Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center

Vegetable Research and Extension

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Luffa Gourds

Luffa is a vigorous climbing cucurbit that requires trellising. There are two species of cultivated luffa gourds: angled luffa (Luffa acutangula) and smooth luffa (Luffa aegyptica). Mature fruits are 1–2 feet in length on average but can grow much longer. The xylem tissue within the fruit forms a dense fibrous network that creates a support system for maturing seeds. If the hard outer skin and the seeds are removed from the dried luffa, the dense network of fibers functions as a natural scrubbing tool. Thus, luffa goes by many common names including dishcloth gourd, rag gourd, vegetable-sponge, and strainer vine.

Luffa has been cultivated throughout Asia for centuries for use as a household cleaning agent and is now, due to the gently abrasive quality of the natural fibers, a popular exfoliating agent in the eco-friendly cosmetic industry. Angled luffa is also a common market vegetable throughout Asia, its immature fruits resemble zucchinis in taste and texture, and it is sometimes called Chinese okra due to a similarity in taste. The fruits must be harvested immature, as mature fruits become inedible due to their extremely bitter taste. Mature dry fruits can be used as sponges but their angular shape can make it difficult to remove the skin. Angled luffa is therefore more commonly grown for eating, whereas smooth luffa is more commonly grown for household cleaning.

Luffa species are heat-loving and have similar growth requirements to melons. Research from Missouri and North Carolina suggest that commercial production of luffa in the United States could be economically viable. Techniques that contribute to success in growing luffa include using black mulch to warm soil temperatures and transplants to increase the germination rate and extend the growing season. Plants that are too crowded (spacing less than 1 foot) will have lower fiber density and result in poorer quality sponges, so adequate spacing is important. Vines are very prolific, growing 15 feet long, and will require a sturdy trellis to support their weight. Vines grown on the ground develop luffa fruits that are misshapen, discolored, and will likely rot.


Cornell University. Summer squash. Vegetable Growing Guide.

Davis, J. 2008. Commercial Luffa Sponge Gourd Production. North Carolina State University: Horticulture Information Leaflets.

Larkcom, J. 1991. Oriental vegetables: the complete guide for garden and kitchen. London: John Murray.

Oregon State University. 2004. Zucchini and Summer Squash. Commercial Vegetable Production Guides.

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