Abundant Lemon Verbena

Photo:

Krzysztof Golik, CC, via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Nancy McDonald, Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton; published with permission.

If you are like me and grow lemon verbena, you now have a very large plant. What started as a small seedling in the spring has grown in size, approaching 60 cm (2 feet). So, what to do with this abundance?

Quick Growing Guide

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Botanical Name: Aloysia citrodora

Botanical Family: Verbenaceae

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Needs regular watering

Hardiness Zones:

Care:

A Delightful Herb

Let me share information on this delightful herb. For citrus lovers, lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) possesses an intense concentration of lemon-flavored oils. Lemon verbena has been an attractive and much-loved garden plant since Victorian times. In the 17th century, it was brought to Europe from South America. The aromatic oil from its leaves was first used in the perfume industry and is still used today. If you were a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you would know that Laura’s teacher, Miss Beadle, wore lemon verbena perfume, and in Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena was a favourite scent of Scarlett O’Hara’s mother. It is always good to know these obscure facts in case you are ever on Jeopardy!

Growing Lemon Verbana

Best of all, because of its growth, you only need one plant. That’s the lovely thing about herbs; they often require little real estate. In our 4B-5A planting zone, plant it outside in the spring after the danger of frost has passed, in a sunny spot, and if in a container, one that is at least 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. Water it when the top two inches of soil feel dry, and with this summer’s heat, that meant daily. It is one herb that benefits from fertilizer, and I use an organic water-soluble type safe for edibles. And like other herbs, the more you pick, the more it gives.

Overwintering Lemon Verbana

Some gardeners in our area have successfully overwintered lemon verbena indoors. When the temperature dips to 4-5 ºC (40 ºF), the plant will drop all its leaves. Allowing it to do this outside will prevent bringing insects into your home. You will be left with branches for the winter. Avoid overwatering the plant while it is in this dormant state.

Lemon Verbana is an Amazing Culinary Herb

Lemon verbena is an amazing culinary herb. The leaves can be pureed with a bit of water and added to many sauces and marinades. Sauces should not be reserved for dessert dishes only; think of lemon verbena sauce for fish or chicken dishes. Use the leaves in place of lemon zest. My favorite and easiest use is as a tea, either by itself or combined with mint leaves. This year I am growing Hillary’s lemon mint, and this combination straight from the garden in a tea far exceeds any flavour you will purchase in a box. Add it to iced tea or a light summer wine such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. Even Buckingham Palace, according to a recent news report, is infusing dry gin with lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, and mulberry leaves from their gardens and selling it to help their income during the pandemic.

Dry and Conserve it’s Leaves

It’s wonderful to preserve lemon verbena for use during the winter, when its lemon scent will remind you of warmer days. If you haven’t already, you can dry leaves and store them in a jar in a dark location for winter use. Just crumbling the dried leaves will release the lemon flavor, and I use it in winter teas.

More Culinary Uses for Lemon Verbana

Or the leaves can be chopped or pureed in water and frozen. Another lovely idea is to add chopped leaves to softened butter to store in the fridge or freezer. I infuse the leaves of lemon verbena with calendula flowers in white wine vinegar for winter use. It is excellent in jellies, and this year I made an apple lemon verbena jelly. It is one I will make again.

There are many recipes to be found online for this wonderful herb. I hope I have shared some ideas and possibly inspired you to try something new with your abundance of lemon verbena. And if you are not growing this herb, try adding it to next year’s plant list.

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