Leaves release their refreshing fragrance each time they're touched, making this herb a good choice for planting near outdoor living areas or paths, where you can enjoy its lemony scent.To savor the flavor in regions with cold winters, try growing lemon verbena in a container you can carry indoors.Space lemon verbena plants 12 to 18 inches apart in an area with full sun and fertile soil with excellent drainage; container growing is a great option.Boost the nutrients in your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.Full sun yields best growth and the most flavorful leaves, although plants in southernmost and desert regions benefit from light afternoon shade.If plants receive more shade than sun, stems will be spindly and sprawling and leaves will lack strong essential oil levels.In early spring and throughout the growing season, fertilize lemon verbena with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition.Lemon verbena typically drops its leaves when temperatures dip below 40 degrees F, entering dormancy.Many gardeners let the weather trigger leaf drop to avoid indoor clean-up and prevent carrying insects inside.Situations that trigger leaf drop include root disturbance, an intense cold draft, quick temperature change, or transplanting.Store butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or form into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet.Store frozen balls in zipper bags, using them to flavor vegetables and fish or spread on bread or pancakes.Get gardening info on the go with our free app, HOMEGROWN with Bonnie Plants. .
Growing Lemon Verbena and Keeping it Alive
North American home gardeners who try to grow this tender, wonderfully fragrant perennial herb may succeed more often than they fail, but a large number who try year after year eventually develop a deep sense of frustration and guilt when they repeatedly “commit herbicide”.Many of the latter group responded sympathetically to Linda Ligon’s editorial in the December 1991/January 1992 Herb Companion, in which she expressed frustration at her own inability to keep lemon verbena plants alive.Although our research doesn’t claim to have solved the mystery or to offer a sure-fire formula for success, it has uncovered a few misconceptions about the plant and a lot of solid advice.Those who have succeeded with lemon verbena agree that the plant is worth a bit of effort, and we hope that discouraged verbenaphiles will give it another try, armed with information and a positive outlook.Lemon verbena is one of more than 30 species of aromatic shrubs in the genus Aloysia (family Verbenaceae), all native to the warmer parts of North and South America.Its botanical name has undergone a cycle of change in the two centuries since it was introduced to England as Verbena triphylla.Though lemon verbena is sometimes still offered as L. citriodora, it has long been reassigned to the genus Aloysia, this time as A.
triphylla.Lemon verbena grows best in loose, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter, and drainage is the more important of those two characteristics.Neither clay nor very acidic soils are hospitable to lemon verbena; a lot of sand and a little lime, respectively, seem to be the best remedies.In more northern regions, lemon verbena thrives in full sun; even better is a site in the reflected light of a white fence or greenhouse wall.For many herbs, pruning stimulates the emergence of new growth at several points along the remaining stem, but lemon verbena responds mainly at the whorl of leaves immediately below the cut.Almost without exception, gardeners growing lemon verbena for the first time are dismayed when the plant drops all its leaves, which this herb does with the slightest provocation.The leafless sticks look so pitiful that many gardeners, thinking that the plant has died, toss it onto the compost pile.Some sources indicate that freezing temperatures alone can trigger dormancy, but Tom DeBaggio of Arlington, Virginia, has found that a frozen plant that is brought indoors and placed under lights to simulate summer day length will continue to produce new growth after the damaged leaves have dropped off.His experience has convinced him that day length is the main factor that triggers the metabolic slowdown of dormancy.In plants that are wintered indoors, sudden leaf loss frequently appears to be a reaction to rapid temperature change or root disturbance.Many gardeners grow lemon verbena in a pot so that it will be easy to move indoors and out as the weather dictates.Choose a pot at least 12 inches in diameter to allow the roots ample growing room and to limit the effect of short-term air-temperature changes on soil temperature.The risk in this strategy, however, is that the roots may grow out the drainage holes in the pot and be broken when the plant is exhumed in early fall.However, Andy Van Hevelingen of Newberg, Oregon, had an uncovered lemon verbena that survived a single night at 3 degrees Fahrenheit.Conditions