Luffa Information - How To Grow Luffa - From Seed

Growing Instructions for Luffa From Seed

Credit: Most of this growing guide was obtained from Luffa Info. I did purchase some seeds from them and was very satisfied with both their info and seeds. Very reputable folks. I have added some comments from my experience growing luffa.

Growing Luffa

Here are a few tips for growing Luffa plants. Luffa vines are hot weather, full sun plants. They do the best growing on a trellis or fence that gets sun on both sides of the vine. Plants can survive and even thrive in partial shade as long as they get direct sunlight during part of the day.

Last Frost Date

Seeds or plants can be planted outdoors after the soil has warmed and there is no danger of frost. The temperature is important. Seeds will not sprout and plants will slow or stop growing unless the soil temperature is near 70 degrees F (21 C) or warmer. The soil is usually warm enough about a week after the spring frost-free planting date for most areas. For our area here in Fannin County last frost date in May 11. For other areas recommend using Dave's Garden to look up your last frost date by zipcode.

The small plants won't tolerate frost or much cold weather. Seeds can be planted directly in the ground for warmer climates (USDA zones 7 and up). Plant 3 or 4 seeds one half to one inch deep. Germination time varies and can be over two weeks, as long as a month for very dry hard seeds. It is typically 7 to 10 days. Wrapping the seeds in a moist towel or paper towel for 1 to 2 days before planting will speed germination. See Germinating Luffa Seeds. Seeds can also be germinated before planting by keeping the towel moist and in a warm place until the seeds germinate. If your growing season is marginal it may be better to start plants indoors before outdoor planting time. If you are not sure about your area, try both. Start seeds early in pots and also plant seeds directly in the ground after the last frost date.

For pots, plant 3 seeds about 1/2 inch deep 3 to 5 weeks before the spring frost-free date. It's okay to plant extra seeds if you have them. Sometimes Luffa is erratic in how it germinates. It's better to have too many plants than have none. Thin to one plant per pot or planting location. For cooler climates, plants can be started more than a month ahead as long as the pots are large (6 inch or larger). The soil has to be kept wwarm and slightly moist but not soggy. Luffa won't tolerate poorly drained muddy soil.

Transplanting Plants

Once frost danger has passed, transplant gently into the ground outside. Luffa plants are slightly sensitive to transplant shock. Sitting the pots outside for a day or two before transplanting helps the plants adjust. If the soil is not warm, they will not grow. Space at least 18 inches apart. Two to four feet is better as vines need more space than roots.

Feeding Your Luffa

The roots need lots of space and food so mixing compost in the soil before planting helps them grow. It's preferable to do this a few months earlier, or even in the fall, to give it time to absorb into the soil. To grow totally organic luffa, mix in a larger amount of material to feed them throught the season and/or use organic fertilizers. Seedlings need mostly nitrogen. The vines also need potash and phosphate for blooming but can bloom prematurely if too much is added at the seedling stage. Try to keep a good balance of fertilizer elements or the ratio of male to female flowers may be altered. Too much fertilizer can burn and stunt the plants, especially if rain is lacking. Whatever fertilizers are used, mix well and work into the soil.

Seedlings are more vulnerable to damage by pests than the large vines. Establishing the plants is the hard part. They grow slowly while building a root system. Keep the weeds off them when they are small. A covering of mulch will warm the soil, reduce weeds, and increase yields in the long term. Small plants may need occasional watering until the roots become established. Once the luffa plants start to vine, you don't need to do much but add water if it gets too dry and fertilize if needed. The leaves will wilt during the day if they need water.

The vines need lots of climbing and growing space on a sturdy trellis. They grow well on arbors, gates, fencing, and lattice. The vines prefer to grow vertically on taller trellises if possible. They will climb a pole or wall with a rough surface. The vine tendrils need many contact points as the fruits can get very heavy. Avoid using insecticide near the blooms as the flowers require bees and other insects for pollination. A shortage of bees will reduce the yield. Ants are also attracted to the flowers. The flowers can be hand pollinated.

Extra seeds can be stored in a cool place and are typically good for a couple of years. It's best to seal them in airtight containers and refrigerate or freeze the seeds for long-term storage. I have tested seeds after three years and germination rate was over 80%.

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