Lemon Verbena Companion Plants: A Brief History Of Their Use And Benefits
The history of using lemon verbena companion plants goes back thousands of years. It was used to treat skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. Today it is still being used in traditional medicine to treat various conditions including asthma, arthritis, allergies, depression, anxiety disorders and many others. Lemon verbena is one of the most popular herbs in Europe today due to its health benefits.
In addition to its medicinal properties, lemon verbena is also known for its beauty qualities. Its leaves are often used in perfumes and creams. They have been used as food additives, flavoring agents and even insect repellents. Lemon verbena flowers make lovely bouquets of white or pink flowers which can be hung up or kept inside the house where they look beautiful.
Lemon Verbena Companion Plant Facts & Information About Them
There are over 1,000 species of lemon verbena. There are two types of lemon verbena, wild and cultivated. Wild lemon verbena is native to southern Europe while cultivated lemon verbena is native to northern Europe. Both types produce edible fruit but the wild type produces much larger fruits than the domesticated variety.
Lemon verbena is a bushy, tender perennial evergreen. It has an upright habit, growing up to 2-3 feet tall and around half a foot wide. It has pale green, needle-like leaves with a strong lemon scent. It has pale yellow flowers that grow in whorls. The flowers grow in clusters on each stem.
The species name of lemon verbena is Aloysia citridora. The genus name, Aloysia, is named after the 16th century German botanist, alchemist and physician Aloysius von Haller. The species name, citridora, is a combination of two words. ‘Citri’ is the Latin word for lemon and the Greek word doron meaning gift. So in total the name means “lemon gift” which is very apt considering all of the health benefits it provides.
Lemon verbena is native to mountainous regions of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia in South America. It can now also be found in Spain, North Africa, coastal Australia and certain islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans such as Hawaii, Java and the Philippines. It was introduced into Europe in 1782 and has been extensively cultivated there since then. It is now grown for its culinary, ornamental and medicinal uses.
Lemon verbena is a very hardy plant and can adapt to most soil types and climates as long as there is some water and sunlight. It prefers slightly alkaline soil, moist soil, lots of sunlight and cool nights however it can grow in less ideal conditions. It is very frost sensitive and will die back to the ground if exposed to temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. When grown outdoors it can reach up to 5 feet but when grown indoors it tends to remain smaller. It is usually grown in containers or tubs so that it can be brought inside during winter months.
Lemon verbena leaves can be used fresh or dried. The leaves have a strong lemon scent and flavor and are used to enhance the flavor of foods. It is often combined with other herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage. It is a common ingredient in bouquets garnis which are tied into stocks, soups and stews to add aroma. It is often used in teas and fruit drinks and is also used to make herbal medicine.
Lemon verbena is an excellent source of vitamin C. 100g of leaves contain around 90-100mg of vitamin C which is around 130-150% of your daily requirement. It’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and manganese.
Lemon verbena leaves are widely used in herbal medicine mainly in the form of tea. The tea is used to relieve stress and induce relaxation primarily due to the high levels of active ingredients; namely citronellol, geraniol, citral, citronellal and terpenes. It is also very effective against coughs and congestion.
Culinary uses for lemon verbena are quite extensive. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes and beverages. Fresh leaves can be used in salads or added to soups and teas. It is commonly used in desserts or fruit compotes and also goes well in seafood and chicken dishes. It is often used to flavor yogurts and is a popular ingredient in after dinner mints.
It has a very low level of toxicity and there are no known serious side effects from consuming lemon verbena leaves.
Lemon verbena is considered to be safe for babies and children and the tea can be used to help treat colds and coughs however it should not be given to children less than 1 year old.
The main side effect of lemon verbena is that it may cause sensitivity to sunlight so it is recommended that you wear sunscreen when exposed to strong sunlight after topical application.
Dried leaves are more suitable for culinary uses. The fresh leaves lose their flavor quickly.
Lemon verbena can be grown indoors all year round but will need to be brought inside during the winter months and placed in a sunny place. If grown outdoors, it can be planted in early spring and will grow all summer and into the fall. It will survive mild winters outdoors in most places, however if there is a risk of frost it should be brought indoors or dug up and stored in a cool dry place such as a cellar.
The soil should be light, well drained and acidic. The soil can be prepared by digging an area and adding peat moss, leaf mold and sand in equal parts. The leaves are highly aromatic so the plant should be placed somewhere in the garden where it can be smelled when the wind blows.
Lemon verbena can be propagated a number of different ways. The most common method is from softwood tip cuttings which are taken in early spring. The lower leaves can be removed and the terminal soft shoots are pinched out to promote branching. The cuttings can be dipped in a rooting hormone and then placed in small individual pots filled with the prepared soil. The pots should be placed in a propagating case and kept under 16 hours of light a day, with a temperature between 18-30 degrees C.
Roots should form in 2-4 weeks.
Lemon verbena can also be propagated from seed which can be collected when the flowers fade and then sown in individual pots filled with soil.
