THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SUCCESSFULLY GROWING LUFFA SPONGES.

Wanna learn how to grow a Luffa?  Yeah. So did I.  So when I figured it out I thought … I’d better tell you exactly how to do it too!

title-how-to-grow-luffa-2

As a matter of fact, no they do not grow in the ocean. Or the sea.  Or any other body of water.  That’s always the biggest shock to people when you tell them they can grow their own luffa sponges; the fact that they grow on land, not in the water.  You’re thinking of Spongebob Squarepants.

A bit about the Luffa.

  • Luffa, Loofah.  All the same thing.
  • Luffas are part of the gourd family and grow on vines that can get to be 30′ long.  Trust me on this.
  • The part of the Luffa you’re used to seeing is actually the inside fibres of the gourd, which lay beneath the green skin.
  • Immature Luffas look pretty much like a cucumber or zucchini and can be eaten when they’re very young (4-8″ long).
  • Luffas turn brown and become light as a feather when they’re ready to pick but if there’s a danger of frost you can pick them earlier (like I did).
  • Luffas are shitheads.

 

growing-luffa

For the past decade or so I’ve been killing  myself trying to figure out how to be completely successful growing luffa in my zone 6 climate.  Luffa need a longggg growing season and they also seem to be easily frightened.  Like you can frighten a Luffa to death.  More on that in a few moments.

To figure out how to successfully grow a Luffa sponge, you have to know how to very, very unsuccessfully grow a Luffa sponge.  Luckily for you, I have all kinds of experience in that particular area.  In fact, I’ve spent the better part of a decade being really great at unsuccessfully growing Luffa sponges.  Not to brag.

How-to-grow-luffah

 

There are 3 main areas where things can go horribly wrong.

  1.  Your seeds won’t germinate. Because they’re little asshead seeds that hate you.
  2. Your little luffa seedling goes into shock when you transplant it outside and it dies of fright or at least goes into a month long coma.
  3. Your vine grows but you never get to the point of seeing fruit before the frost kills it.

I’m going to show you how to overcome all of those issues so you can grow your very own organic Luffa sponge this summer.

Handy for showers, scrubbing pots and whacking people on the head with.

grow-your-own-luffa

So how can you overcome these obstacles so that you can proudly peel your very first luffa sponge?  These few simple tips are the only thing between you and a Luffa.

HOW TO GROW LUFFA (LOOFAH) SPONGE

  1. If you’re in a cooler zone, start your Luffa seeds early, indoors, 6 weeks before the last frost date.
  2. Use new Luffa seeds and soak them in water for 24 hours prior to planting. Seeds that have been hanging around for years probably won’t germinate.
  3. Increase your success at germination by starting your seeds on a seed heat pad.
  4. Transplant into biodegradable pots once the first “true” set of leaves have formed. Using pots that decompose reduces the risk of transplant shock which Luffa plants are prone to.
  5. When the weather is right (warm soil and air) start hardening off your seedlings.  This is more important than with most other plants because Luffa are so prone to transplant shock.
  6. After a week or so of hardening off, plant your seedlings in an area that gets FULL sun.  As much sun as possible.  Anything less and you won’t get any Luffas.
  7. Plant your seedlings at the base of a really strong structure that its vines can climb on and cling to.  Chain link fence or something similar is perfect.
  8. If after planting out, a cold snap threatens, cover the seedlings with a vented cloche. A plastic pop bottle cut in half with a lot of air holes punched into it would work fine.  A few days of cold weather will STOP a luffa from growing and it could take a month before they get over the shock.
  9. Keep the Luffa watered.  No water equals no growing!  Now you wait. And wait.  And wait.
  10. By October you should have big, green Luffas.  Pick your Luffa sponges BEFORE they’re hit by frost even if they’re still green. Technically you aren’t supposed to pick them until they’re dried out and brown, but in Zone 6 it’s rare for them to get to that stage.  You can still pick them when they’re green and get perfectly acceptable Luffas.  They’re just a bit harder to peel.

peeling-luffah-sponge

 

I’ve grown Luffas before but this year was the first year I got truly, large, useable, perfect fibres inside my Luffas.  So if you read any other article on Luffa sponges that tells you you’ll only get a useable sponge from a Luffa that’s dried to a dark brown on the vine don’t believe it.  It ain’t true.

