Sugar Cane

Sugarcane, (Saccharum officinarum), perennialgrass of the family Poaceae, primarily cultivated for its juice from which sugar is processed. It is native to the warm temperate and tropical regions of India, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea.

Most of the world’s sugarcane is grown in subtropical and tropical areas. The plant is also grown for biofuel production, especially in Brazil, as the canes can be used directly to produce ethyl alcohol (ethanol).

Table of Contents


10 - 24 feet

Approximate pH

6.5 - 7.5

Growth Nutrition of Sugar Cane

Sugarcane nutrient requirements are nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur and silicon.

Potassium, like nitrogen, also boosts strong cane development, long internode growth, wider cane girths and yield. Supplies need to be balanced alongside those of N. Magnesium, sulfur and iron increase photosynthetic activity maintaining good growth for high yields.

Types of Sugar Cane

There are three types of sugar cane. However, it's typical to grow chewing or syrup varieties in a residential garden. Here are the defining characteristics of each type of sugar cane:

  • Chewing canes: Softer fibers stick together if chewed, but can also be used to make syrup. Popular varieties include 'Yellow Gal,' 'White Transparent', 'Georgia Red', and 'Home Green'. Also consider a newer ornamental sugar cane variety with purplish leaves, which is also edible, called 'Pele's Smoke,' which comes from Hawaii.

  • Syrup canes: This type of sugar cane contains less sucrose, but it is often used for the production of syrup. Popular varieties include 'Louisiana Ribbon', Louisiana Purple', 'Louisiana Striped', 'Cayana', and 'Green German'.

  • Crystal canes: This sugar cane is typically used for commercial purposes and contains a very high percentage of sucrose that forms into crystals to sustain industrial production processes.

Planting Sugar Cane

The sugarcane plant is a perennial, which means that it will come back again and again, year after year. So with the proper care and maintenance, you should only have to plant a sugarcane crop once.

The best time to plant a new sugarcane crop is in the late summer to early fall. It’s not as easy to plant as other edible plants that often grow in the wild.

How to Grow Sugar Cane From Seed

Growing sugar cane from seeds is possible, but not typically the preferred choice for best results. Follow the directions on the seed packet and you should see germination in two weeks. Then you can transplant the seedlings to the ground or pot.

How to Grow From Starter Plants

Instead of purchasing seeds, you can buy sugarcane plants from your local garden center, some farmer’s markets, and even some Asian grocery stores.

Choose a sugarcane plant that looks robust and healthy. Look out for:

  • Sugarcane with long, thick stems

  • Plants with several stem joints

  • Look for plants that are already a few feet tall, as you’ll be cutting them into sections

Once you have your healthy plants, split them into pieces about one foot long and contain three of four joints per piece. These joints are where your new buds will sprout from. Remove any leaves or flowers present on the plant.

Pick a sunny spot on your property and dig foot-long trenches about four inches deep. Dig as many canals as you have sugarcane pieces, and keep them about one foot apart from one another.

Use a hose to get your trenches moist. Don’t use too much water. There shouldn’t be any puddles in the ditches before planting.

Lay your sugarcane pieces horizontally in each trench. You can also dig longer trenches if you want to lay them in long lines. Just be sure to place them about a foot apart from each other.

Cover your sugarcane with soil and care for the plants from there. You should start to see new growth in late spring.

Care for Sugar Cane


Sugar cane does best in a full sun position. If you have a shady garden, the plant won't thrive.


Sugar cane does well in most soil types as long as they are well-draining. The plant's favorite type of soil, however, is deep and friable (crumbly).

Sugar cane is known for being an energy-hungry plant. It saps the nutrients from the soil rapidly. Soil rich in organic matter is going to be important. Many enthusiasts mix a fertile compost and lime into the soil.


Sugar cane likes to be kept consistently moist in well-drained soil, but not wet or overly watered. If you don't live in a region that receives a lot of rainfall, it will need a decent amount of additional irrigation. Plan on the average 1 to 2 inches of water a week.