The best time of year to harvest lemon verbena leaves is in the late summer and fall. The leaves can simply be pinched off as needed or entire stems can be harvested and the stems snapped at the base of the leaf. The leaves can be dried in a dehydrator, on a screen or in a cool dry place. To dry them naturally, they can be placed on a screen set on a tray in a very well ventilated area away from direct sunlight.
The leaves should be stored in jars out of direct sunlight and kept away from heat. They will keep their flavor for approximately 2 years.
Lemon verbena can be ingested in a number of ways. The most common is for drinking as an herbal tea, it can also be added to other foods and beverages.
In addition to the traditional uses of lemon verbena as a flavoring and fragrance, the leaves have been used to make a calming tea, chew on some fresh leaves to freshen the breath and diluted liquid extract for treating indigestion.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Also known as Java Grass, this is native to India but now grows in tropical environments around the world. It has long been used its ground up root to flavor curries and other foods. The oil has a fresh lemony scent and is used as an essential oil in perfumes and as a food flavoring.
It can be used in cooking much like lemon verbena. It is also used in South East Asian and Indian cooking. The leaves are more flavorful than the stems even though the stems are thicker so they often are used hollowed out and served as little cups for various sauces or liquids.
Culinary In addition to being used in cooking, it is also used to flavor beverages including fish sauce, vinegars, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks. It can be used in place of hops in beer making. It is also used in some tobacco blends.
The essential oil is used as a flavor additive and as a perfume.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Also known as german sennep, the roots of this perennial herb are used primarily as a seasoning, especially for soup. The seeds have been used as a coffee substitute and the leaves can be eaten as a green vegetable. It is a popular herb in northern Europe and was once used in many familiar medicines.
It is biennial, growing as a basal rosette the first year and sending up a tall stalk the next, often reaching 5 feet or more. It has flat green leaves that are rough to the touch and it has a long sturdy hollow stem with small flowers that produce seeds like a dandelion. It prefers moist soil but will tolerate most conditions.
The roots, leaves and seeds all have been used for food. The roots can be eaten raw or cooked and have a flavor like parsnips or carrots. The young leaf stalks can be eaten either raw or cooked like green beans and the seed heads are also eaten after being toasted.
The seeds contain large amounts of hydrocyanic acid so they should not be eaten in large quantities.
In some places it is known as pig root because it was used to feed pigs.
It prefers a sunny spot and well drained soil. The seeds should be scattered thinly on the surface of the soil and pressed down very lightly. They need light to germinate so either cover them with vermiculite or press the soil down firmly over them. Keep the soil moist but not wet and wait for about a month before checking for germination.
Lovage can be grown from either seed or root cuttings. Root cuttings are easiest. Choose a young plant about 2 feet high with a thick stem. Cut off the leafy top part and strip off all but the bottom two leaves. Plant the bottom inch of this in an 8 inch pot of moist soil.
It should be able to recover and produce new roots quickly. Transfer it to its permanent place when there is plenty of new growth.
If planting outside, choose a spot in full sun or partial shade. It will grow in almost any soil as long as it is not waterlogged and the pH is between 5 and 8.5. It can survive in almost any climate except for an extremely cold area but it will not survive under permanent water.
Lovage is normally grown for its roots which are harvested in the second year after planting. It is best to harvest it every few years to keep the plant growing strongly. Cut off the outer stalks and leaves and the root will swiftly regenerate them so it can be harvested again the following year.
There are some minor health benefits associated with lovage including being an expectorant, it can be taken as a tea or tinctured. It also seems to be a mild sedative and has been used in skin creams.
There are many similarities between lovage and carrots. They are both high in sugar and have a familiar flavor. They can be used in the same way in cooking.
Love Lies Bleeding
This tropical looking plant has sharp spikes on its stem and round shiny leaves with red veins. It has clusters of small bell shaped flowers that can be red, orange or yellow and last for most of the year.
The bright red fruits that follow are also spikey.
The young leaves and stems can be eaten cooked or raw in salads. The flavor is a mixture of cucumber and green pepper. The fruits are edible but have little flavor, some say they taste slightly peppery. They are mainly grown for ornamental value since they look good in pots or around other exotic plants.
It is easy to grow indoors or out. It tolerates full sun and dry soil but will look better with some water and partial shade. It will grow pretty much anywhere as long as it is in well-drained soil.
In areas that have cold winters, it is best to grow this plant as an annual so that you can take cuttings in the springtime just before new growth starts. It can also be grown indoors year round.
It can be propagated from seeds but they take about 6 weeks to germinate, cutting propagation is much quicker.
The leaves and stems can be used as an ingredient in herbal medicines as they contain chemicals that are anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and anodyne.
They are also high in Vitamin C and have digestive enzymes.
The juice from the stems can be used to polish fine wood.
It is also makes an interesting ornamental plant.
It is native to India, Nepal and other parts of Asia but has naturalized in the U.S.
It prefers dry conditions and full sun.
The flowers are edible and have a mild cucumber flavor.
They can be stuffed like cabbage leaves and served with rice or you can use them in salads.
