overwintering Lemon Verbena

linnea56(z5 IL)October 13, 2006

I have a 3 year old Lemon Verbena. This spends summer outside in a pot. It has been pinched a lot so is like a well-branched little tree; about 18" high and at least that wide. I have been wintering this indoors every year, though it gets so scruffy it is unattractive most of the winter, gets pale, loses lots of leaves, etc. I have remodelled the rooms where I used to overwinter plants, so no longer feel like I can just let it "flop and drop" (DH would complain...). To make it look better I planted a short geranium in the same pot, which fills the bare area around the trunk.

I wanted to try cutting it back, but I did that this spring with another LV (that had survived the winter well enough) and it promptly died. So they doesn't seem to resprout lower down if the tips re cut.

Is there a better way of doing this? I should mention that I have not been successful at rooting tip cuttings. Can they be made to go dormant like some people do with geraniums?

This plant was given to me by a relative, when I mentioned that I can't buy it in my area. I use the leaves for my linens.

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I used to have some problems overwintering lemon verbena in the house. It should overwinter indoors if you keep in coolish and don't forget completely about watering (something which I tended to do with them). Then I discovered that they would overwinter for me outside planted against the house (on the east side). It dies back over winter and comes back very vigorously in the spring. I used to try to overwinter Rosemary and never had luck with it either. Now it too overwinters in a protected microclimate next to the verbena, bay laurel, and lavender. I do mulch some and there is some snow cover during the coldest weather so that must help. I love herbs but have never had much luck with them indoors and got tired of buying verbena every year. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 8:30PM
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HerbLady49(Z6 PA)

Lemon Verbena will never look good in the winter because it is deciduous. When the days get short the leaves will drop and the plant will go dormant. In the spring you will see new buds as the days get longer. The only way you can keep the leaves looking fresh all winter is to use a grow light. I put my plants in a cool well lit area and let them go dormant and only water if the soil is very dry. Watering all winter will kill it because it's not growing. In the spring lift your plant and see if it's root bound and root prune and repot. Root pruning is extreamly important if you want lush new growth. I generaly take cuttings in May. I start them in peat pots because it's easier to see young roots.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 9:55AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

It's deciduous?! All of a sudden its prior behavior makes sense! Of course the leaves dropped. I'm amazed it didn't occur to me before. Thanks! What zone is it native to? I had heard it was a Mediterranean herb, which would make any attempt at outdoor storage doomed in my zone 5.

I have a spot in a sunny, coolish basement window. herblady49, does this seem like a good spot?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 11:46AM
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HerbLady49(Z6 PA)

That would be a great spot. Only water to keep it from getting dry but don't keep it wet. Lemon Verbena is a strong grower and I'll bet if you lift it out of the pot you will see it root bound. In the spring root prune by taking a small saw or a serated knife and cut a couple of inches off the bottom and slice down the sides and plant in fresh soil and fertilize with a good organic fertilizer.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 2:24PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks! I've saved your tips and put them into a word doument to use next spring. (Now to make a folder "Open me in Spring!") I've never root pruned before.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 10:50AM
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