You most likely have a loofah in your bathroom to help you get silky smooth skin, but did you know that you can grow your own loofah? If this just blew your mind, it's because most people have NO idea that the loofah sponges we scrub our skin with is actually a PLANT! Believe it or not, you can actually grow loofah plants (Luffa aegyptiaca) right in your garden. Say what?! The loofah, also spelled luffa, is plant that's part of the gourd family and looks a little like a cucumber. So if you're interested in how to grow loofah plants, this article is right up your alley!
How to Grow Loofah Plants in Your Garden
A little information about the loofah plant before we dive into our guide:
- The loofah plant grows to about 30 inches in length.
- It can be called by many names including luffah, luffa, loufa, and luff.
- Although it looks like a cucumber on the outside, the inside looks just like the stuff you use in the shower – because it IS!
- Small, immature loofahs (4-8″ in length), can actually be eaten.
- When they're ready to pick, loofah turn brown and become very very light in weight.
- It can be hard to find luffa seeds at your local nursery, so your best bet is to search online seed catalogs for the following species: Luffa aegyptiaca or Luffa acutangular.
- Burpee has ornamental heirloom loofah seeds for purchase, and they come in packets of 25 seeds.
- Loofahs can be harvested young and consumed as a vegetable, or left on the vine to until they reach about 7 inches in height and used as a sponge.
Planting Loofah Plants:
- If you live in a cooler climate, start your loofah seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date.
- Purchase new loofah seeds and soak them in water for 24 hours before planting.
- If you have a seed heat pad, use that to help germination – it really works and can save you a world of troubles!
- Once the first true set of leaves have formed, transplant your loofah seedlings into biodegradable pots.
- If it's warm enough outdoors, start bringing your loofah plants outdoors for a few hours every day.
- After about a week of hardening, plant your loofah plants outdoors in full sun.
- Plant near a fence or build a trellis so the loofah vines can climb up.
- Water your plant on a regular basis.
- If a cold front comes, cover the plants with a ventilated cover.
Harvesting Loofah Plants:
- Loofah plants take a long time to develop, so be patient.
- By October, they should be ready for harvest.
- Pick the loofah before they're hit by frost, even if they're still green – you'll still be able to peel the loofahs, but it may just be a little bit harder.
- If you can, wait until the loofah plant turns brown and is light as a feather!
- Now simply peel the brown/green part off the loofahs using your thumbs (as if you're shucking corn).
- And voila, you now have your very own, naturally grown loofah sponge!
How to Prepare the Loofah Sponge
So now that you've grown your own loofah vegetable, it's time to learn how to turn it into an actual sponge that you can use in the shower! We recommend you do this outdoors, as the process can be quite messy and the loofah vegetable has a unique smell. You'll need the following things:
- A rolling pin or large stone
- A bucket with warm water and a teaspoon of bleach
- Pruning shears or scissors
- Lay the loofah on a flat and solid surface such as a table or on the ground.
- Use a rolling pin or a large stone to hit the loofah. This will knock off much of the dried outer layer. You will also see seeds come loose during this time.
- Then, use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to remove the rest of the skin. The rule of thumb is that the riper the gourd is, the easier it is to remove the skin.
- Once you've removed the skin and seeds, you'll find a coarse, fibrous material inside. The color should be dark yellow, brown, or black.
- Soak the darker loofahs in the prepared water for a few minutes. This will remove some of the dark colors, and reveal a lighter colored loofah. This step is optional.
- Remove the loofahs from the water bath and spray them down with a high pressure hose. Be sure to rinse them really well to remove any seeds or mold.
- Let the loofahs dry outside in the sun on a towel for a day or two. Turn the loofahs for even drying.
- Once dried, your loofah is ready to use in the shower or to clean your home.
- After each use, be sure to thoroughly cleanse the loofah and let it dry completely.