The loofah sponge (also known as luffa or loofa) is a trailing vine that is related to squash and watermelon. The fibrous inside of the apple is used to exfoliate the skin in a shower or bath. Rather than spending a lot of money on a store-bought loofah sponge, why not grow one, create it yourself, and save money?
The growing season of the loofah plant is extensive. It requires full sun and is best suited for hardiness zones 7 or higher, therefore you should know your hardiness zone before attempting to plant them. You might not have as much success if you live north of Kentucky.
You can extend the growing season of plants in northern areas by starting them indoors at least a month before the last forecasted frost. Place the seeds between two damp and warm paper towels to germinate.
When you’re ready to plant them, space them 8 to 12 inches apart. You can also make hills 4 to 6 feet apart with four seeds planted 1/2-inch deep. Plant the loofah near a trellis or fence if possible to give the vines a place to grow. Once the plants have sprouted, thin them to one plant per hill. When they have grown an inch or two, it is time to trim them out.
It is also necessary to provide nutrients to the soil for loofah plants. After you’ve added compost, you’ll want to mulch around the plants to keep the soil moist and warm. Train the vines to grow along a trellis or fence. Wrap the end around the trellis to encourage growth.
Take note of the plant. Pluck the initial flowers and cut back the first four lateral stems when the plant first blooms. This will enable for the growth of better fruits.
Remove the gourds off the vine at the end of the growing season. Allow them to ripen on the vine for as long as possible. The skin should start to brown, they should weigh less than when they were unripe, and the skin should have opened slightly. If the temperature cools and frosts, you should pick the gourds whether they are ready or not.
If the skin of the loofah hasn’t started to open on its own, smack the gourd on the ground. Roll it back and forth to loosen the skin, or use a knife to pierce it and extract the fruit from the skin. Allow the seeds to completely dry before freezing them for planting the next year.
Spray the loofah to remove any residual seeds and wash away the sap before making the loofah sponge. Then immerse the loofah in a pail of bleach water (one cup bleach for the entire bucket) to eliminate all black marks. This could take some time. Then, remove the loofah and thoroughly rinse it before allowing it to air dry in the sun. As it dries, turn the loofah occasionally.
At this point, you have various possibilities. You can leave the loofah in its natural shape, trim it into a desired shape, or cut it into slices and place them in homemade soap. You may thread a string through the fibers of the loofah to hang and dry it between usage.