How to prune verbena

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How to prune verbena

The key to success in growing lemon verbena plants is providing a sufficiently warm atmosphere for these tropical herbs to thrive. With the exception of gardeners who live in the hot climates of USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or above, most individuals will need to grow lemon verbena indoors in a container in a sunny area. This tangy herb can be purchased at a garden center, propagated from cuttings, or started from seed.

Immature lemon verbena plants can be purchased at garden centers for planting in a container or outdoors. While lemon verbena plants sometimes grow to be 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, most container specimens will remain much smaller. Occasional pruning will help the plant produce more branches.

In locations with very warm conditions, lemon verbena plants can survive year after year outdoors. Wait until the last frost has passed to plant new seedlings. Before planting, mix compost into loosened soil. Make sure to leave more than 24 inches (61 cm) of space around each plant for maximum growth. Plenty of water will be required to allow lemon verbena plants to flourish outdoors.

Lemon verbena plants can be propagated from a cutting. All that is necessary to start a new plant is a tiny piece of stem that contains a few leaves. Stand the stem vertically in a jar with water, allowing it to begin sprouting roots, then transplant the cutting into a container with potting mix when its roots have grown beyond 1 inch (2.5 cm). If the seedling will later be planted outdoors, wait several weeks until the roots are well-established in a container.

Growing lemon verbena from seed requires small containers with a mix of perlite and peat moss. Moisten the planting medium, then plant a couple of seeds in the pot and cover them with additional potting mix. Cover pots with plastic wrap and place them in indirect sunlight. When sprouts appear, remove the wrap and place the pots in direct sun, watering frequently. Transfer seedlings to larger pots when they have grown substantially, and trim the roots slightly each time to keep the plant small for indoor use.

Lemon verbena, or aloysia triphylla, is an edible herb whose leaves and flowers have a lemony taste. The leaves can be used fresh or dried in herbal teas and in cooking a variety of fish, meat, or vegetable dishes. Some sources suggest using lemon verbena as a substitute for lemon zest or lemon juice in certain recipes. The strong lemony smell of lemon verbena plants is said to repel insects.

How to prune verbena

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Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) makes a cheery neighbor in your back yard with its fresh-green leaves that exude a light fragrance of lemon when you brush by. This tropical native thrives as a semi-evergreen perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. It can grow to 6 feet tall and spread 8 feet wide, and offers small lilac flowers in the summer season.


Like most shrubs, lemon verbena benefits from a pruning in spring or early summer to eliminate dead branches and other winter damage. At this time of year, you can use the clippings to root new plants. Lemon verbena responds to pruning by producing new leaves at the whorl immediately below the cut rather than along the entire stem. As a result, this shrub can grow leggy. It requires regular pruning throughout the year to increase leaf production. Snip off leggy stems just above a leaf whorl.

Outdoor Planting

Lemon verbena requires well-draining soil to thrive; “wet feet” will doom the plant sooner rather than later. It also needs at least six hours a day of sun. Generally it is best to plant verbena in full sun, although a little afternoon sun is helpful in hotter climates. Ideal growing conditions include loose soil rich in organic matter and plenty of room for the shrub’s spreading roots. Unlike many herbs, lemon verbena likes to be fed regularly, so plan to fertilize at least once a month during growing season.

Container Planting

As a perennial, lemon verbena develops a spreading root system. If you plant it in a pot, you need to pick a large one that is at least a foot across to allow for root development. The more soil around the lemon verbena’s roots, the more it is insulated from temperature fluctuations. Some gardeners bury the container in the soil for additional protection. If you choose this option, take care that the plant’s roots do not find their way into the garden soil, creating problems when the pot is moved. Container-grown lemon verbena should be fertilized every two weeks. If you move the plant indoors for the winter, thin the plant before bringing it inside to remove any spindly stems.


The Aloysia genus, named for Maria Luisa de Parma, wife of King Charles IV of Spain, includes at least 30 species of aromatic shrubs in addition to lemon verbena. Originally classified as Verbena triphylla, lemon verbena’s botanical name was altered to Verbena citriodora because of its fragrance. It was transferred to the Aloysia family when researchers noted that its fruit separated into two nutlets rather than the four that characterize the fruits of Verbena species. You can still find lemon verbena offered as “citriodora,” but decades ago it was renamed “triphylla” because of the whorls of three leaves that form along the stems.

How to prune verbena

Lemon verbena is a shrubby herb that grows like crazy with very little help. However, cutting back lemon verbena every so often keeps the plant neat and prevents a leggy, spindly appearance. Not sure how to prune lemon verbena? Wondering when to prune lemon verbena? Read on!

How to Trim Lemon Verbena

The best time for cutting back lemon verbena is in spring, shortly after you see new growth. This is the main pruning of the year and will encourage new, bushy growth.

Remove winter damage and dead stems down to ground level. Cut old, woody growth down to about 2 inches (5 cm.) from the ground. This may sound harsh, but don’t worry, lemon verbena rebounds quickly.

If you don’t want lemon verbena to spread too much, spring is also a good time to pull up stray seedlings.

