The lemon verbena is by far my favorite herb! It has the most aromatic, charged zesty lemon scent of any herb. Close your eyes, take a breath and you will immediately be transported to a sun-kissed lemon grove in the Mediterranean, feeling uplifted, refreshed and awake!
The leaves are usually used as an infusion to flavor dishes. Add a few fresh leaves in boiled water to make an invigorating herbal tea; as a fragrant garnish in cocktails, cold drinks and desserts; poured in creams and butter to flavor ice cream, cookies and cakes; or as an alternative to a lemon peel to give meat dishes a lemon flavor. Lemon verbena is also used in potpourri, linen bags, and the essential oil is a popular ingredient in body lotions and perfumes. This is an herb with almost limitless possibilities.
As a deciduous shrub, the leaves are only available from late spring to early autumn, which makes them even more valuable. Fortunately, lemon verbena dries very well and retains its lemon taste and scent to give you that warm Mediterranean vibe all winter long.
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Brief instructions for care
Lemon verbena produces beautiful lemon-scented leaves. Source: Melanie Shaw
|Common name (s)||Lemon Verbena, Lemon Bees, Cidron, Herb Louisa|
|Scientific name||Aloysia citrodora|
|Days to harvest||Harvest when the plants are well established|
|floor||Well drained, moderately fertile|
|fertilizer||High-nitrogen or all-purpose fertilizer|
|Diseases||Pythium root rot|
Everything about lemon verbena
A close up of lemon verbena leaves. Source: Joel Carnat
Aloysia citrodora, better known as lemon verbena, is the superstar of the lemon-scented world of herbs! Other common names are lemon bee bush, cidron and herb Louisa after the namesake of the plant, Maria Louisa of Parma, Queen of Spain. Lemon verbena is native to the dry rocky soils of South America, mainly Chile, Argentina and Peru.
Lemon verbena is a woody, tender perennial shrub that grows up to 2.5 m by 2.5 m and spreads when it grows under optimal growing conditions. Plants are evergreen in their natural tropical habitat, but the leaves will fall off with the onset of cooler temperatures in northern climates.
The narrow leaves are light green, lanceolate and slightly rough in texture. They grow in opposite directions and swirl around woody stems. Like other members of the Verbenaceae plant family, lemon verbena flowers develop as tall panicles of tiny pinkish-white flowers.
In the fall, the leaves begin to tan around the edges and fall with the onset of frost, resulting in a terrifyingly bare, spindly shrub. Equally worrying about the dramatic leaf loss is the fact that lemon verbena can slowly come back to life in cooler climates in spring and often shows no signs of new growth until late spring or early summer. Don't give up your plants too soon! Many lemon verbena plants were thrown away when they weren't dead, just doze off.
Lemon verbena is not to be confused with herbs like lemon balm. Lemon balm also has a strong lemon scent, but is astringent rather than sweet, and the leaves are rounder and wrinkled. Lemon balm is also a very hardy perennial herb that can survive freezing temperatures that would kill lemon verbena.
The powerful, almost sweet lemon sorbet aroma and taste of lemon verbena is increasingly in demand in the culinary and cosmetic industry. Leaves are used to flavor liquors, cakes, cookies, sugar, and tea, to name a few. The essential oil from lemon verbena leaves has excellent moisturizing and antiseptic properties, making it a useful ingredient in skin creams and lotions.
Plant lemon verbena
Aloysia citrodora has a shrubby habit. Source: Rigid
For new home gardeners, it's best to start with an established store-bought plant as lemon verbena can be difficult to propagate. Plant lemon verbena after the last frost and with the onset of consistently warm weather outdoors. Lemon verbena can be sensitive to temperature changes, so choose a sheltered location in full sun with moisture-retaining, well-drained soil.
Lemon verbena can be grown outside in cold climates. Just follow the directions above for a sheltered spot in full sun and add deep, dry winter mulch like wood chips, bark, or straw to protect the roots from severe frost. Alternatively, you can plant your lemon verbena in a container filled with high quality clay-based compost. Containers can then be brought in over the winter. Little space in the interior? Use large, heavy pots that provide some insulation and put your containers in a sheltered location over the winter months.
When planting lemon verbena, make sure that the planting hole or plant container is large enough for the root ball. Put the plant in the hole, keeping the base of the stem at the same height as it is in the pot. If the stems are planted too deep, they can rot.
The spacing should take into account the climate you live in and how you plan to use the plant. In hot climates, the maximum height of lemon verbena is around 2.5 m by 2.5 m, so it needs space to grow. Plants grown for regular harvest can be 30 cm to 60 cm apart and should be kept in shape with regular trimming. When you grow lemon verbena in a container, plant height will be limited to about 2 feet (30 cm) to 3 feet (90 cm).
In spring this perennial begins to sprout again. Source: Joel Carnat
While lemon verbena is one of the more spirited and difficult to grow herbs, it is well worth it if done right.
