Plants with lemon fragrance are natural aromatherapy. A lemon scent helps freshen the air, outdoors or indoors, and clears the mind. Fortunately for gardeners, a smooth lemon fragrance is widely available in grasses, herbs and ornamentals. Here are easy ways to add lemon plants to the kitchen or garden.
Start with lemon basil. This annual herb is a basil with a lemon fragrance and flavor. Basil likes well-drained soil, some sun and regular water. This is a popular outdoor or kitchen container herb. Outdoors under ideal conditions, it can grow up to 2 feet tall. Pinch off a leaf or two for flavoring pasta dishes, fish or vegetables.
Use lemon grass for a beautiful lemon-scented landscape plant. Lemon grass is a tall perennial grass. Its long sharp gray-green leaves make it a wonderful background plant for flower or herbal gardens. It grows up to 6 feet tall in mild climates and up to 3 feet tall in most gardens. It is a warm climate plant, so in cold climates either grow it in a container or dig up a plant and repot it for indoor winter use. Often used as a cooking herb, this thick-stalked plant must be chopped or mashed to bring out its flavor. The oil is considered an insect repellent and may have antifungal medicinal properties.
Choose lemon balm for a light lemon fragrance. Because of its mint background, lemon balm likes full sun but can grow in partial shade. It grows in clumps as a perennial herb and may die in winter but will return in spring. Like many mints, it can spread and become a nuisance under the right circumstances. Brush its leaves to release the citrus aroma.
Plant lemon verbena for a medium-size perennial shrub. Verbena grows best in a mild climate; rich, well-drained soil; full sun; and plenty of water. This shrub is deciduous, so it will lose its leaves in winter. In cold climates, plant it in a container and bring it indoors for winter. When the leaves drop, water the plant enough while it is dormant to keep it from drying out. In its native South America, verbena can grow 10 to 15 feet tall. In most North American gardens, it grows 1 to 3 feet tall. Pinch it back during the growing season for fullest foliage growth. The leaves have a strong citrus fragrance. Herbalists use the leaves for herbal teas and potpourris.
Select lemon thyme for an easy-growing drought-tolerant herb. This evergreen perennial likes full sun and grows up to 1 foot tall. It spreads easily, making it a great low-growing landscaping plant. Lemon thyme may die back in colder climates but often comes back in spring. Its lemony leaves make a smooth herbal tea. Lemon thyme has a zesty flavor for any recipe needing a touch of lemon such as fish or chicken. This is an excellent kitchen container herb. Just snip off a leaf or spring and use it as garnish for a nice culinary accent.
Experiment with other lemon plants. Try scented geraniums if you are fond of these crinkle-leaf pelargoniums. The scented geraniums include small-leaved lemon geraniums and palm shaped larger-leaved lemon balm geraniums. Local garden centers often have other lemon-scented plants perfect for the regional gardener. Enjoy these fragrant plants and remember to brush their foliage or snip off a few leaves to crush for a quick aroma boost.