Sugar cane is a tropical grass, which can grow up to 4m tall. The long leaves have sharp edges which can cut your arms if you walk through a cane field. Sugar cane produces dense plumes of feathery flowers, but is usually harvested before it blooms.
If you are lucky you may be able to grow your own plants on a warm windowsill or heated greenhouse during the summer from short lengths of fresh sugar cane sold for chewing, but the UK does not have adequate light to grow this plant all year round.
In India sugar cane is a perennial, but it is best treated as an annual in this country. Only suitable for indoor cultivation. Minimum temperature 15°C.
Select the freshest, uppermost parts of young canes sold as food, and cut them into 15cm lengths using a saw. These are called "seed pieces" or "setts."
Lay them flat in a seed tray containing a mixture of half potting compost, half grit, cover with compost and place the tray inside a clear plastic bag or in a covered frame, somewhere they will receive bottom heat (at least 20°C). Sprouts should appear within 3 weeks.
Once sprouts have started to emerge from the setts, remove the plastic bag and once the shoots are 7cm tall, pot on each sett individually into a 15cm pot. Pot up as the plant grows.
Sugar cane does not need a particularly fertile soil and provided it is kept warm (18°C) and in a light place it is not very difficult to grow. Keep the plants well watered, and you should find they increase rapidly. They can be harvested as soon as the growing shoots reach 100cm. Chop down the stalk, strip off the outside leaves and chew!
Very few in UK. Some canes are infected with viruses, which produce stunted plants with mottling or pale streaks on the leaves.It is unlikely that any infected canes will sprout, but if they do and show symptoms, destroy them to stop the virus spreading to healthy plants.
Indian and Carribbean shops often sell fresh sugar cane, although this does not always sprout.
Sugar cane plants can be bought from several suppliers, but are expensive.
The edges of the leaves are very sharp and can inflict nasty cuts if not handled carefully.