Nothing beats the fresh taste of lemon. While lemons are one source of this refreshing flavor so are some herbs. A classical one that provides a delectable lemon flavor is lemon verbena. While it can simply be grown in the garden, if you do not live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11 plan on growing this herb as an annual or plant in a container and bring it in.
Propagating by Seed
Planting your seed starts off with looking at the calendar. You will want to start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once you have that date, you are ready to prepare for planting. There are a few chores that one must do before planting the seeds begins. First, the tray or flat will need to be cleaned and sterilized. This is easily done by first filling a basin with water and a capful of bleach. Once you have that, add your tray or flat and allow it to soak. Next, scrub the container to remove any soil and rinse in clear water. Allow the tray or flat to dry in the air.
While the container is drying, you can go ahead and make your planting medium. The recipe for this planting medium is easy. You take a good all-purpose potting soil and add a handful or two of peat moss. Mix well. Once that is done, moisten the planting medium thoroughly and place in the dried tray or flat. Gently tap on a hard surface to remove air bubbles and settle the soil.
Next, take a ruler and place on the soil surface. Plant your lemon verbena seeds so that they are one inch apart. Lightly cover with soil and mist with water after all the seeds have been planted.
Place on a sunny windowsill, monitor soil moisture, and wait one to two weeks for seed germination.
Once the seeds have their second set of true leaves, it is time to move them to their own containers. To do this, clean and sterilize the pots, place drainage material in the bottom and fill with the planting medium described above.
After the pots have been filled, gently remove the seedlings and transplant them into their new home and water in. Prior to placing outside, make sure to harden them off by slowly exposing them to the outdoor environment over a two week period prior to your local frost free date.
Propagating by Cuttings
If you have an existing lemon verbena plant in your garden, you can share the wealth by taking a cutting. This is easily done by first picking out a healthy stem of the lemon verbena. This step is very important because what you put in is what you are going to get. If you pick a sickly stem then your cutting will be sickly.
Once you have your stem selected, the next step is to take the cutting. When doing this step, always make the cutting at an angle, which is better for the cutting and the mother plant.
Now, just place your cutting in a glass of water and in no time you will see roots forming. After that has happened, transplant your cutting into a container with the DIY planting medium.
Lemon Verbena Plants
Whether you have bought plants or grew your own, you will want to pick the best area possible for your lemon verbena. This herb loves the sun and requires at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight during the growing season. You will also need a well draining soil but if you are not sure on the moisture level, it is better to have the soil a little dry than wet when it comes to this plant. Finally, you will need space. Lemon verbena’s mature size can be 6 feet in height and 8 feet wide. So plan accordingly.
If you do not live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11, you may want to consider growing this herb in a container. This will allow you to bring the plant in when the temperatures drop but to do this herb justice, you will need a pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter.
If you decide to plant your lemon verbena in a container, you may also consider “planting” the herb in the ground in the container. Why would you want to do this? Well, it is a great way of insulating the roots from cold weather but keep in mind that the roots may be damaged when you lift the container.
The process of planting the plant in the ground is easy and requires one to dig a hole that is twice the width of the container and the same depth. Once the hole is dug, take the removed soil and mix in a handful of peat moss. Cut the pot away from the root mass, tease the roots, and place in the hole. Fill in with the mixed soil and water in.
On the other hand, if you pick the container option you will need to clean and sterilize the pot. Next, mix up the planting medium noted previously. Add drainage material and fill with DIY planting medium. After that is done, plant lemon verbena as described above.
Caring for the lemon verbena is simple. If you are going outdoors, feed the plant a fertilizer that is low in salts and high in nitrogen every 4 weeks during the growing season only. On the other hand, if your lemon verbena is grown indoors, only feed twice a month during the spring and summer months.
Prior to your local frost free date, prepare to move the plant indoors by backing off on the watering. Exposure to colder temperatures and reduced watering will cause leaf drop. This is fine and many gardeners actually wait for cooler temperatures so that the plant will drop the leaves outside instead of inside their home.
Once the leaves have dropped and before a killing frost, bring in your lemon verbena. Do not water during the dormant period and allow the plant to tell you when it needs water by the presence of leaves.