Lippia - Lemon Verbena
DESCRIPTION: These are a group of shrubby and herbaceous plants mostly natives of North and South America. The only kind commonly cultivated is the Lemon Verbena, Lippia triphylla (sometimes known as Aloysia triphylla). The Lemon Verbena is a leaf-losing shrub from Latin America that is valued for its apple-green, stiff, willowy leaves, which have a wonderful, strong fragrance resembling the scent of lemons. It bears small, pale, lilac flowers in August. In warm climates this plant will grow from 3 to 5 feet in a single season and billow out. In northern gardens, however, it grows slowly and is treated as an annual. In the North it is usually grown as a pot plant in cool greenhouses and sunrooms. In mild climates it can be permanently planted outdoors.
POTTING: Lemon Verbena needs well-drained soil that is sandy, loamy, and average to dry. They should be grown in full sun. Pruning should be done in the spring; the branches of the previous summer's growth should be shortened to keep the plant shapely and within bounds. Repotting, if necessary, should be done as soon as the plants start into fresh growth. Even in a warm greenhouse, Lemon Verbena will go dormant. When the leaves begin to fall, gradually discontinue the water supply. The soil only needs to moistened enough to keep the soil from becoming bone dry in the winter. To harvest, snip branch tips for fresh use. At the end of the season, just before frost, cut the whole plant down and dry it in the dark. It is perhaps the best of the lemon-scented herbs for drying because it keeps much of its fragrance and flavor. It is used in tisanes, teas, and potpourris. Chefs love to use Lemon Verbena along with Citrus Lemon because its flavor holds up in cooking.
PROPAGATION: Order plants to get a head start or if you have a greenhouse or live in a mild winter climate, use softwood cuttings to increase your plants. These are made from the non-flowering branches in late summer. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and root them in moist sand. When they've formed roots, they should be potted separately in 3-inch pots of sandy, loamy soil and finally in pots 6-8 inches wide.
VARIETIES: L. triphylla.
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