffa sponge for 3-4 weeks and then toss it into the compost bin. Luffa can be stored for several years if kept dry and dust free. It’s best stored in a box or cloth bag.

 

About the Author:

Angela Judd

Angela Judd is an avid vegetable, flower and fruit tree gardener. A mother of five children, she enjoys growing and preparing food from the garden for her family. She is a certified Master Gardener. She shares inspiration and tips to help home gardeners successfully grow their own garden on growinginthegarden.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

7 Comments
  • Darryl Vergonet
    Posted at 16:56h, 08 October Reply

    I am growing luffa this year for the first time. I live on the Michigan/Indiana border and we havae not had a frost yet. My vines are immense as are my luffa. They are still hard and green with no signs of yellow or maturity. I am not sure whether to pick them now and hang them or if I wait for the frost and they aren’t mature enough will they rot? I would weldome your opinion. Thanks.

    • kellogggarden
      Posted at 19:23h, 24 October Reply

      If they are too green the fiber may not have developed and they will not be good for use. It is okay to wait for frost if the vines die from frost and the pods quit developing they should be peeled, you want to get them before they begin to decay. If they start to darken and turn brown that is okay, if they start to turn black that is a problem.

  • Onelia
    Posted at 16:25h, 25 October Reply

    I live in FL and it seems that is Zone 8/9. If i give it a try will I succeed with the weather here?

    • Onelia
      Posted at 16:33h, 25 October Reply

      never mind!! I READ IT AGAIN. And answered my own question lol

    • Marsha Gibson
      Posted at 13:07h, 30 June Reply

      I grew them in the keys but keep them watered well

  • Nancy Scheidler
    Posted at 13:43h, 12 November Reply

    Please Help!
    We live in Northeast Ohio. This is the second year that my loofah gourds didn’t dry out on the vines before our first frost. I picked them and have had them laying out on newspaper/brown paper bags to allow them to dry inside. Unfortunately, the loofah gourds are molding instead of drying. How might I go about having them dry?

    thank you!!!

    • kellogggarden
      Posted at 18:04h, 12 November Reply

      Hi Nancy! A little mold is normal, and you can just gently scrape it off or wipe it with a rag and continue to let the gourd dry. If there is a lot of mold, there might not be enough air circulation where they are sitting. Make sure you are rotating the gourd on an elevated surface, or you can even hang them up if you can. Another good practice is to make sure you wash the gourd after picking it, you can use soapy water or 1 part bleach with 9 parts water, and rinsing well with cold water. That will remove any bacteria and prevent rotting. Hope this helps!

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