Growing your own herbs Lemongrass, Lemon verbena



Tropical grass with strong lemon flavour

How to grow lemongrass 

Lemongrass can be grown from seed sown from late January to March. As it's a tropical plant, the seed needs heat to germinate so sow in a heated propagator. Transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or on the kitchen windowsill.

Lemongrass is readily available nowadays in most large supermarkets as cut stems. Providing the stem is fresh and the base hasn't been over-trimmed, you can get it to root in a jar of water before potting it up.

How to care for lemongrass

Keep your lemongrass well watered in summer and give it a liquid feed every now and then. Keep just moist in winter and ensure you don't over water. Lemongrass fares best if grown permanently in a container in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.

How to harvest 

Cut off one stem close to the root and use 10-12 cm of the stalk starting from the base and discarding the outer leaves.

Recommended lemongrass varieties 

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) doesn't have any named varieties so go for the plain type as either plants or – if you're feeling adventurous – seed.

Lemon verbena

How to grow lemon verbena

Lemon verbena flower

Lemon verbena is best in a pot

Lemon verbena is a small, attractive shrub but it loses its leaves in winter. Because it can't withstand frost and therefore needs protection throughout the winter, it's best to keep it as a container plant.

You can buy established plants from the garden centre or you can grow your own from cuttings. Take softwood cuttings from new growth in spring or more mature shoots in late summer or early autumn.

Push the cuttings into a mix of compost and grit, transferring into larger pots once they've rooted.

How to care for lemon verbena

A warm humid spot in light free draining soil – such as against a sunny wall – is ideal. Prune lightly in spring and remove any dead tips once your plant starts to reshoot – this will encourage new growth. Cut plants back in autumn to keep a compact shape and move them under cover to protect from frosts.

How to harvest

Pick fresh leaves while the plant is in full growth – they make a refreshing tea and can be used to flavour cakes and ice cream. Drying the leaves concentrates their flavour – store in an airtight container.

Want to grow other edible plants? Read our guides to growing soft fruit or growing your own winter salad

More on this...