Lemon Verbena

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What is Lemon Verbena?  Besides being one of my favorite herbs.  It is a frost, sensitive, deciduous herb.  In My opinion, it is one of the best if not the best herb you can add to your garden.  It is fragrant and has many uses.  Out of all of the lemon scented herbs I grow, this one has the most applications.

This herb is native to South America, growing wild in Chile and Peru.  Being native to South America should help you know one thing, This plant will not thrive in the cold.  It is a warm weather plant.  It will drop its leaves when temperatures reach 40°F or below.  A perennial in zones 9 and 10.  It has been known to also exhibit perennial characteristics in zone 8  in seasons with mild winters.


Lemon Verbena can be grown from seed, but since it is readily available at garden centers, I recommend starting with a small transplant.  Lemon verbena does not have a pH preference.  What's important to this plant is the presence of moisture.  Plant in well-drained fertile soil.  Planting in waterlogged soil will drown the roots by preventing them from absorbing oxygen. If your soil tends to have, a heavy clay consistency amend before planting. 

If amending does not do the trick or if you live In USDA zones 1-8, your best bet may be to grow in a container.  If so follow the same guidelines presented here.  Plant in a pot with at least 12” diameter and fill with premium potting soil.  Remember the size of the container dictates the size the plant will reach.  This is a benefit if you live in northern climates because you will be able to bring the pot inside and overwinter the plant during the harsh winters.

Lemon Verbena needs full sun, honestly, the more, the better.  Insufficient sun exposure can cause premature leaf drop, lack of flavor or scent in leaves due to decreased production of essential oils, and leggy growth patterns. 

Lemon verbena is different from a lot of herbs in the fact that it loves to be fertilized.  It is a heavy feeder.  When grown in containers, it benefits from the bi-weekly application of liquid fertilizer.  When planted in raised beds or inground beds, the more fertile the soil, the better.  Constant additions of compost or monthly applications of good organic fertilizers high in nitrogen help the leaf and essential oil production.


Harvest leaves throughout the season.  Do so by removing entire sprigs, not just leaves. Like basil, lemon verbena benefits from constant pruning.  The process of cutting the sprigs back causes new growth to emerge from underneath the cut.  Constant cuttings help the plant to become fuller. 

Another reason Lemon Verbena is fantastic is the fact that flowers are edible.  Lemon verbena produces small white flowers that can be used dry or fresh.

After cutting the leaves, dry them the same way, you would other herbs.  Bundle and hang upside in a dark, dry area or place on a rack or screen.   


Lemon Verbena has many different uses.  Try it out in beverages hot or cold, jams, jellies, seafood dishes, meat dishes, in sauces or soups and in dessert and fruit dishes.  Dry the leaves and store in an airtight container or use them fresh.  This plant has such a sharp lemon flavor that it can even be used in place of lemon zest in dishes.  Unlike lemon balm or other lemon scented and flavored leaves, there is no bitter after taste.  Just pure lemon bliss.  Place some leaves in sugar to create lemon sugar.  Mince leaves and process with butter to create lemon butter.  Mix with milk and use a base for pudding or ice cream.

Like many culinary herbs, lemon verbena also possesses medicinal properties.  When used to make hot tea, it helps with all digestive disorders, similar to spearmint.  It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, encourage weight loss, and boost the overall strength of the immune system.


Careful where you plant this herb.  It can attract some unwanted pests

·       Spider mites

·       Whiteflies

This plant responds to stress by dropping its leaves.  If you notice that is has done so before temperatures have dipped below 40°F, it is time to begin troubleshooting the issue.  Remember this plant thrives in full sun.  If you notice leggy growth, prune surrounding plants to ensure the verbena is receiving ample light.  If it is in a container, alter the location where the pot is.  Try placing the pot in front of a white wall if possible to help with light re


End of Season Care

When winter time comes, and the temperature drops below 40°F the plant will drop its leaves.  When this occurs, it is time to begin preparing for the dormant stage.  Stop watering and cut the plant back, leaving a few inches of stem above the top of the soil.  Mulch heavily to help insulate the roots during the winter.  If you are lucky enough to live in a climate that experiences no freezing, continue to harvest as usual.


Thanks for reading.



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