Master Gardeners: Is it luffa or loofah? | Home And Garden |

2022-05-29 10:25:03 By : Mr. Jimmy-Vicky Zheng

A mix of clouds and sun with gusty winds developing this afternoon. High 92F. Winds SSE at 20 to 30 mph. Higher wind gusts possible..

Partly cloudy. Windy. Low 76F. Winds SSE at 20 to 30 mph. Higher wind gusts possible.

Luffa “infants” grown from seeds.

Editor’s note: Luffa plants will be sold at the VCMGA Spring Plant Sale on April 2.

Last September at Rockport’s Hummingbird Celebration, my friend Janet pointed to a huge vine with long cucumber-shaped gourds. She said they are luffas and our master gardener colleague Noreen was growing them.

Noreen said she bought a packet of luffa seeds as an experiment. She planted four seeds last February after the last frost and didn’t see green shoots until late June.

Noreen planted the seeds in raised garden beds against 8-foot PVC pipes. To protect the plants from squirrels, she covered them with bird netting. Her yield was 20+ luffa.

Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula) often called loofah, sponge gourd or dishcloth gourd, are grown for their fibrous skeleton. Young fruits less than 7-inches long and green can be eaten like fresh squash or cucumbers.

Luffa has escaped cultivation and grows world-wide in tropical woodlands, thickets and grasslands. It is a fast-growing, centuries-old, annual vine that is native to tropical Asia. Vines can be 30-50 feet long and need to be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart.

Luffa’s sunshine yellow blooms can be 4 inches wide, while its leaves can reach 10-inches wide. The 1- to 2-foot-long fruits are cylindrical, smooth and green with numerous flat, round black seeds.

Before planting luffa seeds, scrape the seed coat with a file or allow seeds to soak for 24 hours. This procedure will facilitate germination. Seeds are very slow to sprout and require gardeners to be patient.

Sow seeds 8 to 12 inches apart along a strong fence or trellis after the last frost. Luffa plants thrive in organic soil in full sun. Keep plants moist but not saturated. To retain soil moisture spread mulch around the plants but away from the stem.

Once the plant starts to grow, remove the first flowers and the first four lateral branches. This practice will result in more vines and sturdier stems for stronger fruit. The vines do need to be trained on a strong trellis or tall fence for support.

While luffa do not need pruning, trimming them keeps them at a manageable size and makes it easier to train the stems. Trimming young luffa plants allows the stems to grow in an orderly pattern and produce more buds. In addition, pruning promotes air flow and minimizes pests and diseases.

Prune luffa with very sharp and clean cutting tools. Wait until the plant has at least four stems and cut all the first stems back to the main stem. Continue training the stems to the trellis or fence and let them grow. Pinch off the first flowers which are male. The female flowers will develop next and will form the fruit.

Before harvesting luffa, make sure the fruit is fully ripened on the vine. As the fruit matures, it loses water weight and its color lightens. The shell hardens and begins to separate from interior fibers.

Luffa “infants” grown from seeds.

A general rule is to remove the luffa fruit from the vine before the first frost. Gardeners typically break off the fruits outer shell by slamming it on a hard surface or crushing it with a heavy tool. Occasionally soaking the mature fruit in water will make it easier to peel. The spongy fiber inside the shell needs to be removed, washed and squeezed to remove excess water. To curtail mold, set the sponge in the sun until it is completely dry.

Loofah is the fibrous interior of fully developed fruit and the scrubbing sponge. While the young luffa gourd is harvested as a vegetable. Same plant, two uses.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at

Kirk, L. “Getting the Lowdown on Luffa,” Richmond-Times Dispatch, November 17, 2016.

The Southern Living Garden Book, 1998, pg. 235.

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I wondered if anyone else caught the irony and the VA's lousy judgment with those photos.

They might be a little more convincing if they wore protective gear. Helmets and jackets?

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