Lemon Verbena
Success at Last!

Boy! Getting this plant to grow was driving me crazy.

Lemon verbena is one of the most rewarding, refreshingly delightful herbs worth having. Why was growing it giving me problems, I just didn't know.

At least I can boast rather pathetically that I still have the original plant that has died on me several times, or rather it fooled me into thinking it was dead.

April Fooled!

Early in the summer I bought a well established plant.

I kept it in the pot, placed it in a sunny position and gave it plenty of water. It thrived for a while but then one by one the leaves started to fall off.

I tried watering it less but that made things worse. I changed the pot and compost because I thought it may have root rot and then placed it in semi-shade but still no change.

Eventually all the leaves came off so I gave up and tossed it aside. All winter it lay there on its side until one early Spring morning.

I was busy doing a garden clean-up in preparation for the growing season and came across it still lying there.

But then, to my surprise, the herb had sprung back to life! There were tiny small leaves growing on all the branches.

I thought it was giving me a second chance until I did some research on how to grow this fabulous herb. I had been going about it all wrong and had been totally April fooled.

Growing Lemon Verbena
The Right Way

It's looking good so far! This plant does need care to grow well in cooler climates so here is the low-down on how to grow it.

Take cuttings from fresh tips in late Spring. They will root quick in a protective environment like your house or greenhouse. You also have the choice of buying plugs ready to grow indoors and plant out after the last of the frost has passed.

Choose an alkaline, free draining and light potting mix. If you can get hold of it, add a little puma stone grit for retaining some moisture, helping drainage and airing of roots.

Place them in a sunny position that is almost a frost free location. If such a place doesn't exist in your garden, keep the plant in a pot so it can be moved to a greenhouse in winter for protection.

Feed Lemon verbena! I know, herbs usually prefer poorer soils but not this baby. It thrives when nourished with a good fertilizer. Tomato plant or other vegetable fertilizer is recommended at the manufacturers mixing instructions.

As the plant grows it will shoot out long drooping branches illustrated in the photo above.

Time to harvest by snipping these branches about half way just above a pair of new leaves. Don't pick off individual leaves.

Lemon Verbena will shed its leaves at the end of the season. This is normal! It's time to place it in a greenhouse or even bring it indoors to winter.

It needs very little water at the leafless stage so only give it a few small sprinkles throughout the winter months. To revive it in Spring, mist it with warm tepid water.

Warning!

If the leaves drop in the Spring or mid-summer this is not normal!

In the event that a disaster like this strikes your plant, don't be fooled like me into thinking it's died the death. Read the troubleshooter below to learn more!

Troubleshooting

Problem – The plant is dropping leaves

It's the end of Autumn.

  • Around this time Lemon verbena is entering the dormant stage on the approach of winter.Don't worry, this is normal! Water and place it in a greenhouse. Only periodically give it a little water until Spring then prune it right back and spray the branches with warm water to revive.

If it's Spring you're over-watering it.

  • Don't waterlog the roots, but only water if the pots are dry.

If it's Summer you're under-watering it.

  • Water frequently when the weather is hot but don't waterlog the roots.

The soil is too compact.

  • Use freely draining, light compost and do not firm in too much. Avoid fine soil that compacts.

The roots are being disturbing while changing pots.

  • Try not to disturb the root ball if you need to change to a larger pot.

Sudden swings in temperature.

  • Harden off Lemon verbena before introducing it to the cooler outdoor environment. From house to greenhouse for a week or two, and from the greenhouse into the garden.
  • Due to climate change, weather can fluctuate drastically from hot to cold so keep a lookout for that and place the herb in a warm house or greenhouse.

Problem – Leggy branches

Lack of pruning.

  • Prune back in Spring. The herb will grow and bush quickly.

Under-harvesting.

  • You are not harvesting the plant enough. Harvest frequently in the growing season by cutting the branches just above sets of leaves rather than picking individual leaves.

Problem – Chewed or shrivelled leaves

Possibly caused by spider mites, caterpillars, or white fly.

  • Keep an eye on your herbs by inspecting front and back often to stop an infestation of pests.

Problem – Dead plant

You didn`t find this troubleshooter in time.

  • Too late to do anything about it now, but learn from it! The next Lemon verbena plant you buy don't water more than once a month and very little at that during the dormant stage when there are no leaves on the plant. This is the most common of cause of killing lemon verbena

A word of wisdom! Don`t be quick to throw the plant away. Put it somewhere dry and sheltered. You never know, it might just surprise you yet!

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