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What is a Lemon Verbena Plant and How to Care for It?

Here's everything you need to know about the lemon verbena plant, what it looks like, its growing conditions, and its vital uses. We've included some propagating tips so you can incorporate one into your herb garden.

Focused image on lemon verbena leaves growing in the garden

Aloysia Citrodora

Aloysia citrodora, also scientifically known as aloysia triphylla or lippia citriodora, or commonly known as lemon beebrush or lemon verbena, is a very handy herbaceous perennial plant that you should certainly consider adding to your herb garden.

Citrodora is a latin term that means “lemon scented” and that is really why everyone cares so much about lemon verbena plants. The rough leaves emit a very powerful lemon scent when the are crushed, and have historically been distilled for their essential oils as well.

In our list of Amazing Flowering Plants we go over many specimens that are popular because of their pristine beauty, but we like to incorporate some species because they are pristinely useful and beneficial not only to our health, but to the local ecosystem as well! So get to reading all about lemon verbena and you’ll be trimming your own patch before you know it!

But first, here’s an extra little cute tidbit about lemon verbenas: back in the day, Victorian ladies would tuck fresh lemon verbena leaves into their handkerchiefs so that they could inhale the fresh scent for relief of those hot summer days!

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What does Lemon Verbena Look Like?

Lovely bushy growth habit of the lemon verbena herb

Growth Habit

Starting under the soil, lemon verbena plants have rather shallow, thin, and fragile roots. This means that they shouldn’t be transplanted too frequently as it could result in damage. It’s best to plant them in a container that can easily brought indoors!

These perennial shrubs or subshrubs will usually grow to be anywhere between 7 and 10 feet in height and have an open and airy shrubby appearance to them.

Leaves

When growing in warmer, more tropical climates, lemon verbena leaves will be evergreen, meaning that they remain green and persist all year long, regardless of the season. When growing in cooler climates they will be either semi-evergreen or fall away as winter approaches.

Each lemon verbena leaf will usually be about 3 inches in length and be narrow with a pointed tip. They have a rather rough texture to them and have a very strong lemon fragrance when they are crushed. The lemon verbena leaf is the most valuable part of the plant as it contains all of the medicinal properties!

Flowers

Lemon verbena flowers are produced in the late spring or early summer, and they are borne as fabulous sprays of either tiny white flowers or tiny light purple flowers.

Each lemon verbena flower will produce 2 seeds, though the seed is usually only viable if the plant is growing in a tropical climate. These are also perennial plants, meaning that they will continue to produce flowers year after year as long as conditions are just right.

Where is Lemon Verbena a Native Plant?

Beautiful tiny purple flowers of the lemon verbena plant

Lemon verbena plants like to call places like North Africa, Southern Europe, and Iran, home, though they are mainly a native plant to South America. They prefer to exist in tropical climates where they will grow like weeds in peoples gardens.

In the early 17th century, seeds were brought over to Europe from Portugal and Spain for the high demand of lemon verbena essential oil. That is how they became naturalized in other warm regions. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

What are the Growing Conditions of Lemon Verbena Plants?

Now that know all the necessary details about lemon verbena plants, let’s take a minute to learn about what it takes to keep them happy! The good news is that they can easily be added to your existing herb garden without much effort. They’ll even naturally repel pests and attract beneficial insects!

Though lemon verbenas can be a little bit picky, their growing conditions are by no means difficult to maintain. They require medium to little effort from you and will reward you with lovely flower sprays and super leaves!

It is important that if you happen to live in a region that experiences cold winters, that your lemon verbena seedling is planted in a container. Since they have roots that are rather intolerant of freezing, keeping them in a container makes it easier for you to bring them indoors once the first threat of frost comes along.

Tons of lemon verbena plants growing in a greenhouse

Soil Type

It is important that a lemon verbena plant is planted in some high quality potting soil. This potting mix should be incorporated with compost, not only to increase the nutrient content, but to ensure proper drainage of the plant.

These plants will not perform well if they are planted in clay or in soil that is very acidic. They prefer to exist in light, loamy soils that are either neutral or alkaline.

Sun Exposure

Lemon verbena plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to be able to sunbathe for a full 6 hours or more every single day! They can also tolerate partial shade, but this can sometimes result in a less productive blooming period.

Water Level

Lemon verbena plants prefer to live in soil that is moist, but not entirely saturated. Usually the natural precipitation of an area should suffice, though if there is an extended period without any rain, they should receive supplemental watering.

