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Annual Biennial

Luffa cylindrica

loofah

A tender, tendril-climbing vine with rough-textured, maple-shaped leaves to 25cm across. From summer to autumn it produces male flowers in short clusters, and female flowers individually; all are bright yellow to 5cm across. From mid-summer fruits begin to form; these are green and cyclindrical, to 30cm long. Young fruits can be eaten as a vegetable. If left to mature the skin can be picked off, the seeds removed, and the fibrous body used as an abrasive sponge

Other common names
dish-cloth gourd
loofah gourd
see moresponge gourd
towel gourd
washing gourd
vegetable sponge

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Size
Ultimate height
2.5–4 metres
Time to ultimate height
1 year
Ultimate spread
0.5–1 metres
Growing conditions
Loam
Sand
Moisture
Moist but well–drained
pH
Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Colour & scent
StemFlowerFoliageFruit
Spring Green
Summer Yellow Green Green
Autumn Green Green
Winter
Position
  • Full sun
Aspect

South–facing or West–facing

Exposure
Sheltered
Hardiness
H1C
Botanical details
Family
Cucurbitaceae
Native to the UK
No
Foliage
Deciduous
Habit
Climbing
Potentially harmful
Harmful if eaten, except young fruit, don't eat if bitter. Wear gloves and other protective equipment when handling Pets (dogs, cats): Harmful if eaten, except young fruit, don't eat if bitter - see the HTA guide to potentially harmful plants for further information and useful contact numbers
Genus

Luffa are a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the cucumber family which can be eaten when young, used as a loofah sponge or in some countries, combined with other materials to make furniture or houses. Leaves are large and dark green and the fruit green with a rough texture like a gourd

Name status

Unresolved

Plant range
S Asia

How to grow

Cultivation

Under glass, plant in large pots or direct into the greenhouse border with support for the climbing tendrils; provide high humidity and shade from hot summer sun. Outdoors plant out in early summer against a sunny fence with climbing support. Luffas need a long growing season for the fruits to mature

Propagation

Sow seeds at 21-24°C in early spring

Suggested planting locations and garden types
  • Patio and container plants
  • City and courtyard gardens
  • Bedding
  • Climber and wall shrubs
  • Conservatory and greenhouse
  • Wall side borders
  • Edible fruit
Pruning

No pruning required

Pests

Generally pest-free

Diseases

May be susceptible to powdery mildews

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