Lemon herbs are easy to grow and add a tangy zest to many dishes.

Lemony herbs—lemon flavored and scented—are easy to grow and add a tangy zest to many dishes. Fresh leaves are commonly torn and added directly to salads and main dishes as seasoning or garnish. Leaves and some flowers can be steeped in teas or blended into oils and vinegars. All can be preserved for later use.

Lemon flavored and scented herbs include lemon thyme, lemon basil, lemon mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemongrass, and lemon bergamot.

Lemony herbs can be grown in nearly every climate region except the very coldest. Grow these herbs in the garden from spring through summer. They require sun to partial sun and well-drained soil; most need slightly compost rich soil, but little extra attention. Almost all can be grown year-round indoors.

Lemon herb butter is very easy to prepare: combine 5 tablespoons of any lemon herb (except for lemongrass) with a stick of room temperature unsalted butter and mix well by hand or use a food processor. Your lemon herb butter can be melted over vegetables or meats or grilled chicken or fish or for hot herb bread.

Lemon herb-infused oil for brushing on grilled meats, fish or vegetables or to use in stir-fries or to drizzle on pasta or rice dishes (sparingly) is also easy to make: heat 1 cup of olive oil in a skillet until hot; add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic minced; stir until the garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat and add a third of a cup or slightly more of fresh lemon herb leaves and steep for one hour at room temperature. Strain the leaves from the oil and store in a capped glass jar with a nonmetal lid for up to two weeks.

Here are lemony herbs easy to grow and kitchen use suggestions:

Lemon balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

  • Kitchen use: Use fresh leaves finely chopped in salads, white sauces for fish, mayonnaise, sauerkraut, poultry and pork. Add to fruit salads, jellies, custards, fruit drinks, and wine cups. Infuse fresh leaves for melissa tea. Add to blended vinegars: lemon balm and tarragon are well matched.
  • Description: Lemon-scented, hairy, strong-veined, toothed, oval and light green leaves; pale yellow flower blooms in clusters, matures to white to pale blue.
  • Grow: Grow in full sun with midday shade; grow in moisture retentive, well-drained soil. Allow 2 feet in all directions when planting; bushy and mounding form. Not hardy below 20°F.
  • Propagate: Sow in spring; divide plant or take stem cuttings in spring or fall; self sows.
  • Harvest: Flavor best when flowers begin to open; handle gently, bruises easily.
  • Preserve: Dry leaves; add fresh leaves to vinegar.
  • Varieties: ‘All Gold’ and variegated ‘Aurea.’

Lemon thyme

Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citridorus)

  • Kitchen use: Use in place of lemon, lemon zest, or lemon flavoring in any recipe. Use fresh for true lemon flavor; loses delicate citrus scent when dried. Add to chicken, fish, hot vegetables, fruit salads, and jams.
  • Description: Lemon scented, bright green leaves. Grows upright to 12 inches high and wide.
  • Grow: Plant in full sun in light. Grow in well-drained soil, slightly alkaline—not too rich in organic matter. Set transplants 15 inches apart. Prune frequently. Protect in winter; can grow indoors.
  • Propagate: Sow in spring; take 2 to 3 inch stem cutting and heel in spring or summer; divide roots or layer stems in spring or fall.
  • Harvest: Pick in bloom for best flavor; summer blooming.
  • Preserve: Dry leaves; make thyme vinegar or oil.
  • Varieties: ‘Aureus’ Golden lemon creeping thyme with yellow-tinged leaves sprawling habit; ‘Lemon Frost’ is low growing; ‘Silver Lemon Queen’ has silver splashed leaves; ‘Lemon Curd’ is long wiry with narrow leaves.


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

  • Kitchen use: Use bottom third of stock; peel off outer sheath and thin slice or pound inner stem for salads or seasoning. Use in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
  • Description: Strong lemon scented; inch-wide strappy leaves growing in clumps. Plant grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide
  • Grow: Plant in full sun in well-drained, moisture retentive soil. Can survive mild winters, otherwise overwinter in a greenhouse.
  • Propagate: Divide plant in spring or fall; grows from divisions.
  • Harvest: Cut off thick, bulbous stem just above ground level; use the bottom third of each stalk. Upper part of leaf blades are sharp and too tough to eat.
  • Preserve: Thin slice and freeze in sealed plastic bag; will keep for several months.

Lemon basil

Lemon Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

  • Kitchen use: Use in pesto sauce and to flavor blended vinegars; use to flavor fish or fowl; tear with fingers rather than chop.
  • Description: Lemony scented green, oval, puckered leaves, white flowers; grows to 12 inches tall.
  • Grow: Grow in full sun or partial shade in hot regions. Grow in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil. Avoid overwatering; best to water at midday. Grows well in containers and indoors.
  • Propagate: Sow in warm situation after danger of frost has passed.
  • Harvest: Best flavor picked young; harvest often to prevent flowering.
  • Preserve: Freeze leaves after lightly coating in oil or dry. Infuse leaves in oil or vinegar.
  • Varieties: ‘Mrs. Burns’ produces large leaves; ‘Sweet Dani’ has strong scent.

Lemon mint

Lemon Mint (Mentha x. aquatica ‘Citrata’)

  • Kitchen use: Infuse/steep in teas; use for mint sauce, vinegar; add fresh leaves to new potatoes, fruit salads, drinks; use in soups and stuffings.
  • Description: Smooth, lemon-scented, mid-green leaves. Plant grows to 16 inches tall and wide.
  • Grow: Plant in full sun or light shade or sun; prefers well-drained , compost-rich soil. Thin to 16 inches apart. Best to grow in large pots—roots are invasive. Remove flowering stems to avoid cross-pollination between mint species. Can grow indoors.
  • Propagate: Sow in spring; take or stem cuttings, or divide in spring and fall; stem cuttings will root in water.
  • Harvest: Pick leaves just before flowering for best flavor.
  • Preserve: Dry, freeze, or infuse leaves in oil or vinegar.