There’s a bit of a funny story behind picking my Luffa sponges this year actually.

It was Thanksgiving at my house and all but 2 of the dinner guests were slouching in the family room waiting for the turkey to hit the table and the last 2 guests to arrive.  I went in to check to see if anyone needed anything and everyone in the room happened to be discussing the weather. Because we’re Canadian.  And not especially well versed in politics.  Apparently there was going to be frost that night.

Hmm.  Interesting.

WAIT?!!!  WHAT??@!!!  TONIGHT??!!  THERE’S GOING TO BE FROST TONIGHT??!!!! SHITMOFARKLESPARX!!

And out the door I went, my bewildered Uncle Jack in tow, whizzing past the last 2 guests who were just pulling up.

B E     B  A   C  K      L    A    T      E      R !!!!!!!

In the middle of hosting Thanksgiving dinner I left all of my guests in my house and dragged my Uncle up to my community garden, a 5 minute drive away, to pick all of my Luffas.  They weren’t dried and brown on the vine yet but I knew if they got hit by frost they’d be ruined.  They’d either turn to “ick” or they’d become all discoloured inside.  Since we were already there I figured I might as well pick the rest of my tomatoes, kale, green beans, jalapenos and red peppers.  Since we were there.

grow-your-own-luffah-sponges

In an ideal world Luffa gourds will become around 24″ inches long and go from dark green, the light green, to yellowish, to completely dried out, crispy and brown on the vine.  But if your growing climate isn’t long enough, you may just end up with vines covered in dark and light green gourds, which is what I ended up with.

I left them to dry out a tiny bit on my front porch after picking them for about a month and then I couldn’t stand it anymore and started to peel away the skin.

To my amazement, underneath all that tough skin were perfect luffa sponges.

growing-luffah

The green skin is hard to get off but with with my stubby, bionic, man-baby thumbs I managed quite nicely.

Two of my 6 Luffas had matured enough that the seeds inside were big and dark.  THESE are the perfect seeds for saving for planting.

PLANTING

So let’s talk about how to plant your seeds and WHY a seed heat pad is so important to successful germination of Luffa seeds.

Last year when I planted my Luffa seeds I planted them, kept them watered and waited.  Nothin’.  I got nothin’ for over a month.  In fact I’d given up on them when 3 of the 15 or so seeds that I planted sprouted.

This year I didn’t want to go through that uncertainty, plus I wanted to write this post on how to successfully grow Luffa sponges and that wasn’t going to happen if I couldn’t even germinate a few seeds myself.

So I went out and bought this seed heating pad.  Luffa seeds like a lot of consistent heat to germinate and grow.  I figured the $20 it cost for the seed heating pad would be worth it if it would guarantee germination.

And it did.

 

results-of-heating-pad-with-seedlings

I started 2 pots of Luffa seeds.  I set one pot on the heating pad and one on an unheated tray.

The seeds on the heating pad germinated within 3 days at a rate of 100% (all 6 seeds sprouted).  The seeds that were unheated germinated in 10 days at a rate of 50% (3 seeds sprouted).

I kept the seeded pots in their respective places as they grew and the heated seedlings grew at twice the speed as the unheated ones.

So.

If you’re serious about growing your own Luffa buy the heated seed pad.  It also happens to be the perfect size for sitting an entire seed tray on so you can use it to increase the germination rate of other seeds that like bottom warmth to germinate like tomatoes, asparagus, peas and peppers.

It’s also working GREAT for my Sweet Potato slips, but that information is for another post.  I’m getting significantly better growth than I did with my old Sweet Potato slip growing method.

 

LUFFAH-seedling-3

Once your Luffa seedlings have their first “true” set of leaves (the leaves that look like the leaves of the actual plant, not the first set of leaves which are just practice leaves basically) you can transplant them into their own pots.