Lemon verbena plants should be receiving about an inch of water per week during their active growing season. Outside of that growing season and their soil can be allowed to dry out for more extended periods of time.

Lovely white flower spray on the lemon verbena plant

Temperature

The most specific a lemon verbena plant will be will be in regards to temperature. They are not very cold tolerant plants, and they should be brought indoors as a house plant once the cold winter approaches.

Lemon verbenas are tender perennials, and their roots will not usually survive freezing. Adding a layer of mulch to the top soil simply won’t protect them enough. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Leaf drop will occur once temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, but their woody stems are hardy to at least 14 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll go dormant during the winter months.

Fertilizer

Lemon verbena is a flowering plant that responds very well to fertilizer. During its active growing season, it can be given a water soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks starting in the spring and lasting well into the fall.

Otherwise, they will also respond very well to the incorporation of compost to the mix at the beginning of the season. This will increase nutrient content and help with drainage.

Pruning

Lemon verbenas can very quickly become leggy if they are not pruned regularly. They should receive a regular monthly snipping to get ride of those extra enthusiastic stems. Otherwise, doing a hard pruning in the early spring to help encourage a full, bushy shape.

Intolerances

So as you can see, lemon verbenas do require a bit of attention from you, but it’ll be part of the simple maintenance of your other fresh herbs. Just remember that they cannot tolerate extreme cold, and they are not tolerant of acidic soil or clay.

How do you Propagate a Lemon Verbena Plant?

Focus image on small white flowers of the beautiful lemon verbena plant

Now it’s time to learn how to propagate your very own specimen! Since seeds are not usually viable, the most successful way to start your own plant is either by purchasing an already established plant at a nursery, or by grabbing a stem cutting or root division form a buddy.

Pick a Cutting

First things first: choosing a stem cutting. It is best to choose your cuttings in the late spring, right when plants are emerging from their dormancy period. It is also important to choose a cutting that looks very healthy, as that genetic material will be passed on to the new plants.

Pick a Spot

If you live in a warm place, you can plant your cuttings right in the garden in an area that receives full sun and has nutrient rich, well draining soil. If you live in a colder place, your plant should be planted in a large garden container. They can be spaced 1 inch apart from one another, and they should also receive full sun.

Maintenance

During their growing periods, it is important that they are receiving at least 1 inch of water and they can receive a dose of fertilizer every couple of weeks as well. Otherwise, they require regular pruning to help train it into a neat growth habit.

How are Lemon Verbena Plants Used?

Dried lemon verbena leaves in a bowl next to a freshly cut lemon sitting on a table

Companion Planting

Something nifty that not everyone knows about lemon verbena plants is that they are highly beneficial to the other plants in your garden. They have this amazing effect where they simultaneously repel mosquitoes and flies (which can be harmful to plant life) and they attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees!

It is very common to plant them alongside your other garden herb patch or vegetable patch, and they are especially effective when planted alongside a fresh herb like lemon balm, mint, lemongrass, and camomile.

Edible Plant

Lemon verbena leaves have a long history in the culinary world. They have an amazing lemon-y flavor that contributes to dishes in a more fresh way than simple lemon rind or juice does. This lemon favor goes very well with sugar and savory dishes as well!

Fresh lemon verbena leaves are often used to help flavor poultry and fish dishes, and they can also be used as a tangy garnish on fruit salads, desserts, and can even be added to salad dressings.

Lemon verbena leaves can also be dried and stored in an airtight container. From here, they are often used for herbal tea and have traditionally been used to flavor liquor. Lemon verbena tea can be made just by steeping dried leaves or fresh leaves for a different lemon flavor.

(And not to mention, their beautiful flowering tops are edible as well!!)

Medicinal Plant

For many centuries, lemon verbena extract has been used for its medicinal purposes as a lovely herbal remedy. Oil from the leaves would be extracted by steam distillation and used for teas and otherwise

Lemon verbena essential oil is said to help with a multitude of ailments. It is said to help soothe anxiety and insomnia, with digestive disorders like gas and diarrhea, and with immune system robustness by soothing symptoms of colds, fevers, and even asthma.

Fresh lemon verbena cutting next to a mortar and pestle and mug of tea

FAQs

Is lemon verbena deer resistant?