were optimal: the stems were protected from wind, the soil completely dry around the roots, and the decrease in temperature gradual over a few weeks so that the plant had time to harden off and become fully dormant.Protection from wind seems to be critical near the edge of the plant’s hardiness range; try wrapping the dormant top with weatherproof plastic foam or burlap or covering it with mulch.Kae Snow-Stephens of Shreveport, Louisiana, covers the small but actively growing lemon verbenas in her garden with plastic garbage bags when the cold becomes threatening, and they have not only survived one-night temperatures as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit, but have done so without losing leaves or slowing their growth.If spring has sprung and you’re wondering whether your lemon verbena will ever come back, you can test for signs of life by bending or clipping off the ends of the dormant woody stems.Dry, brittle wood is dead, but you may find that the stems are alive closer to the base of the plant.One experienced gardener recommends that you resist the temptation to perform such a test because the dead wood protects that which is alive; if your curiosity can survive the wait, the answer will come eventually in the form of new growth (or its continued absence).One of the common ways gardeners kill lemon verbena is by overwatering during leafless periods; this is especially easy to do if you’ve been watering on a time schedule.In early spring, the plant is watered, occasionally fertilized, and placed in a warm, sunny spot; growth should begin within a couple of weeks.If taken in early fall or later, when growth slows as the days shorten, cuttings will take longer to root (which increases the chance of failure) and are less likely to survive transplanting.Lemon verbena is a favored delicacy of whitefly and spider mites; many experienced gardeners and commercial growers refuse to have this herb around because they feel it attracts those pests.Home gardeners with just a few plants can combat an infestation of whitefly or spider mites by spraying the leaves top and bottom with insecticidal soap, or with a solution of dishwashing liquid (1 teaspoon), vegetable oil (1 tablespoon), and water (1 quart) three times at ten-day intervals, rinsing about three hours after application.But the great joy of lemon verbena is the sweet, lemony scent that leaps from the leaves at the slightest touch.The pleasant, fragrant tea is said to act as a gentle sedative and has been used in reducing fever, settling stomach upset and intestinal spasms, and soothing bronchial and nasal congestion.David Merrill, managing editor of The Herb Companion, has never yet killed a lemon verbena plant.Lemon verbena clearly is important enough to warrant the stoic persistence of many gardeners, and why others nearby can grow it with no difficulty is a mystery we have yet to solve.I stare disappointedly at the huge pot that I bought last spring, anticipating the needs of the tiny lemon verbena that I had purchased.Yet an herby acquaintance right here in town has a lemon verbena bush the size of a Volkswagen, which she tends by casually slashing it back as she walks by it.I’ve experimented with moving some plants outside when light frosts (around 30 degrees) are still expected, and keeping some inside until it’s warmer out.Now that I live in the “Gold Country”, it grows against the east wall of the house with the daylilies, facing the morning sun.I’ve changed my annual routine: I wait until the last possible minute to dig it up, which is about the beginning of November (unless it snows).I cut back all stems immediately to 6 to 8 inches from the soil, and then neglect them until February, watering them only lightly once a month or less.Around the middle of February, I move them closer to the sunlight from the west-facing window in that same entryway, and start a heavier watering program.My recommendations are: grow your lemon verbena in full sun outside all summer to make a strong plant. .
Gardening 101: Lemon Verbena
And I love making my own combinations of different herbs, like some sort of tea scientist (actually, my son enjoys this activity as well).Noted for its multiple health benefits and the lovely scent of its leaves, lemon verbena is a plant I highly recommend you grow in your herb garden.Native to the warmer parts of western South America and brought to Europe by the Spanish and the Portuguese, lemon verbena was mainly cultivated for its oil.Apparently, Victorian women would tuck lemon verbena leaves into their handkerchiefs to get relief from the summer heat by inhaling the citrus smell.Sprays of purple or white flowers emerge in late spring and attract beneficials while keeping away mosquitoes and flies.Also, a critical component to lemon verbena’s success is making sure the soil drains well and is rich in organic matter.: See more of our favorite herbs to grow in our Field Guides to Edibles (including Thyme, Sweet Basil, and Sage. .