 

luffah-seedlings-2

 

Gently separate the seedlings and plant them in either store bought biodegradable pots or make your own newspaper pots like I show you here.

 

luffa-seedling-grow-your-own

 

Biodegradable pots can be planted right in the ground making the very, VERY finicky Luffa plant less likely to go into transplant shock.

Don’t have a big vegetable garden?  No problem.  You can plant Luffa plants in a big pot on a balcony or backyard as long as you provide the vines with something to grow on. Don’t forget they can easily get to be 30′ long under the right conditions.

 

grow-your-own-luffa-sponge

 

Part of the reason I had such good success with my germination rate is that I harvested the seeds myself, from my own Luffa, only a few months ago.  That’s half the battle, having fresh seeds. But if you don’t have that luxury  you can buy a packet of luffa seeds on Amazon for $2.99 from the very reputable Renee’s Garden seed company.  

So there.  Now I’ve told you how to do it.  My job is done.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

241 Comments

  1. gee schwalenstocker says:

    Planted luffa sponges for the first time this year.. got vines, doing very little at first .. not early September, I am having yellow flowers on them and small luffa’s growing.. I have one that is already 7 inches long .. excited about them growing.. when transplanting anything, my son, who worked for a landscape place for awhile.. told me to get vitamin B complex and dissolve about 4 in a gallon of water… (I heat mine in a micro wave in a small cup with water first).. then dig hole for the plant and fill the hole with the vitamin water.. then put dirt in and dump the vitamin water again.. I water this way for another day .. have had great luck with plants not going into shock..

    • Karen says:

      Interesting! I only have a couple of luffa this year from my two plants. I’m *hoping* they have enough tie to grow to maturity! ~ karen

  2. Julie Angileri says:

    They grow exceptionally well here in Phoenix. My question is, without frost how long will they survive?

    • Karen says:

      Wow! That’s quite a vine. I actually don’t know first hand how long they’d last in a non frost environment. They’re in the gourd family though so if you’ve ever grown gourds or squash it would be a similar length of time (but probably longer) ~ karen!

  3. Melissa says:

    First time growing loofah. Many beautiful yellow blooms, dozen or so hanging loofahs. Many pollinators were visiting today. Hope to harvest mid October in zone 7, middle Tennessee, USA. Fun so far!

  4. I got someseeds from amazon and they took a longtime to arrive. I was worried we wouldn’t have a long enough growing season here in Oklahoma. I planted 10 seeds in my greenhouse in bacto soil. I got 6 seedlings andonce they had 2 sets of leaves, I transplanted them to the large 7’ tall fan trellis. 5/6 survived and within 6 weeks had easily climbed to the top of the trellis. One big rain storm brought the luffa vines up to the hanging branches of my neighbor’s tree and by morning, it had climbed 4 foot into the tree. I talked to my neighbor to make sure it was ok to let the vines climb and now I have about 30-40 gourds, Some almost 3 foot long hanging from the canopy of the 3 trees along the fence line. Amazing plants. I hope I have thismuch luck next year.

    • Karen says:

      WOW! It sounds like yours did great! Mine went into shock (again!) this year and I’ll be lucky if I get 3 of them! If we get a few more warm days and some rain I might get 4 or 5. But considering I’m Zone 6 that’s still pretty good. 🙂 Congratulations on yours. It sounds like you’re going to have a lot of peeling in your future. ~ karen!

    • Andrea says:

      Bacto is magical soil that anything will grow in. I don’t ise anything else for starting seeds.

  5. SUSAN E BELLANTONIO says:

    Karen
    I am new to the loofah conglomerate and I have to tell you that I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE your writing style! I am looking forward to reading so much more from you!

    Stay groovy!

    Sue

  6. Suzanne Carson says:

    I’m in Ottawa and I have 8 big luffahs that are still green. First year luffah grower. Very confused and worried as to what to do now that I had to pick them still green. You left them lying down for one month before peeling them? Hopefully hearing from you soon. Some have yellowed a bit but most still green. HELP!!

