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You love the aroma of lemons but don’t really have room for a lemon tree in your life. Moreover, you don’t live in the right climate anyway! Having that citrusy scent at your fingertips seems like a dream.
But wait! There are lots of lovely culinary and medicinal herbs that have a very distinctive lemony smell without the need for expansive land and tropical climates. What’s more, if you are short on space, many of these plants grow perfectly well indoors, in containers on a porch or balcony, or in a windowbox or hanging basket.
Take a look at this mouthwatering list of really simple plants to grow that can give you your lemony fix year-round.
1. Lemon Verbena
Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora) is a woody shrub hardy to zones 8-11. If you live in a colder climate, you can grow this plant as an annual. It is a woody shrub that grows rather quickly during the hot months of summer, so depending on your growing season, even as an annual, you can end up with a 4-5 foot bush.
In zones that have milder winters with light freezes, there is a good chance that you can chop your lemon verbena back in the fall, heavily mulch around its roots, and see its little green shoots come back next spring.
Plant your lemon verbena in a well-draining spot in your garden that gets full sun. You can also grow it in a container. Don’t allow it to dry out, but do not saturate it, either.
Lemon verbena can be used culinarily in sweet or savory recipes that call for lemon zest. You may use it dried or fresh. It also makes a deliciously citrusy tea that is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and is often drunk as a sleep aid.
2. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a wonderful member of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. Like its minty cousin, lemon balm can quite readily take over a space in your garden. Though it doesn’t spread quite as far as mint, it can form quite a clump and spread its seeds in a heartbeat. Depending on how you look at things, this may or may not be a problem.
That said, it grows well in containers and can be kept under control a little better that way. Like mint, it roots really easily from a cutting popped in a jar of water and can be multiplied over and over again. It is hardy to zones 3-7, so should overwinter quite well in those climates.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a very familiar plant native to Asia. It is well known in Thai food recipes and crops up in many herbal tea blends thanks to its powerful zesty aroma and flavor.
Though it is only hardy to zones 10-11, it can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. If grown in a pot, it can always be brought indoors to overwinter.
If you are growing lemongrass as a perennial in your garden be sure that it gets lots of sun and moisture. Giving your plant a good layer of mulch will help to keep moisture in the soil on hot, dry days.
Lemongrass clumps, so if you find yours getting too wide, you can break it apart at the roots and replant it elsewhere.
4. Lemon Thyme
Source: Terra Mater Gardens/YouTube
Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) is just one of the many varieties of thyme out there. Lemon thyme is loved for its mouthwatering citrusy scent and lemony flavor. It can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for regular thyme, but this variety will give you an added note!
Lemon thyme is a great ground cover in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family. It is hardy to zones 5-9 and requires very little care. It is tolerant of poor soil and drought-like conditions. Just plant it in a sunny spot and watch it thrive.
Use lemon thyme in soups and stews or on roast vegetables. You could have a go at making these Lemon Thyme and Roasted Garlic Flatbreads and enjoy them with some homemade hummus. It also works well in dessert as with this recipe for a Lemon Thyme Raspberry Tea Cake.
This article is for informational purposes only. Seek advice from a medical professional before using herbs medicinally.
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