Growing Luffa Sponges:
What To Do and What Not To Do
I don’t really know what I used to think a luffa sponge was. I guess I thought it came from the ocean, but never did I ponder the idea of it growing in my own yard on a vine! Did you know you can eat them while they’re young? I won’t be doing that with my luffa, but instead, I’ll be hanging them to dry to use as sponges. Here’s my journey through growing luffas.
I found out that luffas grow on vines because I was on another bloggers website, whom I now forget, and she was writing about how challenging it was to grow them. Well, I was open for a good challenge so I bought some seeds! I remembered reading the luffa seeds would take a very long time to germinate, but mine only took tops two weeks! I got them from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and really do recommend them as a seed company. I’ve been buying all my seeds from them now and I’m so pleased with the outcome.
Once I bought these seeds, put them in the ground and they popped up almost immediately. No soaking or chilling required!
Soil and Location
I read that luffa like rich, well-draining soil so that’s what I put them in. We have sandy soil here in West Central Florida so I was sure to mix in some quality, home-made compost! With the well-draining characteristic of the sand and the rich humus and nutrients from the compost, it ended up being the perfect combination of sand: soil.
As for location, your vines need somewhere that has lots of sun exposure! My luffa vines get sun all day long and they love it. You want to trellis your luffa so the 1-2 foot (Yes, you read that right!) gourds don’t rest on the ground to potentially rot. I set mine up by a fence and they took off and took over! Here’s a picture of how they started out. (This picture was taken June 27, 2018, and the seeds were planted May 17, 2018!):
I live in Florida so we get a fair amount of water from the rain. Actually, I’ve probably my hose on a total of 10-15 times since May! Needless to say, our electric bill has been pleasantly low all summer because we haven’t had to use our well quite as much. Thanks, Mother Nature! On the dry days, I give the base of the vines a nice soak and I’ve also mulched them since the rain is slowing down a tad bit here in September. My luffas are thriving!
If your luffa seeds get waterlogged, they won’t survive. So if your yard puddles after rains, then you can do yours in pots! Just make sure to have a good, strong trellis for them. By August 3, 2018, my vines looked like this:
This looks all fine and dandy but I read that vines can grow up to 30 feet! I didn’t really believe it at first but I was soon proven wrong. Don’t worry, I’ll show you a picture! Needless to say, the twine I strung between the posts for the trellis was soon weighed down by luscious leaves and thick stems. Next year I’ll construct something out of wood!
Luffas love hot weather. I read they can take around 4-5 months to reach maturity so I’m nearing that date now. Planted in mid-May, I’m at the four-month mark! I read someone who claims they planted their luffa seeds in June and were harvesting mature gourds by the end of July but I’m not sure how that’s possible. Maybe he lived in an extremely hot location! If you live in a cooler location with a shorter growing season, your luffa will take longer to mature. I got my first bloom August 13, 2018, and boy was it pretty. Soon after I got my first bloom, I noticed my first gourd. The gourd is high up in a nearby lemon tree. I mentioned earlier I’d show you a picture that proves the vines can reach as long as 30 feet, and I’m sure more if allowed.
Below you’ll see my first flower, my first gourd, and how intense the luffa vine took over. Also, I’ll add a picture of all the beautiful bumble bees were invited to my yard by the blooms. I love them and they love the luffa flowers so I’m totally okay with the bee party that takes place every day all day. I’ll really miss them when they go, but look forward to them next year. If bees aren’t your thing, don’t plant luffas or plant them somewhere that you don’t have to pass by so often.
Harvesting and Drying
This is a step I’ll be taking soon. I’ve seen a few different folks advise a few different ways to determine when the luffa are ready to harvest. Some say to wait until they turn brown and the skin dries and others say to harvest and peel them once the skin feels “loose”. Apparently, if you wait until the skin is brown they’re much harder to peel. It’s pretty confusing but I have so many luffas on the vine that I’m going to try one and see how it goes. Once I noticed my first luffa, they started popping up all over the place! I have at least 10 large gourds right now and I notice new smaller once every day.
As far as drying goes, after I peel my luffa gourd, I’ll lay them on a screen and set them in the sun every day for a couple weeks. I think I’ll make a YouTube video of this and will be sure to put up another post for the folks interested. I hope to dye some of the sponges with natural vegetable dyes, too! If you’re thinking about growing luffa sponges, I say YES, definitely do it. Also, these would make a GREAT Christmas gift!
So to summarize:
- Plant your luffa seeds in a well-draining, sunny area.
- Construct a strong trellis to support your vines all seasons.
- Admire all the bumble bees you’ll attract.
- BE PATIENT! Once you see that first bloom and gourd, it’ll take off from there
- Buy your seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. (No, I am not an affiliate, I just really love them!)
- Tell me if you’re growing luffa grouds so we can chat about it!
- Send me pictures of your vines!
- Harvest them too early.
- Shade them because the flowers close, this is normal.
- Plant them near the house if you’re scared of bees.
- Plant them on a fence that is already falling apart. This one I’ll telling you from experience…but I guess I’ll finally be fixing the fence after the season is done!
- Over water them. Remember, waterlogged seeds means so germination!