    • Karen says:

      Ok. Everybody calm down, lol. It’s ok. They’ll still basically be green when you peel them. It’s not ideal but it’s what we in colder climates have to do. 🙂 I just leave them to dry out a bit before peeling them. My idea is that it makes them a bit easier to peel. As long as they don’t look like they’re going black and rotting, you’re doing good. ~ karen!

  7. Sarah K. says:

    This is such a helpful post! I followed the directions (mostly) when hubby was gifted seeds from a friend’s garden. It was late in the season so I only planted a couple seeds–but because of your advice I was patient with them. Low and behold, we have luffah! Thanks!!

    • Karen says:

      That’s great! I just picked mine yesterday. 🙂 Only 2 grew to maturity but one of them is huge, so that should last me the year anyway. ~ karen!

  8. Charmion says:

    This is an adorable and helpful article. I’m in Australia (Melbourne) and just started soaking my seeds. I might try doing your technique on the heatmat and also try germinating a few others with the moist paper towel in a partially open ziplock bag on the heat mat also. Is there anything important about the soil needs?

  9. Nikki Brooks says:

    I would freaking love to grow a loofah… YESSSSSsss

  10. AMY COHAN says:

    My friend grew them in NJ gave me one so now I have seeds gonna give it a shot!

  11. Jan says:

    Hi,

    Great article! How did you let the green luffas dry on your porch without molding or rotting?

    Thanks!

  12. Barbara Walters says:

    Hey! I’m in SC and have some awesome vines and fruit on my vines! Some are over a foot long!!! It’s supposed to freeze tonight for the first time, today is November 10th so I guess I will have to pick them all today.😟 so I sure hope some of them will be far enough along to get a good luffa!!! Should I let them dry in their shell inside for a while or peel them now? They are still dark green and not dried out yet! Will they turn to mush if it freezes??? Thanks!
    Barbara

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara! They can get damaged if it freezes. The thing is, if it’s cold enough to have frosts and freezes then your luffas probably aren’t going to be maturing anymore so you might as well pick them no matter what. I did an experiment this year and peeled my luffa right away instead of letting them dry and they turned out fine so if you’re excited to see how they are you can do that too. You can tell by the weight of them and how spongey they feel whether or not they have developed the fibres inside. Unfortunately this year most of mine hadn’t developed their fibres, but I got a few. Good luck! ~ karen

  13. Ashley says:

    Just went down a rabbit hole in the world of the internet, and have come across your blog. Love everything about it! Now, I’m thinking I need to buy all the things Luffa related – seeds, heating mat, etc! Look forward to reading through the rest of your blog!

  14. Cassie says:

    I found this blog while trying to figure out if it’s even possible to grow luffa in my zone 5 area. And you nearly killed me with your writing — because I was struggling so hard not to burst out laughing. (Roommates were studying.)

    My mom had a real luffa as well as a real sea sponge when I was but a wee tot. I remember thinking the luffa looked like a haystack. Here’s hoping next year I’ll have my own real luffa!

    • Karen says:

      You’ll be cutting it close in zone 5 but totally doable if you’re very careful about starting it early, watering it and being careful transplanting it. Not a funny answer, but the truth. Huh. I sort of feel like I should end this with a knock knock joke. ~ karen!

  15. Micayla says:

    I’m in zone 7 and we grew loofahs 2 years ago I think. It might be 3, I honestly don’t remember. Ours grew like crazy but we also have long hot summers. We here I am a couple years later from the last time we grew loofahs (we got a ton and haven’t needed to grow more) and I’m showering with my loofah. I get to looking at it and low and behold there’s not one, not two but THREE seeds growing in my loofah. So I open up my loofah and carefully remove them and any other seeds I found. So now here I am with 3 growing seeds and 3 more than may or may not grow. A loofah was the last thing I ever expected to be growing in my shower.

    • Karen says:

      Hahahaha!! Well. That’s certainly one way to propagate luffas. It looks like I’m wasting my time being so diligent about getting all the seeds out of mine. I should probably just let them stick in there until they sprout. ~ karen!

