Lemon Verbena: Everything You Need To Plant, Care & Propagate

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Lemon verbena should not find a place in your garden just because of its scent. We reveal what needs to be considered when planting, caring for.

The lemon verbena ( Lippia citriodora ) is considered the refreshing herb par excellence. It is also known under the name “lemon bush” or “fragrant verbena” (French verveine odorante) and belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Just a light touch of the leaves releases a refreshing citrus aroma. But even if the scent is strongly reminiscent of lemons, the lemon verbena is not closely related to the lemon tree, which, like many other citrus plants, belongs to the diamond family ( Rutaceae ).

Lemon verbena: origin & history

The verbena originally comes from subtropical regions of South America and was only brought to Europe at the end of the 18th century. The outdated generic name Aloysia is reminiscent of Maria Luisa Teresa de Parma (1751 – 1819), the wife of the Spanish King Carlos IV at the time. Therefore, some foreign-language names of the lemon verbena still contain a Louise element, such as the names “Hierba Luisa” (herb of the Luise) in Spain and “Luiserlkraut” in Austria.

Lemon verbena is an attractive container plant for the terrace or balcony, but it is only partially hardy. The perennial and deciduous shrub reaches heights of growth of around one to two meters in temperate climates in Europe. Under favorable conditions, the lemon verbena can get even higher. The delicate flowers are a visual eye-catcher, with a variety of colors ranging from white to pink to purple.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Plant lemon verbena

Lemon verbena thrives best in a warm, sunny, and sheltered place. You can only cultivate the plant in a pot or plant it in your garden bed in locations with a milder climate.

Plant lemon verbena in the bed

Planting out should be done in spring so that the roots can develop well by autumn. In its original home, lemon verbena prefers loose, neutral to slightly alkaline soils without waterlogging. The growing season here extends from May to November. It blooms in August and is mainly pollinated by insects such as butterflies and bumblebees. However, the seeds only ripen in long, warm summers. Due to their low frost tolerance, overwintering in a protected environment is recommended.

Plant lemon verbena in the pot

Common substrates, which are also used for classic balcony plants, are sufficient for pot and tub culture. A sunny to partially shaded parking space in a bucket on the terrace or in a pot on the windowsill is ideal. Depending on the growth, the lemon verbena should be repotted into a larger container about every one to two years.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Propagate lemon verbena

Even if suitable seeds can be bought in specialist shops, propagation via seeds is extremely difficult. Therefore, propagation via cuttings is usually preferred.


In early summer, cuttings about 15 centimeters long are cut from the woody branches and placed in pots with potting soil. The rooting can be promoted by a cover with foil because the cuttings love warm temperatures between 18 and 25 ° C. Once they have achieved the desired rooting, the cuttings can be transplanted into pots. Then patience is needed again because only when the plants have reached a size of about 10 centimeters, the tip can be cut for the first time. As a result, the bush branches out better and grows bushier.

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Sowing can be done in the greenhouse or on the windowsill as early as February and March. A permeable substrate that can still store water well is ideal for cultivation. The seeds are placed about 1 to 2 centimeters deep into the earth at a sufficient distance. Lemon verbena is a light germ, so the seeds should only be lightly covered with soil.

Then the planter is placed in a bright, warm place without direct sunlight. Don’t forget to moisten it regularly so that the seeds begin to germinate. A transparent cover (for example made of glass) can ensure optimal temperature and humidity conditions. If everything went well, the first seedlings should show up after a few weeks. Plants that are too close together can then be pricked out.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Maintain lemon verbena

The lemon verbena is considered to be very undemanding, but it is important to pay attention to some aspects of care to enjoy your own lemon bush for as long as possible.

Pour lemon verbena

The soil should always be kept slightly to moderately moist. Excessive watering should be avoided, as otherwise waterlogging is promoted and the plant becomes more susceptible to diseases. Occasionally dry soil does not mind, but a complete drying out of the substrate should be avoided.

Fertilize lemon verbena

Regular fertilization between April and August promotes lush, bushy growth. Long-term organic fertilizers that ensure a sufficient supply of nutrients over several weeks or even months are particularly suitable. The fertilizer is broken down by the soil organisms and is gradually available for the plant.

