Lemon verbena – characteristics, cultivation and use

lemon verbena flowers
lemon verbena flowers

The lemon verbena, which is also known as lemon beebrush, impresses with its lemon-like fragrance. The delicious aroma of lemon verbena is used today in many recipes. Also, as a medicinal plant, the herb is usually used in the form of a tea for sports injuries, cold or during breastfeeding. Lemon verbena is the South American sister of verbena.

Profile of lemon verbena:

Scientific name: Aloysia citrodora

Plant family: verbena family (Verbenaceae)

Other names: lemon beebrush

Sowing time / Planting time: February – March

Flowering period: July – September

Harvest time: all year

Location: sunny to full sun

Soil quality: permeable and rather nutrient-poor soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cold, fever, muscle cramps, headache, depressed mood

Use as aromatic herb: pastries, desserts, sodas, cocktails, seafood, fish

Plant characteristics and classification of lemon verbena

Origin and occurrence of lemon verbena

The lemon verbena is a plant native of South America, which is found wild mainly in the regions of Chile and Uruguay. This verbena species came to Europe at the end of the 17th century by Spanish sailors.

In Europe, lemon verbena is cultivated today mainly in France and partly still in Spain. In other parts, a longer and above all economic cultivation is not possible in most regions due to the bad frost tolerance of the Verbena.

Plant order of lemon verbena

The lemon verbena is a member of the verbenaceae family. The well-known medicinal and spice plant is thus a direct relative of the Aztec sweet herb and of the native common verbena (Verbena officinalis), with which it is often mixed up.

The botanical name has changed frequently in the past, so that even today different names are in circulation. The currently correct name is Aloysia citrodora. Occasionally, however, there are also the names Aloysia triphylla, Lippia citriodora or Verbena triphylla.

The genus Aloysia comprises about 30 species, with almost all species of this genus are native to America.

Look and characteristics of the lemon verbena


The lemon verbena is a perennial shrub (subshrubs) that can reach heights of growth up to 2 meters (79 in). In our latitudes, however, the plant also known as lemon shrub is usually not higher than 120 cm (47 in). The lemon shrub is only partially hardy and tolerates frost between -5 and -8 ° C / 23 and 18 ° F.


The leaves of lemon verbena are usually light green, slightly sawn at the edge, lanceolate and glabrous. The length of the leaves varies between 3 and 10 cm (1.2 and 4 in), while the leaf width can be between 0.5 and 3 cm (0.2 and 1.2 in). On the leaves are usually smaller points (oil glands) that contain the essential oils and unfold the characteristic scent when touched. If the plant is kept too cold during the fall and winter months, it will cast all the leaves.


The heyday of lemon verbena usually takes place between July and late September. During this time, the filigree white flowers form. Each flower consists of four white petals and yellow stamens. It is striking that these petals protrude from a flower tube.


At the time of ripening, light-colored to dark-brown fruits arise from the ovary.

lemon verbena leaves
lemon verbena leaves

Lemon verbena – cultivation, sowing and care


The lemon verbena grows best in a warm, sunny and sheltered place. You can only cultivate the plant in a pot or plant it in your garden bed in locations with a milder climate.


As a substrate, a well-drained, humus-rich, rather nutrient-poor and slightly moist soil is recommended. For dense and rather loamy soils, the addition of aggregates such as sand or lava is recommended. Waterlogging is to be avoided.


Sowing with seeds is possible, but this can be a game of patience. For optimum germination of the seeds, a temperature around 20 ° C / 68 ° F is needed. The optimal sowing time should be between February and March in the house in pre-culture. It is recommended to use a nutrient-poor growing substrate. Lemon verbena needs light to germ, therefore, the seeds should only be lightly pressed onto the substrate, so that the germination is not hindered. The finished planter should be in a bright location, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

Cultivation with cuttings

In early summer, about 15 cm (6 in) long cuttings are cut off from the woody branches and put in pots with potting soil. The rooting can be promoted by a cover with foil, because the cuttings love warm temperatures between 18 and 25 ° C / 64 and 77 ° f. Once they have reached the desired rooting, the cuttings can be transplanted into pots. Then again patience is required, because only when the plantlets have reached a size of about 10 cm (4 in), the tip may be cut for the first time. As a result, the shrub branches better and grows bushier.


