Saccharum officinarum, known as sugar cane, is a large tufted perennial grass that is probably native to Southeast Asia. It grows to 15-20’ tall in tropical/semi-tropical areas, but to 5-8’ tall as an annual in cool climates.
It is grown in consistently moist, but well-drained soils in full sun. A heavy feeder, feed weekly during hot sunny days with balanced feed with trace. Avoid too high ‘N’ as this will promote weak stems. It is best grown in a wide container/pot. Fast root growth enables fast shoot growth.
Propagate by division or rooting stem sections. Sugar cane is commercially grown as an annual and is propagated from stem cuttings. Large stems (to 2” diameter) are jointed like bamboo. Stems contain a sweet juice that may be extracted for production of sugar or molasses.
Large, arching, rich green leaf blades have sharp edges and sharp points. Young stems are covered with prickles. White to gray flower spikes bloom in later summer to early fall. Plants rarely flower when grown as annuals, so bring inside as weather cools, place by a patio door for light and it will continue to flourish.
Sugar Cane may have been first grown for its sweet stems in New Guinea around 4000 B.C. It later surfaced in India. Arabs introduced it to the Mediterranean region in around 700 A. D. Spanish and Portuguese explorers spread it around the world in voyages during the late 1400s and 1500s (Columbus reportedly brought it to the Caribbean on his second voyage in 1493).