Lemon verbena is an herb that is native to Chile and Argentina. The plant grows large enough to be considered a shrub. The leaves are distinctively fragrant, with a heavy scent of lemon that remains even years after the leaves have been dried.
Lemon verbena is propagated by cuttings or by seed. Cuttings are planted directly into soil and take root in a matter of weeks. Sow seeds one inch below the surface of the soil and brush loose soil over them. Keep the soil moist (not wet) and expose the seed or cutting to at least eight hours of sunlight per day.
Lemon verbena grows very rapidly. In tropical conditions, the shrub reaches heights of up to 15 feet. In most climates, the bush will grow to about 4-5 feet. Cut the main trunk's height to force the plant to produce more side growth.
Lemon verbena plants bloom during the spring. The blossoms are small and white. Like the leaves, the flowers are very fragrant. Lemon verbena flowers are used in cooking and to make herbal teas.
Lemon Verbena in the Kitchen
Lemon verbena leaves can be used in any dish or beverage when an acid-free lemony flavor is desired. Steep the leaves in milk to add lemon flavor to puddings and ice creams. To make a tea, steep the leaves in very hot (not boiling) water.
Lemon verbena leaves and flowers are used in toiletries. The fragrance is found in eau de toilette, body sprays and perfumes.
The flowers and leaves are used in herbal medicine. Lemon verbena is believed to reduce fever and relieve stomach aches. It is said to have a mild sedative effect.