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Lemon Verbena – A Powerhouse in My Garden

Lemon Verbena

Have you ever grown Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citriodora)?

That is Lemon Verbena in this photo below. It is the tall plant reaching up to the birdhouse.

How to use and grow Lemon Verbena - Living Homegrown

Where to Buy It:

It is not exactly a common plant and you may have trouble finding it. But if you ever see this plant at the nursery…buy it and buy it fast. You won’t be sorry. It will be in the herb/vegetable section. If you can’t find it there, you can order it through mail order from Richters Nursery.

Why is it so special? Oh let me count the ways…

Incredible Fragrance:

First, lemon verbena has a sweet lemon fragrance that has been used in perfumery for centuries. Rub a leaf on your arm and you will smell sweet and lemony all day long.

Cut a fresh bouquet and it will fill the room with a clean, sweet fragrance. I keep a small bouquet on the kitchen counter and another tucked into the bathroom.

Lay a spring on the dashboard of your car and wafts of lemon fragrance will great you every time you open the car door. Now that is far better than one of those stinky cardboard car fresheners, isn’t it?

How to use & grow Lemon Verbena - Living Homegrown

Delicious Flavor:

Second, it has strong, lemon-zest flavor that somehow manages to be lemony without being bitter. Use it fresh in chicken, fish or veggie recipes. Just chop up a few leaves and sprinkle them over the food as you cook.

Or for a refreshing beverage, add a sprig to your next glass of ice water.

Or better yet, fill an entire pitcher with ice water and drop in a few sprigs of fresh picked lemon verbena. It adds a lemon flavor to water without any bitterness. It is refreshing and delicious.

I serve pitchers of lemon verbena water at all my summer parties and it is always a big hit. Two or three people at the party always decide to purchase their own lemon verbena after drinking the water.

It also makes a killer lemon syrup. I use the syrup in teas or cocktails!

Beautiful in the Garden:

Lemonverbenawater_3

And lastly, it is a very pretty landscape plant in the garden. It has long, light green leaves that grow in whorls of three or four along its stem.

It typically reaches three or four feet in mild climates, but can reach as high as six to eight feet here in Southern California.

Lemon verbena is a tender perennial that grows in zone 9-11. Books will tell you that lemon verbena is evergreen in frost free areas and deciduous in frost prone areas. But I can tell you that if you have even a hint of cold weather, it will drop all of its leaves immediately. If this happens to you, don’t panic. The plant is not dead…it is just sleeping! It will green back up when the weather warms up. In frost prone areas, it must be brought indoors in the wintertime.

When you prune a deciduous lemon verbena plant, there is a simple way to see if a branch is alive. Just scratch the surface the branch with your fingernail. If it is green inside, then it is still alive. If not, then you can prune out the branch because it is dead.

Lemon Verbena can be pruned heavily during the winter and can even be shaped into standard topiary shapes with diligent pruning. Lemon verbena prefers full sun.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.