If you’ve ever used a loofah, you know how luxurious these sponges can be. They’re absorbent, with just the right amount of exfoliating power to remove dead skin. They make good options for scrubbing dishes as well, making them a great replacement for scrub sponges or steel wool. They’re renewable and environmentally friendly because they come from a plant!
What Is a Loofah, Anyway?
The loofah sponge comes from the luffa plant. It’s easy to grow, and the gourds can be cooked like okra and eaten when young. However, here in the United States, it’s most commonly grown until full maturity to be used as loofahs or luffa sponges. The gourds are harvested, dried, and peeled to reveal the fibrous inner husk that we use to scrub.
Growing Luffa Plants
To grow luffa plants, you’ll want to consider the length of your growing season.
Luffa is a warm-weather plant, so if you have 150-200 frost-free days in a row, you can sow seeds directly outdoors once the temperature is high enough. If you live north of Zone 8, start luffa seeds indoors 6-8 weeks in advance in a seed starting mix to give them a good head start.
Use scarification or soak the seeds for 48 hours to improve germination rates. Keep your seeds warm and moist until they sprout, and provide plenty of light.
When night temperatures are above 55°F, harden off well-established luffa seedlings before transplanting them outside. Luffa plants love moist, well-drained, rich soil. Find a sunny spot where they can grow, and provide them with 1-2 inches of water a week.
Support for Luffa Plants
It’s important to provide a trellis or some sort of support for luffa vines. They can grow over 30 feet during the growing season, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty of room for the vine to climb. The hanging luffa gourds need to be able to drape down to grow straight. It’s much easier to peel and use a straight loofah than one that’s curved. These vines provide shade, and the visual appeal of the long-hanging fruit will be a striking addition to your garden.
Harvesting Loofah/Luffa Sponges
Luffa plants will start producing around 60 days after planting. However, if you want to make loofah sponges, they will need 100 to 200 days to mature.
Make sure to harvest your luffa before frost sets in. These plants are not frost-tolerant, and letting the fruit sit on the vine will cause them to rot in place. Instead, harvest them and dry them out before peeling them and revealing the loofahs within.
If you’re curious, yes, luffa sponge is also edible at the green stages while they are still small. They taste a bit like okra, and you can fry them. Most people grow them for loofahs, but there’s nothing wrong with eating some of your harvest, too.
Extra Loofah Tips:
Luffa sponges can be used for scrubbing in the kitchen as well. They're environmentally friendly and can be added to your compost bin instead of the trash.
When cut into pieces, luffa sponges make a beautiful natural soap dish.
Unused loofah sponges can be stored indefinitely. Once dried, these natural scrubbers won't rot.
If you’ve got a sunny spot and some room for luffa to climb, you should try your hand at growing this unique plant. It’s fun and rewarding! Your vine should produce enough luffa gourds to provide you with plenty of gifts to share, too. You’ll feel great knowing you’ve grown a biodegradable alternative that does a better job than many of the other options out there.
Interested in learning more about growing luffa? Here are some suggested resources:
Written By Teresa Chandler
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