Lemon Bergamot (Monarad citriodora)

  • Kitchen use: Flower can be sprinkled on salads sparingly. Infuse or simmer leaves in tea for 10 minutes to add flavor to tea. Fresh leaf added to China tea gives Earl Gray flavor. Use in wine cups and lemonade.
  • Description: Toothed, oval leaf with dark reddish veining; squared stem. Flowers have tight head with tubular scarlet blooms.
  • Grow: Plant in sun or partial shade in hot regions. Grow in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Thin to 18 inches apart. Not suitable for indoor growing.
  • Propagate: Sow in spring; divide or take root cuttings in spring; take stem cuttings in summer.
  • Harvest: Pick leaves in spring or in summer when flowers form. Pick flowers when open.
  • Preserve: Dry leaves or flowers.

Lemon verbena

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

  • Kitchen use: Strong citrus scent and flavor; use fresh leaves to flavor oil and vinegar; infuse/steep leaves as herb tea. Finely chopped leaves to flavor, drinks, puddings, jelly, cakes, and ice cream.
  • Description: Long, lance-shaped and toothed, pointed leaves with central vein arranged in threes; stems are ridged, round green in first season, red in second season.
  • Grow: Plant in full in sandy, moist but well-drained soil; grows in alkaline and poor soil. Protect from frost indoors.
  • Propagate: Sow in spring; root from softwood cutting in late spring.
  • Harvest: Leaves can be picked at any time, but best when flowers begin to bloom.
  • Preserve: Use fresh leaves to flavor oil and vinegar. Dry leaves.

More tips at How to Start an Herb Garden

Growing a lemon tree in your backyard is near impossible in the Pacific Northwest unless it’s grown in a container and brought indoors to spend the winter. But you can grow herbs outdoors year-round that enliven the garden with lemony characteristics.

Lemon verbena, lemon balm and other lemon-scented herbs not only evoke the aromatic essence of fresh lemons, they also enliven the garden with an enticing variety of texture and form.

They are easily integrated into most any garden, from containers on a deck or patio, to a border garden or specimen plant, to a vegetable garden in your backyard or an even herb garden situated right outside your kitchen door.

These aromatic herbs bring more to the table than exotic lemon fragrance. They also sizzle in stir-fry, perk up the flavor of casseroles, lend a light touch to marinades, add zest to beverages and enhance the flavor of baked goods and desserts.

As a group, these lemony plants generally benefit from an occasional to frequent pruning of branch tips — in other words, snipping of fresh sprigs — to encourage more leaf production. Commonalities aside, each has its own set of characteristics that makes it uniquely essential from garden to table. Here are five of the best that are worthy of a space in your garden.

Lemon Balm

(Melissa officinalis)

There’s a lot to love about this clump-forming hardy perennial. Its heavily-veined, textural foliage adds an attractive element to the herb garden and kitchen garden. Use it to frame path edges or mixed in container plantings. Grows to 2 feet tall.

Growing conditions: Grows in average, well-drained moist soil in full sun to partial shade. When it comes to staying put, this mint family member is better behaved than some, but it does have a tendency to spread in fertile soil. An occasional to regular trimming will heighten its attraction and keep the plant more compact.

Tasty traits: Nice delicate lemon flavor and scent with a hint of mint. Add chopped leaves in fruit, salads, poultry and fish dishes. Steep bruised leaves in sun-brewed beverages, thread with vegetables on kabobs, or stuff the cavity of fish, poultry, lamb or pork with fresh sprigs before grilling.

Lemon Verbena

(Aloysia citrodora)

This graceful shrub has narrow, rough-textured leaves and star-like pale purple to white flowers that evoke an ethereal feel in summer. In the Pacific Northwest it is deciduous and grows 3 to 5 feet tall. Grow as a specimen plant, mixed in the border or kitchen garden or in containers.

Growing conditions: Prefers fairly rich and moderately moist, well-drained soil in full sun. The roots remain hardy down to 20 degrees — sometimes lower — if heavily mulched and grown in a protected area.

Tasty traits: Has the most intense lemon flavor. Add chopped leaves to fruit salads, mix into muffin batter or soft cheeses or use to season stir-fry or vegetables dishes. Leaves also brighten the taste of poultry or fish and add enticing lemon zest to your favorite tea or beverage.

Lemon Grass

(Cymbopogon citratus)

Densely tufted grass forms clumps of lime-green to bluish-green leaves that are somewhat coarse in texture. Great choice for containers. Grows 3 to 5 feet in height.

Growing conditions: Best grown in full sun and rich, well-drained soil with ample moisture during the growing season. This tender perennial takes a bit of pampering but is worth the effort. Grow in containers or in the ground, but needs to be moved indoors over winter. Stems can be harvested when about 1/2-inch thick.

Tasty traits: Lively lemon flavor heightened by a refreshing bite of ginger. Prepare leaves as you would leeks, stripping off the tough outer leaves and chopping the inner stalks and tender leaves. Makes a wonderful seasoning for stir-fries, curries and other Asian dishes. Add to homemade salsas and marinades, season pork and poultry dishes or use to spice up your favorite lemonade.

Lemon Thyme

(Thymus x citriodorus)

Spreading, low-mounding shrubby perennial grows 6 to 12 inches in height. Depending on the variety, the glossy leaves can be lime green to dark green, sometimes marbled or splashed with silver, gold or cream. Lavender-pink to white flowers appear in summer. Great as a border plant, ground cover, mingled in the kitchen or herb garden, in a rock garden or in a container going solo or as part of an ensemble.

