Something Different For Your Garden – Luffa Sponge Plants

Mar 1, 2021 | Old Articles

Growing Luffa Sponges

Many people have a luffa sponge in their bathroom, but did you know that they grow in a garden and not the ocean?

The luffa is part of the gourd family and is grown in the garden on vines that can grow up to thirty meters long. 

To try something a little different this year in the garden, we are taking on the challenge of growing these fun vegetables.

You might be asking the question, “Isn’t it a little early to talking about gardening?” and while the answer is always “No”, this year it will be especially important to plan your gardens early as seed companies have been experiencing high demand and shipping times may be longer than usual.  Our seeds ordered at the end of January took until March to arrive. 

To grow luffas in our climate some planning is required…and it’s important to be okay if things don’t go exactly as planned…after all gardening is about trying new things and learning from your mistakes. Here’s what we are doing to get our luffas off to a good start.

The first step is to start the luffa seeds early.  Luffas require a long growing season, so it is important to start them as early as possible.  In our climate that means starting the seeds indoors at least 8 weeks before the last frost date.  For Calgary, the last frost date is typically mid to late May. 

Luffa seeds like to be spoiled before they germinate.  Soaking the luffa seeds for 24 hours before planting will help encourage them to get going.  A seed heating mat will also increase the chances of the luffa seeds sprouting. 

Luffa seedlings are very tender and care needs to be taken when transplanting them into the garden.  Biodegradable pots will help ensure you don’t upset the luffa’s tender roots and protect them from transplant shock.  While commercially available biodegradable pots are available, for our luffa seedlings we are going to use homemade pots made using a bottle and some newspaper.  Newspaper will break down much faster in the garden soil making it easy to transplant the entire pot into the ground without upsetting the roots. 

Some plants are okay with a brief hardening off period, but luffas will require a proper hardening period once the air has warmed up.  A week of moving the luffa seedlings outside for brief exposure while they become adapted to the natural elements will allow the seedlings to embrace the sunshine and wind without a major shock. 

A location that receives a lot of sunshine will be needed for the luffa plants to grow.  To give our luffas the best chance possible we have chosen a south facing wall made of brick.  The wall will provide great support for the large plants and the brick will absorb extra warmth to keep our luffas warm in the evening. 

Once mid-August arrives, pinch off any new flowers that form to allow all the luffa’s energy to be directed to the fruit that is already growing.  The fruits will need all the extra energy they can get to grow large enough in our short growing season. 

Keeping the luffas well hydrated throughout the summer is very important.  They will also need a feeding with a good quality organic fertilizer once a month during the growing season. 

Let the luffa fruit stay on the vine as long as possible to mature and remove them before the first hard frost.  In warmer cities the luffa would have enough time to dry out completely on the vine and turn brown, but in Calgary they will likely be removed before this while still green. 

Stay tuned for updates on our Luffa Sponge growing adventures.