How to Plant and Grow Loofah Plants

Get essential tips for planting, growing, and caring for loofah plants.

close up of a loofah plant

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Loofah, also sometimes spelled “luffa,” is a versatile plant that grows well in warm climates with long summers and plenty of space to extend its long vines. While there are technically two species of loofah grown for their edibility and use as sponges, Luffa cylindrica and Luffa acutangula, both have similar cultural requirements and can be used interchangeably.

Belonging to the same family as other gourds such as pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon, loofah has long been grown for its edible fruits. Like other “cucurbits,” when harvested young, loofah produces green fruits that have a flavor reminiscent of cucumbers. But when allowed to mature on the vine, they produce very fibrous fruits that can easily be dried and used as sponges.  

Unsurprisingly, loofah plants are grown in much the same way as their relatives and produce long vines that can climb trellises, fences, or any other available structures in the vicinity. Under ideal conditions, their vines can grow well over 20 feet in length!

Loofah Plant Overview

Genus Name Luffa cylindrica
Common Name Loofah Plant
Plant Type Perennial, Vine
Light Sun
Height 20 to 30 Feet
Width 20 to 30 Feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Zones 10, 11, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed

Where to Plant Loofah Plants

Loofah requires large amounts of space to grow its long vines and will readily take to climbing sturdy structures like fences. For best growth, plants should be given full sun and competition around the roots should be avoided. Soils should be rich, high in organic matter, and with good drainage.

To minimize the risk of disease, do not plant loofah in the same location each year and clean up all vines at the end of the season.

How and When to Plant Loofah Plants

Due to the long growing season required to produce mature fruits, planting loofah as early as possible is recommended, and starting seeds indoors is advisable for those in cooler climates. In warmer climates, plants can be sown directly in the soil after the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed.

Care Tips for Loofah Plants


Full, direct sun is crucial to good growth for loofa plants. Too little sun will produce large vines with many leaves, but flowers (if produced at all) will fall off just before or right after opening. 

Soil and Water

All those large vines require nutrient-rich, healthy soils and plenty of moisture. Amend soils with compost, manure, or other organic matter prior to planting in spring and feed throughout the season. Water regularly and don't let your plants dry out entirely. 

Temperature and Humidity

Native to tropical and subtropical regions, loofah plants prefer warm conditions and thrive in humidity. They cannot tolerate cooler temperatures and will cease growing if temperatures become too cold. Likewise, they cannot survive freezing temperatures and frosts will damage or kill vines. 


Apply compost or manure in the fall prior to spring planting, then continue to fertilize plants throughout the growing season. High nitrogen mixes can be used while vines are young, but should be switched to a high phosphorus fertilizer as plants mature.


Loofah vines are very pliable and can be moved around before tendrils have secured themselves around nearby objects. As plants grow, pinch off side shoots so that the plants put the majority of their energy into one main growth point. The first flowers to appear will be male and can be left alone. However, as female flowers are produced, prune off all but 15 or 20 for larger, fuller fruits.

How to Harvest

Harvesting Loofah for Sponges

Toward the end of the season, loofah vines will naturally begin to die back. In drier climates, the fruit can be left on the vines to dry on their own, changing from green, to yellow, to finally a light brown. In humid areas with higher precipitation, fruits should be removed from the plants as soon as their leaves begin to yellow and brought indoors for drying. Always harvest fruits before the first frosts have hit. When fully dry, the skin on the fruit will become brittle and can easily be removed by hand, exposing the sponge-like interior.

Harvesting Loof for Eating

Loofah can be harvested and eaten in much the same way as zucchini or cucumbers by harvesting the fruit while they are still young, green, and tinder. Typically, fruits less than a couple of inches in diameter are best for eating, prior to their becoming fibrous and pithy. Use a sharp knife or shears to remove the fruit from the vine without damaging the fruit's skin.

Pests and Problems

As with other cucurbits, loofah plants are susceptible to powdery mildew. Avoid splashing water on the leaves as much as possible, and provide enough space around the plants to allow for good air circulation.

How to Propagate Loofah Plants

Loofah plants take about three months to fully mature, and another few weeks under optimal conditions for the fruit to ripen. Once fruits reach peak maturity, remove them from vines and allow them to dry. After the fruits have dried, seeds will begin to loosen and can be collected by cutting the fruits in half and shaking them out. Label and save seeds in a cool, dry location for use in the following growing season.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are any parts of loofah poisonous?

    Most members of the cucumber family produce a compound known as cucurbitacin which can give fruits like cucumbers and loofah a bitter flavor. However, eating normal amounts of these fruits is not toxic to most animals.

  • Can loofah plants be grown indoors?

    While loofah plants can be started indoors, their extreme size, need for pollinators, and full sun requirements limit growing them to outdoors.

  • Why are flowers falling off after opening on my loofah plant?

    If female flowers begin to drop on otherwise healthy vines with full sun, the cause may be due to insufficient pollination. To correct the issue, hand pollination with a small paintbrush can be helpful. Simply collect pollen from male flowers and transfer it to nearby female flowers with the brush.

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