They can also be cooked. They taste like zucchini.
It is easy to grow from seed.
The flowers are ornamental and can be drying and used in dried flower arrangements.
They can also be candied.
It is easily grown from seed.
The flowers are also edible and can be candied or used to make syrups.
You can dry them for decorative purposes, use them in potpourri, brew them into tea or dry them and crush them to use as a colorful substitute for cinnamon in cooking.
The flowers contain antioxidants and nutrients that are good for you.
They also contain a mild sedative.
You can use the petals in herbal tea and in cooking as a substitute for saffron.
You can dry the petals and then crush them to use as a colorful low calorie food coloring.
Marigolds contain components that are toxic to many insects including aphids, spider mites and root knot nematodes.
You can also use them as a companion plant.
Marigolds also repel many types of nematodes.
They also contain antifungal components that can be used to treat ringworm, candida and other types of fungus.
You can also dry them and use as a moth repellent.
You can also use the dried flowers in potpourri.
You can also use them to make a relaxing herbal tea.
You can also use the fresh flowers in salads or cook them like any other green vegetable.
The petals are edible and can be candied or crushed and used as a colorful food additive.
They are also high in Vitamin A.
You can also use them to make herbal tea.
They are also good for you as they have many of the same nutrients that other leafy greens do.
They are also a good source of fiber and can help lower your cholesterol levels.
The leaves and stems can be used to make herbal tea.
They are high in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Water Hemlock,Cicuta macula
This plant is poisonous and can be fatal if eaten.
It contains chemicals that act as a central nervous system depressant and can cause respiratory failure and death.
You can also use the juice from the stems to remove warts.
The juice from the stems or roots can be used as a poison and will kill small game.
The roots can be used to make a medicinal tea that will induce vomiting.
Water hemlock is in the Carrot Family Apiaceae and it is related to carrots, parsnips, fennel, dill, and other edible members of the same family.
The water hemlock is a foul smelling plant that grows in wet areas like swamps and riverbanks.
It has a sturdy hollow stalk that grows to about 6 feet tall and grows either leaves all the way up the stem or has leaf stems that branch halfway up with clusters of small narrow leaves.
The flowers are small and grow in umbels at the top of the plant.
They grow either singly or in clusters of 2-5 and have greenish-white coloring.
The plant generally flowers during the summer months and into the fall.
The root is a thick white taproot with the same smell as the rest of the plant.
It is very poisonous and can be fatal if ingested.
It contains a number of toxic alkaloids including: cicutoxin, cicutol, cicutidine and others.
Cicutoxin is the most abundant and can be fatal in as little as 8 mg.
The toxin causes symptoms similar to that of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) and can cause paralysis, respiratory failure and death by paralyzing the diaphragm.
The root is the part of the plant that is generally eaten, dried and prepared as a herb.
The root is generally prepared by grinding it into a powder or slicing it thinly and drying it.
It can be used to make a medicinal tea that is taken for treating bronchitis and swallowing issues.
The dried or fresh stem and leaves can be eaten as a green vegetable either raw in salads or cooked.
It is very bitter so it is generally not eaten on its own.
The dried herb can also be smoked.
Water hemlock is found growing in wet locations like swamps, stream banks and lake shores.
It can be found throughout most of North America.
It is hardy in zones 3-9 and can grow in full sun to partial shade.
It prefers wet locations like the edges of bogs, rivers and lakes.
The plant can grow to be 4-7 feet tall.
It has a hollow stem that is generally taller than it is wide.
It has hairless leaves that grow around the bottom part of the stem.
The leaves are generally in clusters of 2-5 and are narrow and lanceolate shaped with toothed edges.
The top part of the stem branches out into a flat umbel that has white or greenish-white flowers.
The roots generally grow straight down and are long and thick like a parsnip, carrot or radish.
They have no noticeable odor.
The entire plant generally has a strong bitter and unpleasant smell.
The stems, leaves and roots all contain poisonous toxins that are dangerous if eaten.
Children have been known to confuse it with other edible plants like wild carrots and poison hemlock and eat them.
This can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhea, dizziness, paralysis and death.
The toxins will also cause paralysis of the diaphragm and breathing difficulties that can be fatal.
The toxins can also be passed onto a nursing infant through the mother’s milk.
Water hemlock contains cicutoxin, cicutol and cicutine which are thought to be the main culprits in the plant’s toxicity.
These are believed to interfere with the transmission of signals through the nerves and muscles and can cause paralysis and death by asphyxiation.
Sources & references used in this article:
Lemon Herbs: How to Grow and Use 18 Great Plants by J Rogers – 1999 – Storey Publishing
Rooted in Design: Sprout Home’s Guide to Creative Indoor Planting by JM Fertig – The World & I, 2001 – Washington Times Corporation
Field guide to trees of southern Africa by ES Platt – 2001 – books.google.com
Bulbs in the Basement, Geraniums on the Windowsill: How to Grow & Overwinter 165 Tender Plants by T Heibel, T de Give – 2015 – books.google.com
Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening by M Smith – 1999 – Macmillan