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Cut lemon verbena

In autumn, before the first frost becomes noticeable, the lemon verbena can be cut back to two eyes. The new shoot mostly takes place at the shoot tips. If the branches were left long, they would be bare below and new shoots would only grow in the two upper eyes. Even during the season, a stronger cut can be made for the harvest if necessary.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Hibernate lemon verbena

The lemon verbena is considered to be extremely sensitive to frost. Under good conditions and in particularly protected locations, however, it can even survive a cold winter outdoors. For this purpose, the branches should be cut back to a few eyes in October. A layer of straw about 30 centimeters thick or a cover with a garden fleece provides the necessary protection from the cold. Well packed, the lemon verbena can survive in the garden bed until mid-April.

However, if you want to be on the safe side, bring the container or potted plant inside before the first frost. Unless you prune the lemon verbena in autumn, light wintering at around 5 ° C in the cellar, shed or stairwell is ideal. However, darker, cool rooms have the advantage that the plant sheds its leaves on its own and thus the risk of rot is reduced. Even when cut back, the plant can be overwintered in the dark. Since the plant does not have any leaves during hibernation, it does not need any light. But it should be poured a little from time to time.

The lemon verbena sprouts at constant temperatures of around 15 ° C. From March onwards you can let the plant grow in a moderately heated room. After about ten days, the first tender leaves and shoots should appear. If no more frost is to be expected, the lemon verbena can go outside again in mid-May. Intensive watering and fertilization give the plant new vitality and strengthen it for the coming year.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Harvest lemon verbena

The leaves of lemon verbena can be harvested from May to September. To do this, individual leaves can be plucked off or entire branches cut a few centimeters above the ground. Only healthy parts of the plant are harvested. Wilted, pitted or discolored leaves should be removed. Fresh leaves are ideal for making herbal lemonades or for refining desserts.

Unfortunately, there is not enough light in winter to harvest fresh lemon verbena all year round. The plant would suffer and pest infestation and stunted growth would be the result. If you still do not want to do without lemon verbena, you should stock up on sufficient supplies in the summer months. The plant can then be pruned back in autumn and sent to the well-deserved hibernation.

Store lemon verbena

The fresh leaves of lemon verbena can be frozen or soaked in oil. Probably the simplest method of preserving lemon verbena, however, is drying. It is best to remove the fresh leaves from the cut branch. Then you lay them out loosely on a cloth or newspaper. The leaves dry within a week in an airy, warm place. However, direct sunlight should be avoided.

The slower and gentler the drying process, the sooner the green color and aroma will be retained. The drying process is only complete when the herbs crackle when pressed together. If there is still too much residual moisture, mold could develop during storage. Stored in an airtight, opaque container, the lemon aroma is preserved for a long time.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

Lemon Verbena: Ingredients and Uses

The lemon verbena contains an essential oil in all parts of the plant, the fresh scent of which is reminiscent of lemon. The scent intensity of the leaves is considerably stronger than that of most other plants with a similar smell. If you want to bring the fresh scent into your home, fill small herbal bags with the dried herb. It can also be used to repel insects at the same time because mosquitoes, flies, and the like don’t seem to like the scent that much.

Lemon verbena is said to be antispasmodic, appetizing, and digestive. In addition, it has a slightly calming effect on nervousness and insomnia. A good evening tea made from lemon verbena, also known as “verveine”, is very popular in France. A cold tea made from lemon verbena is often referred to as “verbena tea”. Verbena Officinalis is closely related to the fragrant verbena, but it tastes extremely bitter.

For an aromatic tea, pour 1 teaspoon of the crushed lemon verbena leaves over a quarter-liter of water and let it steep for about 5 minutes. When chilled, it also tastes wonderful as iced tea in summer and is used to flavor other beverages. A kind of spinach can be prepared from the fresh leaves in the kitchen. However, it is much more common as a seasoning herb. The lemony aroma harmonizes wonderfully with fish and poultry. But it is also used to season salads and flavor desserts such as pudding or ice cream. If you want to benefit from the taste of lemon verbena in winter too, it is best to process it into syrup, jelly, or pesto.

Lemon verbena: everything you need to plant, care for & propagate

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