Lemon Verbena – A Happy Sunny Herb
Considered the strongest lemon-scented herb, Lemon Verbena is a must have in your culinary herb garden. Its fresh scent is intoxicating and it has amazing essential oil properties. It’s delightful in teas and summer drinks or served with fish and chicken.
Native to Argentina and Chile, it is a shrub that is commercially cultivated for its medicinal properties as well as for perfumes and cleaners. Its leaves will hold their fragrance even years after being dried, making it wonderful for many different uses.
A little more temperamental than some herbs, lemon verbena needs more care, but overall is an easy plant to grow. It can be grown outside but prefers warmth and is an easy plant to grow inside as well.
How to Grow Lemon Verbena Outdoors
Lemon verbena can be grown outside as an annual in northern climates. It forms a shrubby plant that benefits from regular pruning to keep it from getting leggy. Fortunately, regular trimming also gives you plenty of citrusy leaves for use in beverages and dishes.
Plant your lemon verbena in the spring after the last frost. Choose a sunny location and make sure to plant them about 18″ apart so they have room to grow. Good drainage is essential for healthy lemon verbena plants, so consider planting them in raised beds or containers if your soil is high in clay content or doesn’t drain well.
Lemon verbena needs regular watering. A lack of moisture will result in stress, which can lead to leaf drop and pest problems. Keep the surface of the soil moist, but don’t oversaturate the plants. The roots do not like to stay wet. Water when the top 2 inches of the soil are dry, and aim for a moisture level that resembles a wrung-out sponge.
Unlike other herbs, lemon verbena benefits from a regular fertilizing schedule to keep it happy and vigorous. Use an all-purpose fertilizer in the spring, and then water with compost or manure tea during the growing season to keep the plants productive.
Growing Lemon Verbena Indoors
Growing what can become a very large shrub indoors does present challenges, but it is possible to make your lemon verbena thrive in an indoor container:
Choose a container. Start with a pot or other container that is about one and a half times as wide as the root ball of the plant you’ve selected and make sure the container has drainage holes.
Soil and drainage. Good soil and drainage are important for growing lemon verbena. You can add pebbles or other drainage material to the bottom of the container and then use a rich organic soil that is loosely packed. Adding worm castings will give additional nutrients to your soil so fertilizing will not be necessary.
Sunny spot. Lemon verbena prefers full sun, so find a sunny spot for your container. Consider keeping it outside for the warmer months of the year.
Pruning. A key to growing verbena in a container is trimming it regularly to maintain a reasonable size. Prune for size and shape. You can also trim it back in the fall.
Water and fertilizer. Your lemon verbena plant should be watered regularly. You never want the soil to fully dry out, but you don’t want soggy roots either, which is why drainage is so important. You can add more worm castings or organic fertilizers every few months.
Lemon verbena plants will lose their leaves in the winter, so don’t be alarmed when your plant goes bald. This is normal, especially when keeping it inside. Continue to water it about once a week and the leaves will return in the spring.
With an indoor lemon verbena plant, you can enjoy the fragrance and flavour of this delightful shrubby herb throughout the year. Dry or freeze the leaves for winter use.
How to Use
Use lemon verbena in your recipes in place of lemon zest. The leaves are tough and leathery, so you will want to mince them very fine. It is sometimes easier to use a whole leaf to season a dish and remove it before serving.
Add flavour – add dried, crumbled leaves to rice just before serving. Blend into quick bread batters. Use the leaves and stems to flavour an icing for tea breads or cakes.
Make flavoured milk – you can steep lemon verbena in milk to create a flavoured base for ice cream, sorbet, or pudding.
Make flavoured sugar – bury a few leaves in sugar in a sealed container, and use this sugar to flavour cookies and dough.
Make a hot tea – bruise or cut up 1/4 cup of leaves and add 1 cup hot water. Steep and enjoy. Consider adding Sweet Valley mint for a real treat.
Make a Lemon Verbena Iced Tea – Here’s a recipe for Lemon Verbena Iced Tea.
Make a Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette – Here’s a recipe for Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette.
Make a Lemon Verbena Oil – Use about 1 cup of Verbena, ½ cup grapeseed oil, pinch of salt. Blend in a food processor for about 2 minutes, then strain, pressing out as much oil as you can and season with salt. This delicious lemon-infused oil will last up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Try Lemon Verbena infused Vinegar – You can easily do this with a 6-inch-long spiral strip of lemon peel, 3 sprigs of Verbena and white wine vinegar. Put all ingredients into a bottle making sure the vinegar covers the herbs completely. Put in a dark place and store from 1 week to 4 months.
Lemon Verbena FAQ
[sc_fs_multi_faq headline-0=”h3″ question-0=”What Is Lemon Verbena Good For?” answer-0=”Lemon Verbena is a deliciously lemon scented herb that has great health benefits. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to prevent cell damage and promote better sleep.” image-0=”” headline-1=”h3″ question-1=”How Can I Use Lemon Verbena?” answer-1=”Lemon Verbena is delicious in teas, vinaigrettes or served with fish and chicken.” image-1=”” headline-2=”h3″ question-2=”What Is the Difference Between Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm?” answer-2=”Lemon verbena has a more intense lemon flavour and scent, while lemon balm has a more subdued and less sweet lemon flavour, similar to citronella or lemongrass. Both lemon verbena and lemon balm can be used in herbal teas and flavouring for meats, desserts and drinks. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, but keep in mind the difference of strength in flavour.” image-2=”” headline-3=”h3″ question-3=”Where Can I Buy Lemon Verbena?” answer-3=”Sweet Valley by Jolly Farmer supplies potted Lemon Verbena plants to the Maritimes and Northeastern United States. Visit our Ordering page to order yours now!” image-3=””count=”4″ html=”true” css_class=””]