By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Verbena plants aren’t just ornamental additions to the garden. Many types have a long history of use both in the kitchen and medicinally. Lemon verbena is a powerful herb used to add a citrusy touch to tea and other beverages, jams and jellies, fish and meat dishes, sauces, salads, and even butter. The lemony flavor, along with the attractive appearance and delightful scent, makes lemon verbena a worthy addition to the herb garden. Additionally, the leaves of some vervain plants (also known as verbena) are used medicinally, such as for poultices to relieve bruises or other mild skin conditions.
Harvesting verbena plants is easy, and you can use the leaves either fresh or dried. Read on and we’ll tell you more about verbena harvesting in the garden.
When to Harvest Verbena
Harvesting verbena plants occurs throughout the spring and summer growing season – generally, after the plant has several leaves and has reached a height of about 10 inches (25 cm.). In fact, picking verbena leaves frequently triggers new growth and keeps the plant from becoming long and leggy.
How to Harvest Verbena
Use shears or scissors to snip individual verbena stems to within ¼-inch (.5 cm.) of a leaf node or leaf, preferably removing no more than approximately one-quarter of the stem.
If you need a larger harvest, trim the entire plant down by one-quarter to one-half of its height. Cut carefully, shaping the plant as you go to retain an attractive, bushy form. The plant will soon rebound and produce new, healthy foliage. Keep in mind that with each cut, new growth will emerge. Frequent harvesting is important to maintain an attractive shape and keep growth in check.
When harvesting from lemon verbena varieties, bear in mind that while the leaves are picked all season long, the lemony flavor is at its height when flowers are just beginning to open. This is good news because lemon verbena blooms several times throughout the season.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.
This article was last updated on
Lemon Verbena Plant Profile
When it comes to lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena has the most intense concentration of oils per square inch of plant material. Devoid of bitterness, this plant is beloved as an additive to drinks, baked goods, or anywhere you might use lemon zest. The spear-shaped leaves of lemon verbena grow quickly in hot summer weather, replenishing the plant as you harvest throughout the growing season. For those who live where lemon verbena is hardy, the plant can become an anchoring shrub in your landscape, ready to release its citrusy aroma whenever you brush by.
|Botanical Name||Aloysia citriodora|
|Common Name||Lemon verbena, lemon beebrush, vervain|
|Plant Type||Tender perennial in frost-free zones|
|Mature Size||6 feet where hardy|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Rich and moist|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic 6.1 to 7.0|
|Bloom Time||Late summer|
|Flower Color||Purple buds open to white blossoms|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA growing zones 8 through 11|
|Native Area||South America, especially Chile and Peru|
History of verbena and its medicinal properties
The origin of the name verbena originates from ancient Rome, in Latin “verbum” means “word”, where the beauty of its flowers was personified with the goddess of love Venus. In Egypt, they were considered the tears of Isis, in other countries - drops of blood of Mercury, the grass of mercy or holiness.
Ancient Christians consider verbena the baptized blood of Christ due to the fact that it was first discovered on Mount Calvary and used to stop the bleeding from its wounds. Since then, she has been credited with the possibility of disgusting evil and healing wounds.
The druids, who had reverence for this plant, endowing it with the qualities of healing diseases, reconciling sworn enemies and kindling the fire of love, also paid attention to verbena.
Verbena tea, or medicinal (Verbena officinalis) refers to perennials up to 0.8 m high, has a long stem and oblong leaves with short petioles. The color of flowers with 5 petals collected in panicles: light purple. For medicinal purposes, use all the aboveground parts, the roots are not harvested.
The properties of verbena are used to treat vegetative-vascular dystonia. These are antispasmodic and blood circulation-improving features in blood vessels. Thanks to which they relieve headache and dizziness, stabilize blood pressure. Also, the plant is used to treat stomach diseases and diarrhea, with diseases of the throat.
Caring for common vervain
Medicinal verbena, although it’s a perennial, is grown as an annual.
Common vervain is a plant that requires little care but some attention must be given in order to extend the blooming for a while.
- Remove flowers regularly (deadheading) in order to boost flower-bearing.
- Use the flowers in infusions either fresh or dried.
- In pots, containers or hanging arrangements, water when the soil has dried up.
- At the end of summer, adding fertilizer may rekindle the blooming and enhance autumn colors.
After the first fall frost spells, you can pull your medicinal verbena out the following year’s blooming will be insignificant.
That is the time to common vervain flowers and leaves for your winter herbal tea.
Since it is vulnerable to aphid attacks, read up on how to treat against aphids if need be. However, you won’t have any caterpillar problems due to large white, since it’s a repellent.
When to Bring your Plants Inside
Seasonal changes will trigger your Lemon Verbena to begin dropping its leaves. As long as this is occurring during the fall or winter, this is an indication that it’s entering its dormant stage. If you see this happening during the growing months, you may have a watering or disease issue that you should investigate.
Some people choose to wait until the dropping foliage has completed falling before bringing it indoors to avoid having to clean up falling leaves. However, it’s up to you when you bring your container plants inside, as long as you do it before the first frost.
Better Homes and Gardens suggests bringing your herbs indoors before they begin to enter their hibernation stage to extend your plant’s growing season and provide you with fresh off the stem herbs long into the winter. They do say that you should return these plants back to the outdoors once spring returns so that they can continue their growth phase.