  16. Micayla says:

    I’m in zone 7 and we grew loofahs 2 years ago I think. It might be 3, I honestly don’t remember. Ours grew like crazy but we also have long hot summers. Well here I am a couple years later from the last time we grew loofahs (we got a ton and haven’t needed to grow more) and I’m showering with my loofah. I get to looking at it and low and behold there’s not one, not two but THREE seeds growing in my loofah. So I open up my loofah and carefully remove them and any other seeds I found. So now here I am with 3 growing seeds and 3 more than may or may not grow. A loofah was the last thing I ever expected to be growing in my shower.

  17. I laughed when I read this post. I bought seeds one year and tossed them around my chain link dog pen. Watered about once a week really well if we didn’t get any rain. I got about 50 luffa from 8 seeds. I have never bought another seed or planted another luffa. They come up everywhere. I also had the same luck with birdhouse gourds. Florida can be a wonderful place to grow stuff.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, that wouldn’t work in Toronto, Canada, lol. Although that’s exactly how my snapdragons and cilantro grows. Planted them once and now they’re the never ending plants. Good job with the luffa! ~ karen

  18. Beth says:

    Since they are so sensitive to transplant shock, why start them in bulk containers and later transplant to individual pots? (Btw, this is called “pricking out”; and yes, the jokes write themselves).
    Usually, the reason to to do this is saving water and space in the greenhouse/heat mat. Or you’re market gardener and grow a ton. But I have so little frustration tolerance that I have to reserve it for humans and can’t be wasting it on plants. So I save pricking out for cooperative crops like cabbage and eggplant. Persnickety little jerks like luffa and cauliflower just get a private room to begin with.
    And yeah, I’m also in zone 6 and gave luffa another try after learning from a neighbor who grows them every single year that she’s NEVER gotten them brown and crispy, but that’s ok.

  19. Dana Jenkins says:

    Thanks for sharing your luffa experience. (much like mine bahahaha) I have been trying for years. I have no problem planting, and growing luffas but harvesting is another story. I have always waited until they were dry on the vine then the inside would not be a nice color it would be spotted, while some people like polka dots, I don’t. I will try picking them while still green and see how that works for me. Thanks for the info and the laugh.

  20. Dawn says:

    OK, I just found you on Pinterest and don’t usually bother to comment when a blog has this many cuz I figure you’re never going to see it anyway, but just in case…..I’m also a gardening blogger so I read A LOT of gardening blogs and I haven’t actually snorted while laughing while reading ANY (except yours!) Oh my. You definitely tickled my funny bone. And I’m really glad you “failed” so many times with luffa because I actually bought my first packet of seeds this year and am also coincidentally in Zone 6 so will be following your advice to the letter. We shall see! There will probably be a blog post from me about my adventures, but it won’t be as funny as yours (maybe I’ll just send my readers to you, it will be easier, LOL). Have a great day.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Dawn! Well with luffas the material kind of writes itself. I mean just the word luffa is funny. As long as you follow along you’ll definitely get some luffa! The critical stages are transplanting them and then the rest of every single day that they’re growing. Other than that, they’re a breeze. ~ karen!

  21. Kate says:

    Hey! I would like to plant my loofahs in pots. How big should they be?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kate. Do you mean to grow outside? If that’s the case they need to be as big a pot as you can possibly find. The size you’d normally find a tree in at a nursery. ~ karen!

  22. Dodie says:

    Hi. I just found out about these last summer. I’m super stoked to get started this year. Question. I’m wondering if its possible to use a warming plate instead of that seed heater to help germinate t by e seeds? What say you?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dodie. I wouldn’t, no. Seed pads are built for getting wet and dirty and being left on for long periods (weeks) of time. Warming plates are not. ~ karen!

  23. Sam Burke says:

    What if you have green house?! Would they grow better (like they did w the heating pad?!) it gets up to 80 in there in the summer?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sam! Do you mean to start your luffa in the greenhouse? That would work only if the greenhouse is 80 in the months the plants need to be started, so in around April or so. ~ karen!

