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Plant type Herbs, Shrubs
Plant Uses Scent, Cottage Garden

Best uses

This aromatic plant has horticultural, culinary and perfumery uses. It makes an attractive container plant, as it can be placed where the scent can be appreciated, such as near doorways or paths. It also makes a great addition to a herb garden.

Physical characteristics

Deciduous shrub growing to approximately 3m by 3m when planted in the garden and up to 1m when planted in containers. Plants are evergreen in warm winter locations but deciduous in areas where freezing temperatures occur.

Flowers and foliage

Rough, aromatic leaves. Small fragrant white flowers are produced in summer.

Preferred site

Prefers full sun and well-draining, fertile soils.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy, well-grown plants and plant after autumn rains. Before planting, ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball, press in and water once planted.

Maintenance tips

Apply mulch annually to discourage weed growth and help maintain moisture. Fertilise in spring with a balanced fertiliser. Pick and dry leaves in summer before pruning. Prune off any diseased or damaged branches after flowering to maintain health, shape and size.

Pests and diseases

No serious insect or disease problems.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Edible Garden

Interesting facts and tips

The flavour of lemon verbena is reminiscent of lemon candy, as it is sweet with strong lemon and no sourness.

Leaves and flowers can be used both fresh and dried when cooking. The leaves are thin and dry quickly after picking. After cutting the leaves, they should be washed and laid flat or hung in small batches. Pick a dark spot with good air circulation or cover lightly with a paper towel. Bunches can be loosely placed in paper bags. It is important to remember to check daily for dryness. As soon as the herbs are dry (when they crackle and crumble in your hand) they should be placed in an airtight container out of the light.

Dried lemon verbena leaves and flowers can be powdered and sprinkled on veggies or fish, combined with other dried herbs to create bouquet garni, or used in baking and desserts. Fresh lemon verbena leaves are used to make sun tea, as well as flavoured sugar syrups, liqueurs and oils. For making dishes where fresh leaves will be eaten (like a pesto), the young leaves are more desirable.