Lemon verbena is a tender perennial with leaves and tiny blossoms that offer a sweet lemon flavor that’s refreshing in tea or desserts. It’s also useful in for seasoning meat dishes.
The plant can be grown in the garden as an annual or in a container and taken indoors for the winter.
This herb should be planted in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Drainage is the key to success. The roots will die if they are constantly wet.
If you choose to plant lemon verbena in a container, choose one that is at least 12 inches in diameter to give the roots room to spread and fill it with a premium potting mix.
Full sun is the best choice for this herb. This will yield the best growth and the most flavorful leaves.
Lemon verbena is a heavy feeder and benefits from frequent fertilization in early spring and throughout the growing season.
Lemon verbena responds well to regular trimming and encourages new growth. Harvest leaves as needed throughout the growing season. Each time you snip a stem, new growth will emerge beneath the cut. To make a large picking, cut plants back by half.
Dry leaves individually on screens or bundle stems together and hang upside down in a dark, dry place. Store the dried leaves in sealed containers in a dark place. You can even freeze lemon verbena, whole or chopped, in ice cube trays filled with water.
Lemon verbena typically drops its leaves when the temperatures drop below 40 degrees and it will start to enter dormancy. The plant can be brought inside at this time or you can wait until there is another cold snap, causing all the leaves to drop. Many prefer to wait until the leaves drop to avoid indoor clean-up and prevent carrying insects inside.
Thin the plant before bringing it indoors and remove any spindly stems. Save the stems to dry and scent dresser drawers and closets.
Avoid overwatering lemon verbena. This is a common way most gardeners end up killing this herb. Because there is less light and humidity, lemon verbena is susceptible to spider mites when brought indoors for the winter. Misting plants frequently with water will disrupt the dry conditions that attract spider mites.
I keep my lemon verbena in my sunroom during the winter. I don’t place it in direct sunlight and I make sure the room doesn’t get too warm. I trim all the stems and only water it when it is dry. Each spring I am rewarded with new growth and the wonderful scent of lemon.
This is one herb worth trying. For pictures and more, go to http://go.osu.edu/lemonverbena .
Kostelic is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County.