Starting Luffa - We start luffa when we start tomatoes around mid-January... Plan to keep the luffa protected from frost until thirteen months later - yes, the following February for the mature sponge that you can peel to reveal the loofah you will use in your shower, make into exfoliating soap bars, or use to scrub your dishes like a dishcloth!
Scarifying Luffa Seeds - Luffa seeds have a very hard shell that soaking alone takes a long time to penetrate. I prefer to scarify the seeds by carefully nicking off a corner of the edge of the seed. This allows water to get in and start the seed faster.
Soaking Luffa Seeds - Once the seeds are nicked or scarified, I soak them in a glass of water for 24 hours before planting in moist, warm soil.
Germinated Luffa Seeds - If you are in a cooler climate, you will need to place a warming mat below the seeds to keep the temperature between 72 and 80 degrees in order for the seeds to germinate. We live in sunny California and I have also taken an extra gourd or loofa fruit and buried it in compost directly in the garden - but sometimes that way can take a year or more before the seeds sprout. (I started cacao seeds that way - it took a few months before they started!) The best way to start the plants is to scarify, soak and plant in warm soil in your backyard garden, provide a trellis and protect from cold and the seeds should sprout in 10-14 days.
Harvesting Luffa is rather simple as it just needs to dry and keep them on the plant as long as possible. This will vary according to where you live, but I have found the biggest gourds take a full year to mature. Let the vine wither or harvest when you can no longer protect the fruits from frost. Cut the fruit from the vine and let dry thoroughly. Once dried, the skin can be peeled off the loofah and the seeds shaken out.
Making Soap with a Loofah is as simple as cutting the loofah in horizontal slices and placing them in the mold that the soap will be poured into. When the soap has cured the resultant luffa soap bar will be amazing for a scrub for rough feet and to remove dead skin. The luffa soap in the above picture is made with a soap made with charcoal and frankincense (thus the dark color!)
Can Luffa grow in a pot? Luffa should be planted in the ground or, possibly a huge pot - but I cannot imagine it growing well without a large area of soil. It can be a very large plant that needs a lot of soil to support it nutritionally.
How Long does a Loofah Last? When a Loofah is left out to dry in its casing, it will actually last for years! The picture below shows a loofah that I harvested after five years of sitting in the greenhouse! It was drying out too much and beginning to disintegrate, though, so I wouldn't wait that long next time!
1.) Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth 2002 Seed Savers Exchange (I only got a little info from here, but if you want to save seeds, this reference is the best I have found to make it easy for a beginner to start with!)