The soil should always be kept slightly to moderately moist. Excessive watering is to be avoided as otherwise waterlogging is promoted and the plant becomes more susceptible to disease. Occasionally dry earth does not bother it, but a complete drying out should be avoided.


Regular fertilization between April and August promotes a lush, bushy growth. Especially suitable are compost or long-term organic fertilizers that provide sufficient nutrients for several weeks or even months. The fertilizer is decomposed by the soil organisms and is thus gradually available for the plant.


In autumn, before the first frost, you can cut back the lemon verbena to two eyes. The new shoot is usually at the shoot tips. If the branches were left long, they would be bare below, and new shoots would only grow on the upper two eyes. Even during the season, if necessary, a stronger cut can be made for the harvest.


The leaves of lemon verbena can be harvested from May to September. For this purpose, individual leaves can be plucked off or whole branches can be cut off a few cm (a few in) above the ground. Only healthy parts of plants are harvested. Withered, bitten or discolored leaves should be removed. Fresh leaves are great for making herbal sodas or for refining desserts.

Unfortunately, there is not enough light in winter to harvest fresh lemon verbena all year round. The plant would suffer and pest infestation and stunted growth would be the result. If you do not want to do without lemon verbena, you should stock up on sufficient supplies during the summer months. The plant can then be cut back in the fall and sent to the well-deserved overwintering.


The fresh leaves of the lemon verbena can be frozen as well as put in oil. However, the simplest method of preserving verbena is drying. It is best to strip off the fresh leaves from the cut branch. Then put it on a cloth loose. The leaves dry in a warm, airy place within a week. Direct sunlight should be avoided. The slower and gentler drying, the sooner the green color and aroma are preserved. The drying process is only completed when the herbs crackle when squeezed. If too much residual moisture is present, it could lead to mold growth during storage. When stored in an airtight, opaque container, the lemon aroma remains intact for a long time.


The lemon verbena is considered very sensitive to frost. However, under good conditions and in specially protected locations, it can even survive a cold winter outdoors. For this purpose, the branches should be cut back in October to a few eyes. An approximately 30 cm (12 in) thick layer of straw or the cover with a garden fleece provide the necessary protection against the cold. Well packed, the lemon verbena can survive in the garden bed until mid-April.

However, if you want to play it safe, bring the pot or potted plant inside before the first frost. Unless you cut back the lemon verbena in the fall, a wintering at about 5 ° C / 41 ° C in the basement, shed or stairwell is ideal. However, darker, cooler rooms have the advantage that the plant throws off its leaves by itself and thus the risk of decay is reduced. Even when cut back, the plant can be overwintered darkly. Since the plant does not carry leaves during overwintering, it does not need light. But it should be watered from time to time.

The lemon verbena shoots at constant temperatures of about 15 ° C / 59 ° C. From March, the plant can therefore be placed in a moderately heated room. After about ten days, first tender leaves and shoots should show. If no frost is expected, the lemon verbena may go outside again in mid-May. Intensive watering and fertilizing give the plant new vitality and strengthen it for the coming year.

lemon verbena plant
a lemon verbena plant

Lemon verbena and its use

Lemon verbena in the kitchen

Lemon verbena is considered an excellent herb and can be used in the kitchen for many dishes. The herb is especially in French cuisine considered an excellent flavoring agent. In principle, lemon verbena can be used for the same foods as lemon balm.

The leaves of lemon verbena are particularly suitable for a variety of sweets such as cakes, jellies, jams or pastries. The pleasant lemon-like aroma can give such food a special touch. Its leaves are also excellent for yogurt fruit desserts

However, the use of lemon verbena is also possible for hearty meals. For example, mushrooms, chicken, seafood or fish dishes taste excellent if some whole leaves remain in the pan when frying.