Sun and temperature
Lemon verbena prefers a lot of sun and heat over cool temperatures and shade. It takes a full position of the sun to maximize the essential oil and lemon scent in its leaves. Shade produces weak, spindly growth, so grow lemon verbena where the plants can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Lemon verbena needs constant temperatures above 10 ° C to stimulate growth. In northern zones, plants can rest until early summer when temperatures are consistently warm. Temperatures below 40 ° F (4 ° C) trigger leaf fall and hibernation. Grow lemon verbena in USDA zones 8-10. In colder climates, grow lemon verbena indoors in containers over winter, and provide deep dry mulch to outdoor plants to protect the roots from frost.
Water and moisture
Lemon verbena responds well to regular watering, but should never be placed in constantly wet, heavy soil. Water plants with watering hoses or by hand with water directed at ground level. Prolonged drought also triggers leaf fall, plant stress and pest infestation. Therefore, check the moisture content of the soil in hot weather periods, especially for plants grown in containers.
Plants grown outdoors do not require watering through winter. Cut down on watering for those brought indoors over the winter.
Well-drained, moisture-retaining, moderately fertile soil is ideal for growing lemon verbena. The pH of the soil should ideally be between neutral and slightly acidic. Container grown crops benefit from clay-based compost to add a nutrient boost.
Fertilize lemon verbena with nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season to encourage new healthy growth.
Lemon verbena plants can become bulky and lignified over time. Pruning young leaves and stems regularly will help keep the plants productive, but after a while the branches can become thin and clogged. All lemon verbena plants benefit from good rejuvenation by cutting back the branches by a third in early spring to encourage compact, bushy growth.
Lemon verbena is difficult to propagate from seeds. Reliable seed sources can be difficult to find, and stored seeds produced in cooler climates are not always viable. Lemon verbena is best propagated over softwood or semi-ripe cuttings, similar to other woody herbs like rosemary and thyme. In the spring, take softwood cuttings, trim 4 to 6 inches of new growth, remove the lower leaves, and place the stems in pots filled with a 50:50 mixture of compost and perlite or horticultural flour. Keep the cuttings moist and moist until roots form.
Softwood cuttings can be placed in a glass of water to closely monitor root development. Be sure to change the water every few days. When the roots are well established, plant individual cuttings in a larger pot and grow until they are well established. In colder climates, it is best to keep young plants covered longer and harden them against outside conditions. Half-ripe cuttings can be taken in late summer / early autumn and should be kept indoors until spring of the following year.
Harvest and storage
Healthy lemon verbena leaves grow in beautiful rosette patterns. Source: Joel Carnat
Lemon verbena leaves are great when used fresh. They're also easy to dry and retain their signature lemony scent longer than many other herbs.
Fresh young leaves have the best lemon flavor. The leaves are ready to harvest when the plants are well established and at least 26-30 cm tall. If necessary, pick a few leaves when making a fresh herbal tea. For larger crops, trim the stems back 10-6 inches to encourage bushy growth.
Keep fresh stems and leaves wrapped in damp kitchen paper in the refrigerator or place the stems in a glass of water until they are needed. Leaves dry quickly when clusters of stems are hung or placed on a flat surface in a cool, ventilated, dark place. The dried leaves crumble and store in an airtight container for 1-2 years.
Lemon verbena, sometimes called cedrón, is a perennial herb. Source: Enbuscadeixtlan
Lemon verbena can be difficult to grow, especially in cooler climates, and requires patience and resilience to create the right conditions. The key is not to give up because you have harvested the tangy, bubbly lemon sorbet leaves that you will never want to be without again!
Getting the floor right and Protect plants over winter are the main problems with growing lemon verbena. Look for rich, well-drained soil that will retain moisture. Heavy, wet soils cause wet roots to rot or freeze in winter. A thick dry mulch like straw, wood chips or bark protects the roots and prevents the soil from becoming soaked. Make sure plants sufficient direct sun is also important for healthy plant development.
Spider mite (Tetranychidae) Adults are reddish-brown, live in large colonies on the underside of leaves, and thrive in hot, dry environments. You can recognize spider mites by the fine tissue between leaves and stems. Plants will also show signs of decay when the leaves turn yellow and fall off. Insecticidal soap or neem oil can help, but unfortunately, spider mites tend to be resistant to most pesticide products on the market. Hence, it is important to switch products until you find one that is effective. More powerful methods like pyrethrin can also be used.
Pythium root rot is a fungus that persists in poorly drained, wet soils or soils that are overwatered or have been exposed to heavy rainfall for long periods of time. Symptoms are presented as stunted growth, wilting, and plant death. To prevent pythium root rot, plant lemon verbena in well-drained fertile soil and water consistently to keep the soil moist rather than wet. Soil solarization is a good non-chemical treatment for affected soils or areas can be treated with an appropriate fungicide. Always check the label.
frequently asked Questions
A young lemon verbena plant. Source: Briannaorg
Q: Does lemon verbena come back every year?
A: Lemon verbena is a delicate woody perennial that returns every year.
Q: is lemon verbena invasive?
A: In warm, tropical climates, plants can get quite large and may need regular pruning, but they are not invasive plants.
Q: can lemon verbena survive winter?
A: Lemon verbena needs winter protection. Grow lemon verbena in soil with good drainage and protect the roots from frost with a thick dry mulch. Container-grown plants should be brought indoors over the winter.
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