Growing conditions: Best in light, well-drained, moderately moist soil; will tolerate clay soil amended with organic matter. Grow in full sun; give light shade where summers are hot. Shear or cut back plants lightly after flowering to keep them bushy and productive.

Tasty traits: Lemon-thyme fragrance with flavor akin to lemon-pepper seasoning laced with thyme. Strip fresh leaves from stem and sprinkle over grilled fish, chicken or pork. Add to soups, baked potatoes, buttered corn on the cob, and sautéed or roasted vegetables.

Lemon Basil

(Ocimum basilicum ‘Citriodorum’)

This tender annual is more delicate in appearance than sweet basil. Plant in borders, along walkways, in containers, mingled in the kitchen garden or any location where you can brush against the plant to release its fragrance as you walk by. Grows 1 to 3 feet tall.

Growing conditions: Best in full sun and rich, moderately moist, well-drained soil. Sow seeds in spring after danger of frost has passed and soil temperature has warmed to 50 degrees. Pinch out flower spikes as they form to promote and prolong leaf production. As with any basil variety, the leaves of lemon basil will turn black when exposed to temperatures below 38 degrees.

Tasty traits: Combines the heavenly essence of lemon and fresh basil. Add fresh leaves to soups and stews before serving or sprinkle over cooked vegetables. Use on pizza, in sandwiches, over cooked pasta dishes or to dress up desserts. Add a touch of lemon intrigue to fish and chicken or infuse its flavor in dressings and marinades. The leaves make an especially tasty lemony pesto.

— Kris Wetherbee

Lemon Herbs

  • The luscious lineup, clockwise from top: lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, golden lemon thyme, and lemon basil.Photo/Illustration: Mary Cooke
  • From garden to table, clockwise from top, you’ll find lemon verbena, lemon basil, lemon thyme on either side of the basket, lemon basil, and lemon balm.Photo/Illustration: Mary Cooke
  • Trimming lemon verbena’s stems is a fragrant task. To harvest lemongrass (midground), divide stalks, bulbs, and roots.Photo/Illustration: Mary Cooke
  • Lemon herbs thrive in sun and well-drained soil, so plant them together and add a few flowers with similar sunny dispositions.Photo/Illustration: Mary Cooke

by Lucinda Hutson
August 1997
from issue #10

I fondly remember my Grand Aunt Mary’s lemon verbena bush that seemed as tall as I when I was five. I delighted in weaving fragrant crowns from its branches. I would rub the scratchy leaves and the air would smell like lemonade. I couldn’t believe that lemons did not grow on that “tree.”

Today, I understand that the compound citral occurs in the essential oils of lemon verbena as well as lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon basil, and lemongrass. Long favored in soaps, perfumes, and potpourris, these evocative herbs also offer ethereal aroma and essence to many foods. And they provide color, fragrance, and texture to the garden.

Although grocery stores now sell bunches of fresh herbs, I have seldom found the lemon-scented ones. The tender leaves of lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, and lemon basil bruise easily, and they are simply more flavorful when freshly picked. All the more reason to grow them yourself. Stalks of lemongrass, on the other hand, have a longer shelf life, and many stores now carry them.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). My only regret in growing this South American native is that it does not reach the lofty proportions here that it does in its homeland, where it may attain 20 ft. Lemon verbena’s narrow, pointed, rough-textured leaves are exquisitely redolent of lemons.

Panicles of tiny, white, star-like flowers appear on lemon verbena in the summer, and when gently rubbed, fill the air with wafts of ambrosial perfume. These flowers seldom set seed; plants can be propagated from 4-in. semi-hard cuttings that root best in late summer in damp sand. Give this shrubby plant plenty of room in the garden since it will reach 3 ft. to 5 ft. Its woody branches will get leggy, so keep them pruned by continually snipping sprigs.

In Zone 8 or warmer, this tender perennial will winter over if mulched and grown in a protected area with a southern exposure. Gardeners in climates with prolonged hard freezes may choose to grow the plant in a large pot that can be taken inside for the winter. The plant will probably lose most of its leaves indoors, so allow it to lie dormant with only minimal watering.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon balm, with its pretty heart-shaped leaves and scalloped edges must be nature’s valentine. No wonder the 16th-century herbalist Gerard believed that drinking balm in wine “driveth away all melancholy and sadness.” Another name for lemon balm is Melissa, from the Greek word for bee, since its intoxicating nectar seduces bees when the cream-colored blossoms poke their heads out from the leaves.

Lemon balm makes an attractive border plant, or a nice potted specimen. In the spring, propagate with root cuttings made by lifting small sections from the mother plant. Seeds sown in spring germinate easily when soaked overnight before planting.

Lemon balm is not quite as unruly as its sister mints. It grows 1-1⁄2 ft. to 2 ft. in height and width. But keep an eye on it because it has a tendency to spread. Snip its long stems to ensure a healthy plant, especially after flowering. Snipping flowers will prevent their setting seed when you want to limit regeneration.

‘Aurea’, a gold and green variegated type of lemon balm, is hardier in cooler climates; it reverts to green in warmer areas. A bronze discoloring of lemon balm’s leaves results from too much heat or too much water. Feed lightly.

Sometimes detrimental insects seek lemon balm’s tender leaves. Spider mites attack (as they do lemon verbena) during hot, dry summers, and aphids sometimes call. Both may be discouraged by frequent hard sprayings from the hose, or by insecticidal soap, if necessary.

Lemon basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Citriodorum’). All basils love sunshine and this one just sits and sulks if not given enough. Do not set out transplants or sow seeds until the soil is good and warm. Like all basils, this one likes rich, moist, well-drained soil with light applications of fish emulsion and liquid seaweed. Feed lightly as too much fertilizer may increase the size of the leaves but decrease their flavor. Even more than other basils, lemon basil has a proclivity to set seed, so pinch back the flowers and harvest leaves regularly.