A prominent herb in Victorian culture, women sniffed handkerchiefs stuffed with lemon verbena leaves to get relief from summer heat.A great herb for tea, beverages, and desserts, Lemon Verbena can also flavor meat dishes.Try chilling lemon verbena tea with mint and serve with fresh leaves of both herbs on a summer day.Used as a medicinal herb, lemon verbena is said to ease headaches, calm upset stomachs, and help with insomnia. .
How to Grow Lemon Verbena
Common Name Lemon verbena, lemon beebrush, vervain Botanical Name Aloysia citriodora Family Verbenaceae Plant Type Tender perennial in frost-free zones Mature Size 6 ft. where hardy Sun Exposure Full sun Soil Type Rich and moist Soil pH Slightly acidic (6.1 to 7.0) Bloom Time Late summer Hardiness Zones 8-11 (USDA) Native Area Argentina, Chile Toxicity Toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.The fragrance and size of lemon verbena plants make them a valuable addition to the back of the sunny herb border.A site with full sun, rich and well-drained soil, and regular moisture will quickly grow for the harvest.Lemon verbena needs full sun six to eight hours per day, which is typical for a vegetable garden.Plants that are grown indoors as houseplants might need supplemental artificial lighting to prevent lanky growth and leaf drop.A lack of water leads to plant stress, leaf drop, and insect pest infestation.When the top two inches of soil are dry, water and aim for a moisture level that resembles a wrung-out sponge.In its native South America, lemon verbena plants grow in a sunny, frost-free climate.Unlike other herbs, lemon verbena appreciates a regular fertilizing schedule to keep it lush and vigorous.When it comes to lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena has the most intense oil concentration per square inch of plant material.Add loose potting soil enriched with time-released fertilizer, leaf mold, or compst to ensure a healthy start.Keep the container in full sun, water daily, offer a general fertilizer every few months, and if the pot is outdoors, overwinter it indoors once the temperatures drop to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.Cut plants back by a third to half in early spring to encourage compact, bushier, and thicker growth.Provide the cutting with a humid environment by placing the pot in a large clear plastic bag that is closed at the bottom.Once you feel resistance, take off the plastic bag and continue growing the plant indoors for two more weeks.Help plants prepare for winter by reducing watering a few weeks before the typical onset cooler temperatures.Provide extra winter protection by cutting plants back to within a couple of inches from the ground after the first hard frost and covering the remaining stub with soil.Bring your potted lemon verbena plant indoors or to a greenhouse when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.Lemon verbena growing outdoors in full sun and rich soil is rarely plagued by pests.When brought indoors to overwinter, spider mites and whiteflies seem to be drawn to the plants as they struggle to acclimate to weaker light and less humidity.But if you have the space for a pot well over 12 inches in diameter, a spot with plenty of sunlight, and you're willing to regularly prune the plant to keep its size in check, you can definitely try growing it indoors.
How to Grow Lemon Verbena; Cook & Preserve it too
I mentioned that preserving lemon verbena and enjoying its sunny, sunshine taste through winter was a way that helps me.So, if you’re looking at your garden and wondering what to do with the last of the lemon verbena before your plant goes dormant, I suggest gathering up as many leaves as you can to save them for the dark months ahead.This woody perennial may or may not survive winters in western washington, but I promise it is worth buying year-after-year for an unsurpassed lemondrop lemoniness fragrance and flavor.Even a 2″ start will become a good sized shrub in the garden once the heat kicks in for summer.If your plants take hold and become a returning shrub, give them room to become a good 5′ tall and wide.So, how to harvest your lemon verbena… I try to tip mine back regularly to encourage branching and more leaves during the summer.Leaves freeze well, make a great herbal sugar paste and a wonderful simple syrup.Print 1 big fist full of lemon verbena leaves, stems reserved. .