You only need one luffa seed to feel like a master gardener.
Luffa, sometimes spelled loofah, actually refers to the fruit of the vine. Luffa aegyptiaca is a member of the cucumber (Cucurbitaceae) family. It can be eaten in the young fruit stage, or it can grow big, allowing an intricate network of fibers to form that are commonly used in the kitchen or bathroom as a scrubber sponge.
And you just thought it was a sponge from the ocean!…
This vine is particularly in love with the hot and humid regions of the Gulf Coast areas of Texas. It seems like the hotter it gets mid-August, the more the plant thrives (as long as you water it every once in a while).
The cool thing about luffa, is that it only takes one seed to look like this.
Yep. This was 1 volunteer seed that found its way to this raised garden bed. Luckily, I knew what it was, so I allowed it to stay and grow.
In the morning, the flowers open up to attract pollinators.
In the evenings, the flowers close up and actually fall off.
Luffa has a very long growing season. I typically plant mine in March and I do not usually see fruit until July. To save you from having to do the math, that is about 150 days from planting seeds!
I stumbled across luffa seeds some time ago (like 2004ish). At the time, it was not popular to plant and there was little information about how to germinate them. I did what any good gardener does, I threw it in some dirt, and holy Batman! I can now feed the entire town with the number of seeds I have collected over the years.
A few things I have learned after growing them for several years:
*Growing luffa in the south is very different than growing in the north. We can basically ignore the plant and it thrives. No babying here.
*Direct sow is the best way to plant. I have yet to transplant luffa successfully.
*Due to the very long growing season, it is more difficult to grow up north.
*One vine will TAKE OVER. Be prepared. It is seriously like Jack and the Beanstalk.
*Bees LOVE the bright colored flowers on luffa.
*You must be patient and let the luffa dry on the vine. Do not pull it up and try to dry it inside. You will get a moldy mess.
*Luffa is pretty bug resistant (except ants seem to love the flowers) and the plant is very forgiving if you forget to water it.
So what do I do with all of the luffa that I grow? Make soap scrubbers of course! Read about that here–> Luffa Sponges