Pinching back stems often will promote branching and a plethora of delicate leaves. Lemon basil’s demise is brought about by the first light freeze, so harvest it at any hint of winter.

Renées Garden Seeds offers a variety called ‘Mrs. Burns’ Lemon’ (formerly called ‘Maenglak Thai’) lemon basil that is quite vigorous. In my warm climate, I have fared well with ‘Mrs. Burns’, a prolific variety originally from Canada.
Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus). The fresh scent of lemons is packed into the tiny elliptical leaves of this evergreen perennial. Lemon thyme appears in upright and creeping varieties in green, golden, and silver hues. The sprawling nature of the creeping thymes makes them a natural in rock gardens and as border plants.

The stems of lemon thyme become woody with age; because of this and the dieback caused by summer’s heat, I replace my plants every year or so, and continually cut woody stems to promote growth. To prevent root disease, I add a handful of gravel when I plant thyme. Plants are easily propagated by cuttings or by layering.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). Lemongrass’s long, bluish-green leaves sway in the breeze, adding height and airy texture to the garden. The spear-shaped leaves grow in tufts from fibrous stalks attached at a common base. It reaches 3 ft. to 5 ft. in height, and a few clumps may increase to more than 2 ft. in width in one season, providing plenty to share with friends. To harvest or propagate the stalks, carefully divide them by cutting the bulbs away from others in the clump with a sharp knife, leaving some of the roots intact.

Native to the tropics of Southeast Asia, lemongrass thrives in rich, moist, well-drained soil but adapts to drier conditions, though the stalks will not be as flavorful. Though I have been successful in overwintering my plants by mulching them heavily, gardeners in areas where temperatures fall below 20°F should dig up their plants and bring them indoors for winter.

I grow my lemon herbs in a special garden, highlighted by sunny annual flowers like golden calendulas, chamomile, gazanias, zinnias, and ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds. The garden is a blend of texture, fragrance, and much good cheer.

For the love of lemon
Lemon verbena: Tender perennial; mulch heavily or bring in. Full sun to part shade (in hot climates). Loose, sandy soil.

Lemon balm: Hardy perennial. Sun with some afternoon shade. Well-drained soil.

Lemon basil: Annual. Full sun. Rich, moist, well-drained soil. Keep flowers pinched.

Lemon thyme: Perennial. Full sun; some shade in the South. Loose, well-drained soil with gravel added.

Lemongrass: Tender perennial; mulch heavily or bring in. Full sun. Rich, moist, well-drained soil; adapts to drier conditions.

Essentials oils in the foliage and peel of lemon fruits impart the distinctive “lemony” flavor and scent.

The taste and scent of lemon is distinctive, but not restricted just to lemon fruits. Essential oils in the leaves and skin of citrus fruits include several aromatic compounds which impart that lemony smell. Many other plants besides citrus contain the same chemical compounds – including d-limonene, citral (and its naturally occurring isomers neral and geraniol), citronellal and various terpenes – that we perceive as a citrus-like smell from the foliage or flowers. Different combinations and ratios of these chemicals produce a range of fragrances which all suggest lemon in variety of intensities and unique notes from floral to fruity.

Lemon tree in container.

Not everybody can grow a lemon tree, but anyone can have lemon scent and flavor in their garden by planting lemon scented herbs to impart a bright citrus flavor to teas, salads, pasta dishes, cookies, vinegars, marinades, and many other foods. They can also be incorporated into household cleaners, soaps, and potpourri. Many plants that have a lemony scent are naturally repellent to insects and some have been incorporated into mosquito repellents, while others (such as lemon balm) can be effective when leaves are crushed and rubbed onto skin. And even if they aren’t used for these practical applications, they can still be enjoyed just for the fresh scent of lemon while working in the garden. Most of these have to be crushed to smell the lemon scent.

Some of the most common and easy to grow, lemon-flavored plants – all of which can be cultivated in containers – include:

Lemon verbena is a tender deciduous woody shrub.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla; the synonym citriodora is still sometimes incorrectly used for this species) is a tender deciduous woody shrub native to South and Central America (Zones 8-10) with a strong lemon scent to the foliage, which is retained even when dried. Some of the lemony flavor is lost in cooking, but it can be used in almost any dish where a dash of lemon is required. The leaves are frequently used in potpourri, teas (tisanes) or to flavor chilled water, sauces, fruit salads, marinades for fish and poultry, in drinks and on vegetables. The flavor is best when harvested right before in blooms in delicate upright spikes of small lavender-white to mauve flowers. It can become a rangy, large shrub or small tree in tropical climates, but remains much smaller in containers or if grown as an annual. It needs full sun in our cooler climate and moist, well-drained soil to thrive, and can be brought indoors before frost to keep over the winter in semi-dormancy.

Lemongrass grown as an annual herb in a Wisconsin vegetable garden.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tender perennial native to tropical areas of East Asia (Zones 9-11) that grows to form a large clump up to 3 feet tall in hot and humid summers. Although it grows best when planted in the ground, it can be kept in a container to keep as a houseplant or bring in to overwinter. The thickened stems and grassy leaves have a mild lemon flavor which is not retained very when dried. It is a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Vietnamese, particularly in soups and with chicken.

Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial in the mint family which can spread by rhizomes and self-seeds readily (but is easy to remove and cutting back after flowering will reduce volunteers). It can also be grown in a container to limit the spread in the garden. Native to southern Europe (Zones 4-9), the fresh or dried foliage has an intense lemon scent and an even sweeter flavor that is often used to flavor and decorate sorbets, add to fruit salads and vegetable dishes, for tea or cool drinks and as a garnish on desserts. The 2-foot-high plants with crinkled green leaves and tiny white or pale lavender flowers that are very attractive to bees can be cut multiple times during the season for drying and to encourage bushier plants. The young, tender leaves are better for culinary use as older leaves can develop a somewhat soapy flavor.

Lemon Mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Lemon’) has aromatic foliage with a lemon scent. Like all mints it spreads vigorously, so it might be better kept in a container. Harvest the foliage up until it flowers, then cut back and use the regrowth.

Lemon beebalm or lemon mint (Monarda citriodora) is an annual (or biennial) in the mint family native to southern North America. Its strongly lemon-scented foliage (that is also described as resembling oregano late in the season) can be used to make tea or cold drinks, and salads, desserts and other cold dishes can be garnished with leaves or flowers.

Lemon Catmint (Nepeta cataria ‘Citriodora’) is a lemon-scented perennial hardy in Zones 3-9 with gray green leaves on 2-3 foot stems, white flowers, and a strong lemon fragrance. This cultivar isn’t as sprawling as many of the common ornamental catmints – but cutting it back hard will help keep it neat – and is usually not attractive to cats like catnip is. It is best used for tea, either fresh or dried.

Lemon basil has small leaves.

Lemon Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum, a hybrid between O. basilicum and O. americanum) and cultivars, such as ‘Lemon Sweet Dani’ and ‘Mrs. Burns’, are tender annuals with small, but profuse lemon-scented leaves with anise undertones. Grow them and use the foliage or tiny white edible flowers just like regular sweet basil, pinching and harvesting the plants regularly to encourage more growth. The leaves retain their flavor in cooking, and are great for making pesto, with fish or seafood, or in desserts and beverages.

Foliage of Pelargonium citronellum (L) and flower of P. crispum (R).

Lemon-Scented Geraniums include several species of tender perennials (such as Pelargonium crispum, P. citrosum and P. citronellum) from South Africa (hardy in Zones 9-10) which are grown more for their scented leaves than for the flowers. They often have just a slight bit of lemon combined with other scents, but are often put in sugar to scent the sugar, line baking pans with fresh leaves to flavor cakes, and the dried leaves are added to sachets or potpourri. The essential oils used to be heavily used in the perfume industry.

Lemon thyme.

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) is an evergreen perennial that combines the flavor of thyme with a hint of lemon that can be used in almost any recipe that calls for regular thyme or to make traditional thyme tea to help soothe a sore throat. Different cultivars, such as ‘Aureus’, ‘Doone Valley’, ‘Gold Edge’, ‘Silver Queen’ and ‘Variegata’, have variegated foliage, but are grown like regular thyme in full sun and lean, well-drained soil.

Lemon eucalyptus or lemon-scented gum (Corymbia (=Eucalyptus) citriodora) is an Australian tree with a fantastic lemon scent when the leaves are bruised or in hot conditions when the oils volatilize. Other Australian trees with a strong lemon scent include lemon-scented ironbark (Eucalyptus staigeriana), lemon tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii) and lemon aspen (Acronychia acidula). All of these would need to be container plants in our climate if they could even be acquired here.

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ in flower in spring.

Most lemon-scented plants used as culinary plants have to be crushed to release the fragrance, but there are some plants that release their fragrance through the flowers. Some perennials hardy to zone 4 that are suggested to have a lemon fragrance to the flowers include purple-flowered gas plant (Dictamnus albus var purpureus), Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, some cultivars of iris, such as ‘Blue Rhythm’ and ‘Flavescens’, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Lemon Seoul’, and Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ and Black Lace™.

Southern magnolia flower.

The rose ‘Climbing Angel Face’ is described as having a strong lemon fragrance. Other woody plants not hardy in the Midwest that some people describe as having a “lemon-like” or “lemon with a touch of vanilla in it” scent (while others say they can’t detect even any lemon undertones in those same plants) include Daphne odorata, some Magnolia grandiflora cultivars (especially ‘Little Gem’) and winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima. However the Australian lemon myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, a tree with edible flowers and leaves, permeates the air with a lemonade aroma in summer when temperatures are high.

Lemon myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, tree (L), opening buds (C) and in full bloom (R).

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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Garden News Blog

Citrus Blossoms, Jasmine, and More Fragrant Flowers in the Conservatory

By Sarah Schmidt | December 13, 2018

Stop in at the Entry House of the Steinhardt Conservatory and enjoy the fragrant plants on display this winter. Curator Caitlin Daley selected a variety of potted citrus, jasmine, gardenia, and lady-of-the-night plants with fragrant blossoms that will bloom in succession over the winter.

Scientists have identified 1700 of the different scent compounds produced by flowers. Most of this effort is for the benefit of attracting pollinators, and a single flower’s scent may be made up of as many as 100 individual compounds.

Daley featured citrus plants for their intoxicating fragrance and to help highlight the connection between commonly eaten fruits and the plants that make them. Several are now either in bloom or fruiting—or both. She included other fragrant plants, like jasmines, that would thrive and bloom in the filtered light and warm humid air of the conservatory. Visit often and inhale deeply!

Duncan Grapefruit
Citrus × aurantium ‘Duncan’

Once a common breakfast fruit in the United States, this flavorful, seeded grapefruit fell out of favor as seedless varieties became more popular. It’s having a resurgence now and is considered an heirloom. The potted specimen on display now has both fruit and flowers, and the blossoms’ wonderful fragrance fills the room.

Downy Jasmine
Jasminum multiflorum

This jasmine species is native to India, where petite, fragrant flowers are sometimes made into garlands for wedding ceremonies.

