Luffa aegyptiaca

Common Name: sponge gourd  
Type: Annual
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Native Range: Southeast Asia
Zone: 5 to 11
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Fruit: Edible

Culture

Best grown in evenly moist, moderately rich, well-draining loams in full sun. Hand pollination will increase yield. This plant requires a frost-free growing season of at least four months and warm temperatures for proper flowering and fruiting. In Zones 7 and above, seeds can be either sown directly in the garden in spring after the threat of frost or started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. In Zones 6-5, seeds must be started indoors. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours and use a heating pad for optimal germination. Planting the seeds in biodegradable pots is also recommended to reduce transplant shock. Harvest gourds immediately after the first killing frost in fall for use as sponges.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Luffa aegyptiaca, commonly called sponge gourd, is a fast-growing, tendriled, annual vine native to tropical Asian lowlands where it has been cultivated for centuries. It has escaped cultivation and can be found growing in tropical woodlands, thickets, grasslands and along roadsides at low elevations around the world. Vines can reach 30-50' long and require 1-3' of spacing. The palmately lobed leaves can reach 10" wide. The blooms are bright yellow in color and can reach 4" wide. The fruits are smooth, green and cylindrical, reaching 1-2' long and contain numerous round, flat, black seeds.

The specific epithet aegyptiaca means "from Egypt", in reference to part of the cultivated range of this species.

The common name sponge gourd refers to one of the typical uses of the tough, fibrous interiors of the mature fruits.

Problems

Susceptible to powdery mildew, downy mildew, and various leaf spot diseases. Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, thrips, aphids, and spider mites can be problematic.

Uses

A unique and showy annual vine for growing on fences, trellises, or other structures. The young fruits can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews, and curries. As the fruits mature they become fibrous and are used to make sponges, dish scrubbers, mats, shoe insoles, filters, and utilized in shock or sound absorbing applications.