Lemon-scented herbs are amongst my favourites. I’m currently growing lemon thyme, lemongrass and the subject of today’s post: Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora). I love to walk past the herb and inhale the intense citrusy aroma. Lemon verbena makes an excellent herbal tea that can be enjoyed hot or as an iced tea.
Lemon verbena tea has been found to have many health benefits including acting as an anti-oxidant, fighting yeast infections, helping alleviate menstrual cramps, stomach pain and anxiety amongst others.
Easy lemon verbena tea:
2 heaped tablespoons of lemon verbena leaves
750ml (3 cups) boiling water
Honey to taste
Let the fresh leaves steep in a teapot or French coffee press for at least 2 minutes. You will notice the water slightly change colour to a light green. Pour into a cup & enjoy with honey. You may also allow the herbal tea to cool in the teapot or French press, add the honey and then pour into a sealable container for refridgeration. Serve later with lots of ice.
One can also dry the fresh leaves and store them for later use.
Below: I’m not the only fan of this herb. Lemon verbena is also known as Lemon beebrush.
How to grow Lemon verbena:
This is one of the easiest and hardiest herbs to grow, possibly on the same level as mint. I have grown lemon verbena in different gardens for as long as I can remember and have never had any problems with it. This herb grows fast, resists most pests (I think the lemon scent is responsible) and doesn’t requite a lot of water. It has a woody stem system on older growth.
I have grown lemon verbena in the garden, and currently have a large shrub in a big container in my courtyard near the kitchen. I like this convenient location because I can easily make myself a pot of the lemon verbena tea without venturing far out into the garden early in the morning.
If you look carefully, you’ll notice the container also has kale and a tomato plant (they seed themselves in there). There is also French tarragon and French thyme in there. The lemon verbena doesn’t seem to mind the crowd and has been thriving in there for two years or so.
To grow the lemon verbena in a container, line the bottom with stones or cracked pottery for drainage. This pot is also elevated on risers. You can use a 1:1:1 mix of quality potting soil, perlite and compost as your growing medium. I use my home-made compost for this. I also like to add some organic fertlisers like a handful of Bounceback pellets. I also topped it off with bark chips as mulch, but this is not a requirement.
In the ground, I have grown lemon verbena without any soil amendments or fertilisers and it has thrived. Of course it does much better with some TLC.
During winter the plant loses its leaves, but always recovers for me in the spring, even after frost. I prune it in early spring just to shape it and to encourage growth on stronger stems. I pruned off about a third of the plant all around. I have been rewarded lots of new growth and these delicate flowers. I think they would look lovely are garnishes for desserts or frozen in ice-cubes (ensure that you boil the water before freezing so that it freezes clear).
This is a very worthy and forgiving herb to grow. So if you enjoy lemony drinks and spot this herb at your local garden centre, give it a try.