Orange Jessamine
Murraya paniculata

A member of the citrus family, not a jasmine, this plant has flowers that smell a lot like orange blossoms and develop into a small kumquat-like fruit.

Sarah Schmidt edits BBG’s editorial content, including the blog, how-to articles, and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

Fragrant house plant #7: Hyacinth

Hyacinths are renowned for their beautiful blue blooms and a strong, powdery-floral scent that many people absolutely love. Mainly known as a spring flowering bulb, hyacinth can also be bought as indoor flowering plants for December. If you want them to flower around Christmas, buy bulbs that have been ‘prepared’ or ‘cold treated’ and plant them indoors in September. For spring flowering, buy them in the new year.

How to care for hyacinths:

Because hyacinth bulbs are poisonous, you’ll need to wear gloves when planting. Plant them in a pot or basket, being careful not to bury them too deep for the shoots to come through. After that, you’ll need to keep them in a cool, dark place for a few weeks, until you see the shoots coming through. Water occasionally. Then, place them in a bright spot away from direct sunlight. When hyacinths have finished flowering, plant them outside for next year.

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

More ways to fill your home with fragrance:

  • The best air fresheners
  • Best scented candles for spring
  • Best reed diffusers
  • The best shade loving house plants

10 Ways To Use Lemon Herbs Instead of Regular Lemons

So everyone likes a good glass of lemonade on a hot summer day and the first business that anyone starts is usually a lemonade stand, so we kinda all know what to do with lemons, but who actually has a lemon tree in their backyard?

If you do, you’re lucky and I’m a little jealous. Everyone can grow lemon herbs though from their very own window garden kit – how cool! But what can you actually make with lemon herbs? Well, it turns out, quite a bit:

1: Vegan Lemon Balm Ice Cream

For a guilt-free and cold treat during the summer, using lemon balm instead of lemon juice can make a delicious ice cream! Just pulverize the Balm in your food processor, add a frozen banana and as much liquid as the mixture needs to turn creamy, possibly some oats if you’d like your ice cream denser. Just like that, you have a quick and amazing treat

2: No Bake Lemon All-Natural Bars

Before you toss in the lemon juice or lemon zest into you next bar recipe, consider adding Lemon Balm instead! Use your handy food processor to grind it with soft dates, vanilla extract, goji berries, cinnamon, and natural almonds or coconut according to your taste, with just 2 tablespoons of water or other liquid. Press the mixture into a parchment-lined pan and store in the fridge for a healthy snack!

3: Zoodles

If you happen to be a fan of zucchini noodles, you’ll be thrilled to learn that lemon basil pairs incredibly well with zucchini! Add during the final stages of creating your next pasta sauce for a light, yet unique twist to this classic dish

4: Honey

If you have ever infused your honey with Mint before, you know a subtle new flavor can change it entirely. Just stuff half of a mason jar full of Lemon Basil leaves and fill the rest of the jar with honey. Let it sit for a month, strain out the leaves, and you have a delicious, sweet and tangy spread to put on almost anything!

5: Fruit Salad

You don’t even need to cook these lemon herbs to have a great dish. Simply chop up as much Lemon Balm as you desire and throw it into your next fruit salad instead of your usual lemon juice, and you get all the same tang with none of the messy wetness that comes with the juice!

6: Roasted Vegetables

If you like to have the slight juicy tang of lemon when you roast your vegetables, look no further! Finely chopping or dicing some sprigs of Lemon Basil and adding it onto your roasted vegetables as they come fresh out of the oven will still impart the same great taste without the added moisture, and even adds a hint of basil flavor to make the meal that much better.

7: Jam

When you make your own berry jam, crush a handful a Lemon Balm and throw it in the jar too! This will let you get a nice, subtle lemon and herb flavor to our jam without the risk of adding too much liquid to your jam, like you would get from adding lemon juice. Instead of traditional recipes, you can opt for a special, low-methoxyl pectin which thickens your jam with no need to add so much sugar, allowing you to use other sweeteners like stevia, honey, or even just fruit itself.

8: Alcoholic Drinks

While you can simply use Lemon Balm to replace Mint in a Mint Julep, you could just as easily fill a mason jar with half Lemon Balm and half of some cheap vodka, let it sit in a cool, dark place for a month, and have the perfect base for lemon-based drinks next girl’s night!

9: Muffins

Next time you make muffins or cookies, grind up a little bit of Lemon Balm and add a hint of lemon zest to give them a subtle, tangy flavor without needing to balance out any extra liquid from lemon juice! This way, you get the same result with much less work involved.

10: Tea

No different from Lemongrass, if you dry out Lemon Balm, you can use it to create a beautiful and tasty tea that comes with a hint of lemon right out of the cup – no additives needed!

Lemon flavoured herbs

Only a hint of lemon is needed to add zest to food and enhance delicate flavours. While lemony herbs have a more subtle taste compared to pure lemon juice they are just as useful as a natural flavouring.

Lemon grass, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and lemon thyme can be used in salads and salad dressings, herbal teas and refreshing cool drinks, in herb vinegars, and in a huge variety of fish, chicken and meat dishes.

While their taste is not strong enough to be used as a substitute for lemon, they add their own distinctive character and can also complement the use of lemons in cooking.

Using lemon flavoured herbs is not just about the taste, but also the fragrance. Lemon scented herbs have a clear, fresh aroma that uplifts and energises. Besides their culinary use, they can be added to pot pourri, act as insect repellents and are natural air fresheners.

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a clump forming perennial that grows up to 1 metre high, with strongly scented lemon leaves. It grows best in full sun, in fertile, well-drained soil and it needs plenty of water. It can also be grown in large containers. Being frost tender it dies down in winter but will come up again in spring. Cutting it right down and removing any old remaining stems will encourage it to sprout strongly.