However, watering can be reduced if you plan to harvest mature stems. A dry spell will be beneficial for slowing growth and increasing sugar production in the lower part of the stalks.

Temperature and Humidity

Sugar cane needs high temperatures and plenty of sunlight to maximize its growth. Most sugar cane cultivars can't tolerate the cold or below-freezing temperatures. Sugar cane that's growing in cold conditions can cause leaves to brown, wither, and the plant can die in prolonged periods of frost.


The plant benefits from regular fertilization because it requires an abundance of nutrients. During its optimum growth period in the summer, sugar cane requires fertilizer feedings every week.

Although sugar cane is a vegetative crop that does well with larger quantities of nitrogen, be careful not to go too high because this may weaken the plant's stems.


If your sugar cane is thriving and vigorously shooting up, the grass can begin to sprawl and lose its upright, clump-forming habit. If this happens, it is usually best to cut the plant back and remove dead, withered foliage for a tidier appearance. Cut stalks are excellent material for organic mulch, or they can be propagated to make new plants or even harvested.


If you plant sugar cane as a perennial, you can overwinter the plants for protection. Prep for overwintering after you have harvested your sugar cane and trimmed it as close to the ground as possible. Place a mound of soil over the plant's "stubble" to protect it from cold weather.

Harvesting and Storing

Harvesting is best done in the fall before the first frost. Use a sterilized and sharp cutting tool and cut the grass as close to the ground as you can, which is where the most sugar is concentrated. Trim the tops of the stalks where there's a low concentration of sugar. Chew, squeeze, or crush your harvested stalks for a sweet treat.

Extracting Sugar From Sugar Cane

The sugar consistency depends on variety. Syrup canes have a more liquidy sugar while crystal canes crystallize easily. There are also chewing canes, which you can get to the sugar best by chewing on the fibers.

Commercially, sucrose is extracted from the stems with large, specialized machinery. Unless you happen to have access to one of those useful machines, we’ll take a different, more home-based approach.

Strip the outside of the stems and scrub each one well to remove any dirt. Then, cut the sugar canes into small segments that will fit inside your largest cooking pot. To extract the sugar, fill the pot with water, completely submerge the stems, and boil it for a few hours. When all the sugar is extracted from the stems, they will turn brown and the water will taste just like sugar.

Once ready, discard the spent stems and strain the water well to remove any debris. Transfer the sugar water back to the pot and bring it back to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let the water boil for a couple hours until the syrup has reached the desired consistency.


You can store freshly cut sugar canes for about two weeks in the fridge. Just wrap up the cut ends in plastic wrap and stick it in the crisper drawer. As with any piece of produce, it’s best used as soon as possible.

Store your freshly boiled syrup in sterilized glass canning jars. Let the syrup cool completely and then move the jars to the refrigerator. This reduces the chance of your sugar fermenting, although it doesn’t remove it completely. Use this syrup within two to three weeks or until it starts to smell like it’s fermenting. For longer-term storage, you can cook the syrup down to a thick paste, then smear it onto dehydrator sheets used for making fruit roll-ups. Dehydrate it until you remove the majority of the moisture in the sugar, and then immediately after removing it from the dehydrator, roll it into a tube or cone shape. Once cooled, this can be used like Mexican cone sugar. Store your homemade cone sugar in an airtight container in the freezer until needed.

Propagating Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is typically planted using "seed canes," but you can also propagate the plant through stem cuttings to make your own seed canes. The process is not complicated. Here are steps to take a cutting:

  1. With a sterilized gardening cutting tool, take a 4- to 6-inch piece of a healthy stem that has at least two internodes in the upper part of the stem.

  2. Plant the cutting deep into the ground, making sure no more than 2 inches of the stem is visible above the soil. You can also bury the cutting horizontally into the soil.