In summertime, soft drinks that are refined with lemon verbena can be a delicate and thirst-quenching alternative. In a container of water, a small shrub or a few leaves of lemon verbena are added and allowed to stand for 15 minutes. Optionally, sweetened with a little cane sugar. Alternatively, the leaves can also be crushed and left in a tea bag in the water.

For many gardeners, the production of lemon verbena syrup is popular. This is especially always considered when larger amounts of sheet material are available after a pruning. For the production of a syrup about 250 ml / 8.5 fl oz of water and 350 grams / 12 oz of sugar / cane sugar is needed, in which two to three leaves-filled branches of verbena are inserted. The syrup can be refined with the juice of one or two limes.

Lemon verbena as a medicinal herb

Lemon verbena is widely recognized in South America as a recognized home remedy for numerous digestive, nervous system or minor mental health problems.

Scientific studies have found a strengthening effect on the nervous system as well as a calming effect on the digestive tract, for which the essential oils are responsible.

Lemon verbena can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • acne
  • bloating
  • bronchitis
  • catarrh of the upper respiratory tract
  • connective tissue weakness,
  • constipation
  • cough
  • depressions
  • dizziness
  • eye circles
  • fever
  • headache
  • indigestion
  • insect bites
  • insomnia
  • lack of concentration
  • migraine
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • nervous heart problems
  • stomach weakness
  • unrest

Medicinal properties

  • activating
  • antibacterial
  • antispasmodic
  • appetizing
  • balancing
  • blow promoting
  • digestive
  • diuretic
  • improving concentration
  • invigorating
  • menstruation promoting
  • milk making
  • motivating
  • reassuring
  • relaxing
  • refreshing
  • stimulates metabolism
  • strengthening
  • toning

The essential oils of lemon verbena are also commonly used in aromatherapy today. There they serve in the treatment of nervous restlessness, stress-related fatigue, difficulty falling asleep or minor digestive discomfort.

Lemon verbena is very suitable as a tea during breastfeeding. The ingredients of the medicinal plant stimulate milk production positively.

Preparation of a lemon verbena tea

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how to prepare a lemon verbena tea by yourself

  1. put one to two teaspoons of fresh or dried verbena leaves in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 10 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

  5. from this tea you drink one to three cups daily

Another application is the use of an envelope. For this purpose, an infusion similar to the tea is prepared, the infusion must cool completely. A suitable cloth (scrim, larger cotton wool pads) can then be dipped into the broth and applied to the appropriate parts of the body. Envelopes of lemon verbena are suitable e.g. for light sports injuries (overstretching, lighter muscle pain) and swelling of the eyelids.

Instructions for use: As with all powerful herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. Then you can drink Verbena tea again for six weeks. The break avoids any unwanted long-term effects and the desired Verbena effectiveness is maintained and does not diminish through habituation.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Lemon Verbena – What to pay attention to?

Many plant markets, hardware stores and flower shops offer fresh lemon verbena. For use as a spice or herb, there are herbal shops or online marketplaces to buy dried leaves of the plant.

When buying fresh plants should be taken urgently on botanical name. It is not uncommon that the related vervain/verbena is offered as lemon verbena, which, however, is significantly smaller and unfolds a different spiciness. Mostly, the verbenas are still offered under their old name Aloysia triphylla and occasionally as Aloysia citridora or Verbena triphylla. Another look should be cast on the plant itself. Sometimes the plants are infected with aphids or are simply overfertilized.

When buying dried leaves, there is not much to pay attention to. The herbs should be stored in aroma-tight packaging and lockable. When buying on online marketplaces should be asked if possible for the storage age, insofar as the sheets are to be used for the kitchen. A storage period of up to one year is considered harmless. Longer storage times are usually accompanied by aroma losses.

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