Using lemon grass: The leaves and young stems are used in South East Asian cuisine, especially with meat, curries and fish. It also makes a refreshing tea.

Select young firm stalks. If they are soft or rubbery it means they are too old. Remove the tough outer leaves. The lower part of the stalk should be pale yellow (almost white) in color and this is the part that is used in Thai cooking. The upper green stem can be added to soups, stews and curries for extra flavour.

To extract the most flavour, cut the stem into 5cm lengths and bruise the stem or make superficial cuts along the stem. This also helps to release the lemon flavour. Add these pieces to the curry or other dishes but remove before serving.

Another way of using lemon grass is to cut the stalk into thin slices and put them in a food processor until the stalk is thoroughly pulped. Add this to your recipe.

Bear in mind that Lemon grass is very fibrous and stringy so it needs to be thoroughly boiled to soften it.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) has the strongest lemon taste and fragrance of all the lemony herbs. It is a large perennial shrub that can grow between 3 to 7 metres and has sprays of delicate white flowers in summer. It can be left to grow into an informal shrub or clipped and shaped.

Verbena grows best in full sun, likes a light soil that drains well and should be watered regularly. It is sensitive to cold and will lose its leaves in winter but can be cut back in spring and it will sprout again.

Using lemon verbena: Add the fresh leaves to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, cooked rice just before serving, salad dressings, jams, and desserts. The leaf is tough so it should be minced finely before adding or left whole and removed before serving.

The leaves dry well so it’s a good idea to dry a batch in summer for use in winter when the bush has died down. Dried leaves can be crumbled before adding to recipes.

Fresh or dried leaves make delicious herbal and iced teas as well as summery drinks. Chop up leaves before putting them in drinks. Make a refreshing tea by combining dried or fresh leaves with pineapple and apple mint.

Mix with other lemon scented herbs or with rosemary and thyme when making herb vinegars.

The leaves flavour desserts as well, including fruit salad, custard, jellies, sorbet, and ice cream. Finely chopped lemon verbena can be used in place of lemon zest in recipes.

Make a lemon scented sugar by putting 6 lemon verbena leaves in a cup and covering them with sugar and placing the cup in a covered jar or container. The lemon sugar can be sprinkled over the batter of muffins and cakes before baking, added to syrups and stewed fruit. Crumbled dried leaves can also be added to the batters of carrot, banana, or zucchini bread.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a low growing perennial (30cm) that grows in moist, fertile soil and does best if it can receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Although it is a member of the mint family, it is not invasive.

It is best to use fresh leaves as dried leaves quickly lose their aroma. The best way to preserve lemon balm is to put the leaves in water in ice cube trays and when frozen place the cubes in freezer bags.

Using lemon balm: The leaves have a delicate taste so you need to use more than normal, compared to strong culinary herbs. Crush or bruise the fresh leaves to release the lemony flavour.

Add finely chopped fresh leaves to salads, to lightly flavour egg dishes, as a garnish for soft cheese, incorporated into white sauce for fish, mayonnaise, marinades, vegetable soup and stews, poultry and pork. Instead of sage, use chopped lemon balm leaves in stuffing for pork, veal, or for poultry.

On the sweet side, add to fruit salads, jellies, jams and custards. Use sprigs in herbal vinegars, especially tarragon.

Lemon balm tea is an excellent digestive and should be drunk after a meal. Use only fresh leaves in infusions as the volatile oil tends to disappear during the drying process. The tea can be sweetened with honey. Crushed leaves add flavour to summer punches and soft drinks.

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) is a small, shrubby perennial that grows to 30cm, with small, bright green-yellow leaves that are lemon scented and pale mauve flowers in spring.

Lemon Thyme likes full sun and gritty soil that drains well. It is an excellent herb for growing in containers. It is frost hardy but likes protection and if you harvest regularly keep a pot or two in a warm sunny spot for a good supply of leaves.

Using lemon thyme: It is a robust herb that forms part of the traditional Bouquet Garni with bay leaf and parsley and does not lose its flavour in slow cooked dishes, such as casseroles, stews and potjiekos.

This herb goes particularly well with chicken. When roasting chicken stuff the cavity with half a lemon, half a peeled onion and several sprigs of thyme and one or two sprigs of rosemary.

Fried chicken is delicious if dried thyme is mixed with seasoned breadcrumbs and used to coat the chicken pieces. Sprigs of thyme can also be added to chicken casseroles. This could be used for fish as well.

Lamb, pork, beef, game, veal and sausages also combine well with thyme.

Thyme stalks are very tough and its best to remove the leaves from the stems or chop up the leaves and stems very finely. Otherwise just use whole sprigs and remove them after cooking. A fairly successful way of removing the leaves is to run them through the tines of a fork.

Sprinkle thyme leaves over salad, incorporate the chopped leaves in a vinaigrette dressing, add to a salsa, to herb butters, to mayonnaise with garlic chives, to sauces and marinades, as well as to egg and cheese dishes.

They add zest to vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, baked or sautéed vegetables, especially mushrooms and courgettes.

Lemon scented herbs are a delight to grow in the garden and use in the kitchen. There is a nice selection of plants to choose from that emit the light, refreshing scent, as well as the taste of lemons. Most are easy to grow from purchased plants, and those that need a bit more care are worth the effort. Lemon herbs can be grown in an herb bed or in the garden with vegetables. Below is a description and summary of each herb and with tips on growing and location.

Lemon Balm: A nicely scented herb that has a growth habit similar to mint. It spreads quickly, so beware. Lemon Balm is a hardy, perennial herb that can be grown in full sun or partial shade. It can be harvested 3-4 times each summer, cut down to 4-6 inches from the ground each time. This is a full proof herb that can be grown just about anywhere. The only downside is it’s invasive nature, which can be controlled by frequent harvesting and never allowing it to go to seed. Lemon balm can also be grown in containers and placed around the garden, as long as it’s kept watered.