  3. It usually takes about two weeks for shoots to start appearing on the nodes and roots to begin forming.

Pests and Diseases

Sugar cane is prone to typical pests such as mealybugs, but you should be on the lookout for moth caterpillars, sugarcane borers (Diatraea saccharalis kills the stalks), termites, spittlebugs, and sugarcane beetles (Euetheola humilis). The grass can potentially contract root rot, whip smut, red stripe (top rot), and viral problems such as ratoon stunting and grassy shoot disease, which both stunt the growth of the sugar cane plant.

Benefits of Sugar Cane

Instant Energy Booster

The natural supply of sucrose in sugarcane gives your body the right amount of energy that can kick-start your day and normalize the release of glucose in your body to regain lost sugar levels. It is also the best choice to rehydrate the body and shake off fatigue.

Diuretic in Nature

The diuretic property of sugarcane juice makes it an essential ingredient for driving away infection. Drinking sugarcane juice will help in preventing urinary tract infection, especially when you experience burning sensation while passing urine and it also averts kidney stones.

Fights Cavities & Bad Breath

Sugarcane juice is loaded with minerals such as calcium and phosphorus that strengthens the enamel of the teeth and protects it against decay. The large amounts of nutrients in sugarcane juice help fight bad breath that can occur due to nutrient deficiency.

Remedy for Jaundice

According to traditional Ayurveda, sugarcane juice is a boon to strengthen your liver and a proven remedy for jaundice. The antioxidants in sugarcane juice protect the liver against infection and maintain the bilirubin levels in control. Sugarcane juice replenishes your body with lost proteins and nutrients required to recover from any kind of ailment, rapidly.

Improves Digestion

Drinking sugarcane juice helps maintain a good digestive system. With the presence of potassium, it helps in keeping the system in good shape, prevents stomach infection and is very helpful in treating the problem of constipation.

Cures Febrile Disorder

Sugarcane juice has been found to have immense benefits for people who are struggling with febrile disorders. In the event of febrile disorder, the individual suffers from fever, that leads to seizures and loss of protein in the body. It is common in infants and children. Sugarcane juice helps in replenishing the lost protein and aids in recovery.

Skin Care

One of the surprising benefits of sugarcane juice is that it fights acne, reduces blemishes, delays ageing and keeps the skin supple. Alpha hydroxy acids are supposed to have great benefits for skin health, one of the most prominent alpha hydroxy acids is glycolic acid in sugarcane that helps to maintain the radiance of the skin.

Bolster Immunity

The goodness of antioxidants and vitamin C in sugarcane juice aids in strengthening the immune system. Sugarcane juice combats against digestive disorder, liver disease, respiratory infections and lowers the inflammation. The potent antioxidants can also neutralize the secretion of bilirubin’s levels in the body.

Heals Wound

Sugarcane juice is a wonder ingredient that assists in speeding wound healing The presence of a rich amount of natural sucrose is potential in healing any kind of wound in a short span of time. In addition, you can also apply sugarcane juice over the wounded area to speed up the repair.

Stronger Bone

The wealth of minerals in sugarcane juice include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium which plays a vital part in strengthening the bones. Thus, lowering the risk of osteoporosis, drinking a glass of sugarcane juice daily can keep your bones stronger as you age.


  • Sugarcane provides a juice, which is used for making white sugar, and jaggery (gur) and many by-products 1ike bagasse and molasses.

  • Sugarcane was first used to create rum in the West Indies during the 17th century. Pure alcohol is also created using molasses.

  • Molasses, also, is used as an additive to feeds for livestock.

  • The fibrous residue left after the juice is extracted is used as fuel in sugar factories as well as in the making of paper, cardboard, fiber board, and wall board.

  • The filter mud contains wax that, when extracted, can be used to make polishes as well as insulation.

  • Sugarcane can be used to create organic fertilizer.

  • It has been used to treat all manner of ailments from stomach ailments to cancer to sexually transmitted diseases.

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