Native to Central and South America, lemon verbena is a tropical shrub with narrow, blade-shaped leaves. In moderate climates it can reach three to four feet tall, and in tropical climates it gets even taller. It needs protection in winter in colder climates, but it can be raised in a pot to make this easier. The leaves can be used to provide a hint of lemon to cooking or to make a lemony tea, and is especially popular in cold dishes and desserts. The tea is an old remedy for colds and fevers, and the leaves can be used in natural insect repellents. All in all, a useful plant to grow in your own garden. Follow a few simple steps, and it is a fairly easy plant to grow at home.
Step 1 – Where to Plant
Plant lemon verbena in a warm, sunny spot. It can handle partial shade, but prefers full sun unless the region is particularly hot. Choose a spot near a south facing wall to retain heat and shelter it from the weather. Lemon verbena can not handle winters in regions colder than zone 9.
Whether in a pot or in the ground, provide a good mix of organics in the planting soil for your lemon verbena. The plant prefers a neutral soil composition. The soil should be well-draining, whether the plant is in the ground or in a pot. The roots will rot if the soil remains too wet.
Step 2 – When to Plant
Plant in the spring to get the most out of lemon verbena's growth cycle.
Step 3 – How to Plant
Dig a hole in the soil slightly larger than the pot your lemon verbena came in and just as deep. Loosen the root ball and surrounding soil from the sides of the pot and slide the plant out. Place the root ball in the hole you dug, with the plant stem at ground level. Fill in the hole with the soil you removed, pressing lightly to compact it. Water well to moisten the soil and fill in any air bubbles.
If you plant in a pot, provide at least a 12-inch pot so the roots have room to expand.
Step 4 – Fertilizing Schedule
Fertilize your lemon verbena every two to four weeks from spring to fall. Do not fertilize in the winter when the plant is dormant.
Step 5 – Winter Care
Prune your lemon verbena back in the fall whether you move it indoors or leave it outside. The plant will go dormant in the winter, so expect your leaves to fall off no matter where you keep it. You can save the leaves that you prune and dry them for use during the winter.
If you intend to winter outside, slow your watering as the weather gets colder. Dry roots will actually survive better as the weather turns. The plant will need little to no water while dormant.