Luffa gourds are also known as luffa sponge gourd. Decades ago, this was gourd commonly used as a sponge. Use this cucumber-shaped gourd for bathing, filtering, and cleaning. And, it is still used in this way. But nowadays it is used more as a novelty decorating item. While not overly popular in the home garden, most seed companies sell luffa seeds.
Did You Know? Luffa gourds are edible! Eat them when small, like you would eat zucchini. Substitute them in any zucchini or squash recipe.
Luffa gourds should be grown on a strong fence or trellis. They need a long growing season of 150 to 200 warm, frost-free days.
The vines can grow 30 feet or more.
Other Names: This plant is also called the Dishcloth gourd and Loofah gourd.
Sow luffa seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost, and the soil has warmed. Luffa seeds need a soil temperature of at least 70 degrees to germinate.
Space plants three to four feet apart.
While the plants are sensitive to transplant shock, they can be started indoors. To minimize the risk of transplant shock, grow them in 3″ – 4″ peat pots. Then, plant the seedlings into the garden. We recommend using a heated germination mat, for faster and more successful seed germination.
Days to Germination: 10 – 20 days.
Luffa gourds grow best in warm climates with long growing seasons. Luffa plants prefer full sun.
The soil should be rich and well-draining, with lots of nitrogen to fuel its growth.
Fertilize once a month. First, begin with a high nitrogen formula. Then, switch over to a high phosphorous formula just before the blooming period. Finally, use a high potassium formula, as the fruit develops and grows.
Keep plants well-watered all season long, especially during droughts and hot weather. Mulching around plants will help to retain soil moisture.
Plants should be grown on a strong fence or trellis, strong enough to support the weight of the vines and the fruit. If grown on the ground, the fruit tends to curl.
Ideal Soil pH: 6.0 – 7.0.
Soil Temperatures – Ideal germination temperature by vegetable
Ideal Soil pH – by vegetable.
Days to Maturity: Luffa Gourds need 150 – 200 days to reach maturity. For areas with a shorter growing season, start seeds indoors. 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost in your area.
Luffa gourds are members of the Cucurbita family, which includes pumpkins, squash, watermelon, and cucumbers. They are susceptible to a wide range of insects. They include the cucumber beetle, aphids, slugs and snails, and squash vine borers.
Use insecticides regularly.
Like other Cucurbita, Luffa sponge gourds are affected by a range of fungi and viruses. Most notable is Downy and powdery mildews. Begin a fungicide treatment as soon as signs occur. Better yet, apply fungicides before the fungus hits. Start treatments when the hot and humid summer weather begins in your area.
Also see: Plant Problems
Harvest gourds for eating when small, about the size of a cucumber.
For making sponges, harvest when the fruit stops growing and the skin is loose and feels like it will come off. It is best to remove the skin at this point. If you wait until the gourd is hard, it will be more difficult to remove the skin. After removing the skin, the seeds can be shaken out, or bang the gourds against something, and they will shake or fall out.
Bleach gourds in a solution of water and 10% bleach.
Then, dry them in the sun, for 2-3 weeks.
Luffa gourds are a warm-weather crop. Spring and fall frosts will kill the plant. Cold weather in the 30s can stunt their growth. Cover the plants, if frost or cold weather is expected.