Uff da, it’s a luffa!
This is my first time growing loofah’s. They are also known as smooth loofah, smooth loofah, loofah sponge, loofa, luffa, loufa, luffa, loufah, sponge gourd, Chinese okra, elephant okra and dishrag gourd.
It was so exciting back in May to see the loofah vines pop up and start to climb the fence. They really took off. The germination of your seeds may take up to 24 days, but most likely they will sprout in about a week. I have read that they need the soil to be around 70F or warmer to germinate and even then they may take their own sweet time. I decided to soak my seeds in water for a few hours before I planted them and I didn’t have any problems.
The flowers are so beautiful. When I look over at the fence and see the vines covered with clusters of yellow flowers, they look very tropical to me. Like big hibiscus flowers.
I have recently learned the loofah originated in India and are considered a sub-tropical plant. While we are quite a hot climate in South Texas we don’t have nearly enough water for the loofah to grow on its own here, so I must water them. In fact a day without water here in our high 90F heat means the vines start to wilt. In terms of maturity, one source claims the loofah needs approximately 160 day to reach maturity, but there is another source stating it could be 130-220 days. I know I have plenty of time for them to reach maturity here before we freeze (late Nov). We remain quite hot here through September and into October and my neighbor successfully grew them last summer even though she planted them quite late in the spring.
In mid-June I was so excited to see the loufah’s start to form. It is amazing how fast they are growing. In just a few days to a week they can grow in length a few inches.
I knew I was going to plant my seeds along the metal fence that is between our back yard and our neighbors property. I also planted my banana gourd seeds along that same fence. After doing some reading (after the fact – which isn’t always the best thing) I learned that the loofah’s need something sturdy to climb, so I made a good choice after all. I know the banana gourds I have on the fence would normally vine along the ground and their large dense leaves shade the gourds as they are growing and developing. On the fence I was a bit worried because all the baby banana gourds that were developing all shriveled up. I knew they would grow well in full sun, but on the fence the gourd itself is much more exposed to that full sun. I thought I made a huge mistake, but the banana gourds are finally developing and growing too (post on those later). So far, they also don’t look anything like the gourd I cut open to get the seeds from. I will be patient and wait and watch them grow along side the loofah’s.
Right now there are six nice sized loofah’s growing. The vines continue to flower and I have spotted a few more baby loofah’s already growing and I imagine there are more yet to come.
The main reason I wanted to grow loofah’s is to use them in my soap making. Of course they are just plain fun too. They will also be nice to use as a scrubber at the kitchen sink for washing dishes.
The loofah is part of the cucurbit family (includes gourds, cucumbers and pumpkins) and if you pick them at a young age they are edible (tastes likes something a combination of cucumber and zucchini – so I have heard!), but they can also be quite bitter. Maybe next year I will eat some of them, but for this year, I am just going to enjoy watching them grow and mature so I can dry them and use them in other ways.
With all the other mishaps in the garden this year, I am certainly happy to see these loofah’s growing.
Have you have any experiences growing loofah?