Lemon verbena is an aromatic shrub native of tropical areas. In places where the ground doesn’t freeze, this plant is grown as a perennial. One of the main reasons why people grow it is because its delicious lemon flavor can be great in many types of food. You can also make lemon verbena tea, as well as use it to season meat. Would you be interested in growing lemon verbena in your garden? Then you’re in the right place. Today, we’re going to walk you through the 9 main steps.
Growing Lemon Verbena in 9 Steps
Step 1: Know the Plant
One of the most important steps in growing any plant is finding out more about it. This will help you provide it with the right environment for successful development. The lemon verbena enjoys well-drained and loose soil and one that contains a lot of organic matter. Keeping the soil well-drained is extremely important since the plant will die if exposed to a lot of wetness.
The next thing you should consider is the fact that the plant needs space for its roots to develop properly. If you’re going to plant it outside, don’t plant it too close to other vegetation. If you plan on planting it indoors, select a larger container. This type of container doesn’t only allow the roots to develop, but it also insulates them, which protects them from temperature changes.
Since the appeal of this plant rests in its flavor, as well as its fragrance, make sure to protect both by planting the lemon verbena in full sun. That’s when the leaves grow most flavorful. If you live in an extremely hot area, a little bit of shade in the afternoon could really help your plants, but you must stay away from too much shade. This will lead to an important lack in essential oils.
Step 2: Plant Lemon Verbena
When it comes to planting lemon verbena, there are two ways in which you can do it: by starting it from seed, or by planting cuttings. The first option is quite difficult since lemon verbena seeds are difficult to find. The second option is the easiest, and it involves using an existing plant and taking some cuttings from it. All you need is a piece of stem that also carries a couple of leaves.
Before actually planting the cutting in soil, you’re going to have to place it in water. Use a jar or a glass and sink the cutting until you notice roots growing at the cut end. After the roots start growing, you should still wait a couple of weeks. You want them to be strong and longer than 1 inch. When it comes to planting the cutting, you can do it both outdoors and in a container.
If you manage to find lemon verbena seeds, what you have to do is start them in a planter, where they can get plenty of sun exposure. Your goal is to help create healthy seedlings, that you will later transplant outside or in a larger container to grow indoors. Regardless of your choice, don’t forget to postpone transplanting until the seedling grows a couple of leaves.
Step 3: Water the Plant
The lemon verbena has a complicated relationship with water. Too much moisture will kill it, but it still requires a lot of watering. You should provide it with water about twice a week. Ideally, you should never allow the soil to become completely dry before you water it again. However, too much water is more damaging to the plant than dry soil, so if you must make a choice, the slightly drier soil would be better.
Step 4: Fertilize the Plant
Fertilization is also extremely important when growing lemon verbena. We advise you to use a water-soluble fertilizer – preferably an organic one – once every two weeks, while the plant is at its most active, which is from spring until fall. Remember that fertilization isn’t required in all climates. If you live in a semi-tropical one, where you can afford to grow your plants outside in garden beds, you don’t need to also fertilize them, except maybe once a year, when you’ll use a standard fertilizer.
Step 5: Prune Lemon Verbena
If you don’t learn how to control the lemon verbena plants, they’re going to grow quite rangy and leggy which is why you have to keep an eye on them and pinch new leaves if you think they’re going to make the plants too bushy. You’re also going to notice the plant growing white flowers. Even though they look nice, you should cut them off. They will stop the plant from growing leaves, which is the whole purpose of the lemon verbena. Each fall, make sure to prune your plants when they go dormant. This will help you shape them and prepare them for the next growing season.
Step 6: Consider Winter Care
One of the first things you should know when it comes to winter care for this plant is that the lemon verbena should not be left to freeze. In winter, the plant is dormant. During this period, you should keep it in a container that you place in a relatively cold room.
You’ll notice that when the temperature starts to get lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant drops its leaves. This is the moment when it enters dormancy. You can choose to take the plant indoors before the leaves fall off, or wait until the first cold front causes them to drop. If you decide to move it inside with the leaves still attached, you should know that the difference in temperature will make them fall anyway. That being said, most people prefer waiting until the plant drops its leaves outside. This means they won’t have to clean the leaves inside or risk bringing any insects in the house with the plants.
Step 7: Beware of Pests
Fortunately, the lemon verbena contains fragrant oils that keep most pests away. Unfortunately, there are two types of pests that aren’t bothered by the fragrance. As a matter of fact, they rather enjoy it. These pests are spider mites and whiteflies. In the case of spider mites, you only have to worry about them if you grow your plants outdoors, but whiteflies can still be an issue indoors.
While you might be tempted to give up the idea of growing lemon verbena, there are things you can do to keep these pests away. Use a natural insecticidal spray, but only after you’ve harvested the leaves. You don’t want to run the risk of using leaves that have been sprayed with insecticide. Other than that, as long as you avoid bringing the plants in with the leaves still on, you won’t carry the pests indoors.
Step 8: Harvest the Leaves
On to the most exciting step of today’s guide, which is actually harvesting the lemon verbena leaves. This is an easy process that doesn’t take long, which makes everything all the more pleasurable. What you should know is that you don’t have to wait and harvest all the leaves at once. You can harvest them as you go along, during the entire growing season. New growths will form quickly in the place where you’ve snipped a stem.
If you plan on harvesting larger quantities at once, remember not to harvest more than one-third of all the leaves a plant possesses. This will ensure further growth. Moreover, if you’ve just made a large harvest, allow the plant some time to go back to its normal state before harvesting again.
Step 9: Store and Use the Leaves
Once you’ve harvested the leaves, the best way to store them for a long time and make sure they keep their flavor is to dry them. You can choose to either dry them individually, placing them on screens, or dry them in bunches that you hang in a dry and dark place. After the leaves dry, store them in sealed containers.
You can also choose to freeze lemon verbena leaves. Place them in ice cube trays that you’ve previously filled with water, either chopped or whole. Another way to freeze them is to chop them up and mix them with butter. Make the butter into small balls and place them in the freezer. Every time you need to add some flavor to your meat, vegetables, or even pancakes, take them out and use them.
Summing Everything Up
Lemon verbena isn’t only a lovely plant to have in your garden, but also a delicious herb. Don’t hesitate to follow the lemon verbena growing guide above and plant it yourself. It will provide your garden with an intoxicating fragrance that you’ll be able to enjoy day in and day out. Furthermore, it will bring your meals that extra lemony flavor that makes everything more delicious. The best part is that you can use it for a variety of foods. Because it tastes the best when used in sweets, we decided to suggest this lemon verbena recipe for drizzle cake that you can find in the video below.