Aloysia citriodora is a wonderful flowering plant for several reasons: it is lovely, it has edible leaves, and it is entirely deer resistant! it also attracts beneficial pollinators and repels pests.

What are the damaging agents to lemon verbena plants?

The main thing that tends to cause some serious to lemon verbena (other than extremely cold temperatures) is spider mite infestations! They will nibble on those tasty leaves until there’s nearly nothing left.

Are lemon verbena leaves edible?

Lemon verbena leaves have a long history in the culinary world. They have an amazing lemon-y flavor that contributes to dishes in a more fresh way than simple lemon rind or juice does. This lemon favor goes very well with sugar and savory dishes as well!

Fresh lemon verbena leaves are often used to help flavor poultry and fish dishes, and they can also be used as a tangy garnish on fruit salads, desserts, and can even be added to salad dressings.

Lemon verbena leaves can also be dried and stored in an airtight container. From here, they are often used for herbal tea and have traditionally been used to flavor liquor. Lemon verbena tea can be made just by steeping dried leaves or fresh leaves for a different lemon flavor.

(And not to mention, their beautiful flowering tops are edible as well!!)

Are lemon verbena plants perennial or annual?

Lemon verbena plants bear flowers that are perennials. This means that the plant will continue to bloom year after year as long as the plant is kept happy.

Can I grow lemon verbena indoors?

It is important that if you happen to live in a region that experiences cold winters, that your lemon verbena seedling is planted in a container. Since they have roots that are rather intolerant of freezing, keeping them in a container makes it easier for you to bring them indoors once the first threat of frost comes along.

Can lemon verbena plants be grown from cuttings?

Since seeds are not usually viable, the most successful way to start your own plant is either by purchasing an already established plant at a nursery, or by grabbing a stem cutting or root division form a buddy. It is best to choose your cuttings in the late spring, right when plants are emerging from their dormancy period. It is also important to choose a cutting that looks very healthy, as that genetic material will be passed on to the new plants.

Can a lemon verbena plant survive winter?

The most specific a lemon verbena plant will be will be in regards to temperature. They are not very cold tolerant plants, and they should be brought indoors as a house plant once the cold winter approaches.

Lemon verbenas are tender perennials, and their roots will not usually survive freezing. Adding a layer of mulch to the top soil simply won’t protect them enough. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Leaf drop will occur once temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, but their woody stems are hardy to at least 14 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll go dormant during the winter months.

Does lemon verbena repel mosquitoes?

Something nifty that not everyone knows about lemon verbena plants is that they are highly beneficial to the other plants in your garden. They have this amazing effect where they simultaneously repel mosquitoes and flies (which can be harmful to plant life) and they attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees!

It is very common to plant them alongside your other garden herb patch or vegetable patch, and they are especially effective when planted alongside a fresh herb like lemon balm, mint, lemongrass, and camomile.

Can lemon verbena grow in shade?

Lemon verbena plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to be able to sunbathe for a full 6 hours or more every single day! They can also tolerate partial shade, but this can sometimes result in a less productive blooming period.

Should lemon verbena be pruned?

Lemon verbenas can very quickly become leggy if they are not pruned regularly. They should receive a regular snipping monthly to get ride of those extra enthusiastic stems. Otherwise, doing a hard pruning in the early spring to help encourage a full, bushy shape.

Does lemon verbena go dormant?

A lemon verbena will go dormant in the winter time and restart its growing season once early spring comes back around.

What is lemon verbena essential oil?

For many centuries, lemon verbena extract has been used for its medicinal purposes as a lovely herbal remedy. Oil from the leaves would be extracted by steam distillation and used for teas and otherwise

Lemon verbena essential oil is said to help with a multitude of ailments. It is said to help soothe anxiety and insomnia, with digestive disorders like gas and diarrhea, and with immune system robustness by soothing symptoms of colds, fevers, and even asthma.

Is lemon verbena invasive?

Lemon verbena plants are not considered as invasive species. This is because their seeds are rarely viable outside of their natural growing range, and they do not proliferate very easily.

What is the ideal soil type for a lemon verbena plant?

It is important that a lemon verbena plant is planted in some high quality potting soil. This potting mix should be incorporated with compost, not only to increase the nutrient content, but to ensure proper drainage of the plant.

These plants will not perform well if they are planted in clay or in soil that is very acidic. They prefer to exist in light, loamy soils that are either neutral or alkaline.