  24. Andrea says:

    When I found out that luffas didnt come from the ocean I was determined to grow my own. Last season, I bought seeds and planted 8 in a seed tray outside. All of them came up and I had no issues when I transplanted them into my garden. I ended up with about 20 or so luffas, some of which molded because they got frosted on in the Fall. This year I am expanding and planning on growing a lot more. My husband and I built a huge bamboo trellis for them to climb. I am excited!

  25. Ashley Lowe says:

    Sounds like you should move to Florida! Planted the seeds in March. Every seed sprouted and transplanted fine.

  26. Regina Patrick says:

    Okay, not only did I know this note did I ever think about it, but your article is quite funny. It was no doubt informative. Definitely peaked my interest. But it was refreshingly real. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Leslie Nichols says:

    I was lucky enough to get some Loofah seeds at my daughter in laws in Alabama. Hers grew all over the place. I brought them home to Washington, and forgot about them. We moved to Providence, Utah, where it is so hot like in the 100’s all summer. We moved in last June, it is now end of April, and I just came across my seeds again. Do you think I have any chance of them growing? They are 2 years old. It snows suddenly like from hot to cold we are near the Mountains, but in Cache Valley. It snowed suddenly just a few days before Thanksgiving. But it was very warm right up to the snow. No frost before that. Is it to late?

  28. valerie says:

    I love this article! Thank you for walking me through growing luffas! I have a few seedlings under grow lights right now, wishing I had seen your article much earlier and used a heat pad! Might try to get one yet. You made me laugh out loud at SHITMOFARKLESPARX!!….I shall be practicing that word so I can add it to my vocabulary in case of emergency!

  29. Ann McCarron says:

    Best blog post I’ve read in ages! I received my luffa seeds today. I’m in zone 9 (Ireland) and would love to grow these in my poly tunnel. Is it too late to start?

  30. Eve says:

    I just found your blog, and it is exactly what I am looking for. Last fall my kids gave me a loofah with the seeds still intact. I dried the seeds out over the winter and planted them about three weeks ago. They are sprouting beautifully, and now I was wondering what to do with them. Your blog answered all my questions. Now I am making newspaper pots to transplant the baby loofah. My biggest problem is that I divided the 50 more or less seeds I had into two pots. I have lots of sprouts, but needless to say, they may well be root bound. Hopefully I will have the pots finished soon and be able to separate my babies. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  31. Gill Adams says:

    Thanks! I had just given up on germinating my loofah seeds (South East England – so a more forgiving climate than yours) when I found your post. I’d put them in smallish pots about a month ago and cosseted them in my conservatory, dithering about with more or less water, and more or less of a cosy plastic cover, and thinking, ‘oh gill, why do you keep experimenting – why not stick to growing spuds and raspberries.’ Anyway, your comments were reassuring – only another 9.5 years to go! THEN I went to the conservatory and LO AND BEHOLD, the little darlings have broken the surface. That’s a change in less than one day – we’ve had an uplift in night time temps here plus I’d squirted water at them this morning and plastic-jacketed. Now all I have to do is get them through nursery school, juniors, secondary school, sixth form college, higher ed – and I’ll have some jolly loofahs! I could of course buy some – but where’s the fun in that. I’ll re-read your tips. And thanks!!!! Gill

    • gill says:

      Am replying to my own post (ie, adding to it) – can anyone tell me if I could grow them on in a container as my trellis isn’t near soil? Would it need a big container? Half dustbin, for example?

  32. Mary Cerovski says:

    I am currently growing luffas in zone 4. Thank goodness for your article, moving to a more all day sun location. I started mine in a grow tent under 24 hour light so they took off and were quite big when we put them outside. It was my 13 year old sons idea to grow them so I hope we get at least 1.

    • Karen says:

      Good luck Mary! I hope you do well! In zone 6b here we’ve had a lateeee start to spring/summer so I’m hoping I get even just one myself, lol. ~ karen!

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