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Lemon verbena likes warmer winters

Last year I planted lemon verbena in a new herb garden because I loved the fragrance. I thought it was a perennial, but it seems to have died over the winter. Will it come back this year?

LemoLemon verbenan verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is a tender perennial, which means it may survive a mild winter in some areas, but it will succumb to extended periods of below-freezing days and nights. The Herb Society of America notes that this herb is marginally hardy in Zone 8 – that’s where extreme minimum temperatures might be about 20 degrees, so you can see that it prefers warmer climates. It is native to Argentina, according to the HSA.

Even so, it’s worth adding to the garden for its delicate lemon fragrance and its culinary uses. Fresh leaves add a lemony flavor to sweet and savory dishes – sauces and marinades, ice creams, custards, tarts, frostings and fruit salads. It can also be dried, makes a nice tea by itself or combined with other herbs, and adds a fresh fragrance to sachets and potpourris.

Plant it in full sun in fertile soil. In the ground, lemon verbena will likely grow in a season to a lemony-sweet smelling 3-foot tall plant with woody stems. It flowers in late summer to early fall.

As the weather warms, depending on the microclimate in your garden, you may find that it had died down to the ground but may send up fresh shoots from the roots. You can also grow lemon verbena in a container, and keep it in a sunny, south-facing window or under plant lights in winter.

Harvest the leaves after the plant is at least eight inches tall. To dry the leaves, hang the branches in a well-ventilated location out of the sun until the leaves are crisp, then strip the leaves from the stem and store them in a tightly sealed container.

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