Prune when young to encourage branching
A fast-growing, tendrilled vine with large yellow blooms producing gourds and attracting bees and butterflies. Luffa is native to Asia and grows best in hot weather, acidic soil, and at least six hours of sunlight. The unique luffa gourd fruits are eaten or dried for use as natural sponges. They take about 90 to 120 days to grow and up to 200 days until it is ready to be harvested for sponges.
Care for as you would any vegetable plant in the desert. At least 6-8 hours of sun is needed. Water regularly but do not keep them wet. Fertilize 2-3 times during it's growing season.
To encourage branching, prune plants back when young. Vines will grow 30 feet or more and need a sturdy trellis or frame.
Harvest: fruit grows quickly - up to 2 inches per day. If you wish to eat the immature fruit, pick when young and tender at no more than 6 inches. Once the fruit has reached maturity, allow it to remain on the vine for several weeks to give it time to develop its tough inner fibers. Dry it on the vine before harvesting it. Cut the fruit from the vine with one to two inches of the stem attached; they should be tan and lightweight. Their skin should be thoroughly dried to a hard shell. When you shake a luffa, you should hear the seeds rattle inside, which indicates that the inside fibers have also dried and hardened.
To make sponges, remove the dry outer skin. Remove the seeds by shaking them loose, and remove any pulp. Store in a cool dry place.
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.