Lemon Basil: The basil scent and taste is more pronounced and the lemon is subtle, but it’s a nice change from regular basil. It can be sown directly into the garden or containers after temperatures reach 50 degrees F. at night. Lemon Basilneeds full sun, and well drained soil, though it’s not drought tolerant and should be kept watered during dry spells. Pinch out any flowers that start to form in order to keep it producing until Fall. It isn’t a hardy herb and will be damaged by frost.

Lemon Thyme: Like with the basil, the lemon is fairly subtle, but it’s still almost the perfect herb. Lemon thyme has a low, spreading growth habit without being invasive, is a hardy perennial, and it can be harvested continuously throughout the summer and fall. Choose a place in full sun with well drained soil. Once thyme of any variety is established it is drought tolerant. If you can only grow one lemon herb this is the one to choose.

Lemon Verbena : Perhaps the lovliest of the lemon scented herbs with the most amazing scent and flavor. It grows year round in Zone 9 and above, which means those of us in colder climates treat it as an annual. I find it’s easiest to buy a small plant each year, harvesting small amounts throughout the summer, then the entire plant before the first frost. grows best in Lemon Verbena full sun and a well drained soil. It grows quickly when starting with a small plant that has been transplanted into the garden. It will also grow well in a container, but will be less vigorous.

Lemongrass: this is another tender perennial needing Zone 9 or warmer to overwinter. It looks much like an ornamental grass and grows to about 3 foot tall. It’s not always easy to locate but small plants can usually be found in garden centers or online. While this isn’t ornamental it has a wonderful scent and flavor and is often used in Thai cooking. It can be grown in containers fairly easily or placed in the garden.

All of the above lemon herbs can be used dry or fresh in teas, and to season poultry or fish. I also love making herb vinegars, mixing the lemon herbs with the peppery flavor of nasturtium or chive blooms.

Lemon balm

The zesty freshness of lemon can brighten up any number of dishes and drinks. So, here are our favourite herbs to help your dishes on their way to greatness

For those who like to grow their own ingredients the lemon tree isn’t among the easiest plants to manage. Fortunately, the same chemical that flavours the lemon, limonene, is also present in numerous herbs, making it much easier to bring a citrussy spark to your kitchen creations.

Here are five of our favourites…

This member of the mint family has a similar rambling character, along with a canny ability to self seed, so it can soon take over a patch of land. However, it’s worthy of a place on your plot (confine it to a pot if you want more control) because its soft lemon fragrance is an olfactory pleasure that is well known for its calming abilities, particularly if used in a home grown tea. If used for cooking then its leaves can be quite tough so are more suited to cooked dishes (fish in particular) than salads.

Lemon verbena

This herb has an even more pungent sherbety lemon flavour than balm and is better behaved, yet somehow it’s a much less popular plant among gardeners. It’s not a fan of cold weather so, after its winter hibernation, can be a little slower to re-emerge than other perennial herbs. It makes another excellent tea and can be a star ingredient in desserts. Use instead of lemon zest in cakes and tarts, sprinkle it as a garnish for fruit salads, or make a sweet and sticky syrup to pour over puddings or pep up a cocktail.

Lemon basil

Want the zesty freshness of lemon with some of the herby Mediterranean zing of basil? Then this hybrid of American Basil and Sweet Basil is the plant for you. It’s easy to grow from seed and will survive the whole summer if kept somewhere warm, like a greenhouse or windowsill, and is regularly picked. It’s popular in Thailand and Malaysia, working wonders in vibrant stir fries, and can be infused into olive oil for drizzling over Mediterranean inspired dishes.

Lemon thyme

This low-lying perennial shrub likes plenty of sun and a well-drained soil. There are two popular varieties—golden and variegated—but although the latter has interesting looks its lemon essence is much less prominent. In the kitchen it gives a tangy lemon twist to common thyme and is best scattered fresh on chicken, fish or vegetables towards the end of their cooking time or generously mixed into soups, stews and stuffings.

Lemon mint

Some folk refer to lemon balm as lemon mint, while the name is also given to a lemon-scented monarda. But you can also get a genuine mint with lemony flavours (you can get a mint in just about any flavour, from pineapple to chocolate). Grow it like a regular mint but keep it away from other varieties as they can lose their individual flavour characteristics if they’re too close together. The heightened zesty refreshment factor this herb brings makes it a great garnish for cold drinks, so try dropping a sprig into your next G&T.

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Scientific Name:Citrus medica var. limonum Watt

Wild lemon received its name because it grows easily in the wild and is good base for grafting special varieties of lemons.It is a sturdy tree that grows to a height of 12-15 ft.,is very spinous and belongs to the plant family Rutaceae.Like other Citrus species,it is rich in vitamin C.The petiole of this particular species is distinctly winged.The leaves are entire,smooth and shiny.The white flowers develop mostly at the terminal ends of the branches.The fruit is ovoid,about 5-7 cm. in diameter,and the rind is rough and bumpy.


  • Anthelmintic or helps in expelling worms.
  • Respiratory problems.
  • Helps in digestion.
  • Helps in expelling gas.
  • Best remedy for Scurvy.
  • Rheumatism.
  • Dysentery and diarrhea.
  • Eleminating fever.


  • The decoction of the rind of the fruit will take care of the first three conditions listed under Medicinal use.
  • Consumption of the lemon juice diluted with water control all of the other conditions and ailments listed under Medicinal use.Take 3-4 cups a day.


The rind of the fruit and the lemon juice.


As recommended above.


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