Lemon Verbena Trimming in Early Summer

If the plant begins to look leggy in late spring or early summer, go ahead and shorten the plant by about one-quarter of its height after the first set of blooms appears.

Don’t worry if you remove a few flowers, as your efforts will be repaid with lush blooms beginning in two or three weeks and continuing throughout summer and autumn.

Trim Lemon Verbena throughout the Season

Snip lemon verbena for use in the kitchen as often as you like throughout the season, or remove an inch or two (2.5-5 cm.) to prevent sprawl.

Lemon Verbena Pruning in Fall

Remove seed heads to keep rampant growth in check, or leave the wilted blooms in place if you don’t mind if the plant spreads.

Don’t trim lemon verbena too much in autumn, although you can trim lightly to tidy up the plant about four to six weeks before the first expected frost. Cutting back lemon verbena later in the season can stunt growth and make the plant more susceptible to frost.

can anyone advise how to prune bonarienis please, last year I cut mine right back, but it died off, any advice please


It’s not 100% hardy and dying off may not have been your fault. I rely on self seeded plants to keep them going rather than keeping them alive over winter.

They don’t flower as prolifically in their second year, so I would do as nut has suggested.

I agree with Nut . and to make sure there’s every chance of self-seeding I don’t cut mine back until the spring . then I cut them back to about 9″ tall .

“I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

You can always pot up a young plant and overwinter it in a cold frame if you want to be sure but they usually seed very freely.

The tits seem to go for the seeds so I leave them until the birds are finished with them.

I cut mine back just enough to keep it looking tidy.

This year I’ve found that they have self seeded a lot. I remember asking on here how to get the seed to germinate as I was struggling! Mother nature can do a much better job than a greenhouse and a packet of seeds sometimes! Anyhow, I have pulled the babies out and potted them on and they are doing very well. This way I can plant them in another bed in spring.

I tried for years to grow VB in my garden at home and despite everyone saying it self seeded, it never did for me so I know where you’re coming from. However, now I grow it at my allotment and it has flourished. Because it’s quite windy I have to cut most of it but not all of the plants back a bit around this time of year otherwise they’re just a mess.

At the allotment, it self seeds freely into the gravel and I pot these up and give them to friends or transfer them to the home garden in springtime. Try to keep yours as dry as you can, I think the winter wet helps to kill mine. Perhaps try leaving some of the seed heads on if you can, even support them so they don’t break or fall over and see if you get some little seedlings. Good luck Susan 722.

Thank you all for the great advice, I will take it all on board, and try it all.

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A large sunny plot of dry soil is prime real estate for ‘Homestead’ verbena (Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’). This sun-lover grows fast, producing small, but brilliantly colored flowers with small, deeply cut dark green leaves on wiry stems that creep along the ground, turning up at the tips. Pinching out the foliage-filled stems of young plants can help develop dense growth to support the plant’s summer-long bloom. At times, you’ll also need to remove dead foliage, flowers and stems to keep ‘Homestead’ looking its best.

Important ‘Homestead’ Facts

‘Homestead Purple’ is a native variety found growing on an old homestead in Georgia in the 1990s, noted for its spreading habit and brilliant purple flowers, though you can now find ‘Homestead Pink’ and ‘Homestead Red’ cultivars – all reliably hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11.

The plant does often make it through the winter in zones 7 and 8 with protection and excellent drainage, and is used as an annual in cooler zones. The plant only reaches 6 to 8 inches tall, says Monrovia, but its wiry stems root wherever they touch soil to help the plant spread 2 to 3 feet wide.

Shearing for Flowers and Spread

Homestead verbenas have a long blooming season as long as you prune them says The National Gardening Association. After the first flush of bloom fades – you don’t need to wait for every flower to die back – cut the entire plant back by half. The plant is forgiving, shear both the old flowers and the foliage with shears sterilized with household antiseptic cleaner or rubbing alcohol. This keeps the spreading habit of this plant in check and spurs another round of blooms. Repeat as flowers fade until late summer. Remove creeping stems and foliage as needed to keep your ‘Homestead’ where you want it.

Removing Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that disfigures plants with a dusty-looking white powder. Verbena is most vulnerable to powdery mildew when it is planted in partial shade with poor drainage, reveals Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. ‘Homestead’ plantings are somewhat mildew resistant, and good air circulation further cuts the chances of infection.

While prevention by treatment with a fungicide before powdery mildew infection is ideal, pruning away young foliage that shows signs of the disease – cleaning pruning tools before, between and after cuts – can improve the look of the plant. In verbena, powdery mildew starts on the undersides of lower leaves, which eventually turn yellowish or purple. Check leaves when temperatures are high and conditions are humid.

Preparing for Winter

Whether or not you cut back the foliage on your ‘Homestead’ verbena for winter depends on how cold your winters get. In frost-free areas, cut the foliage back as much as you like to neaten the plants or make room for cool-weather annuals. Where temperatures occasionally dip well below freezing, leave the foliage in place to help protect the crown of the plant.

currently in Austin


Almond verbena

Almond verbena is a must for anyone who loves summertime fragrance! This large, shrubby, deer-resistant plant is an should be planted in full sun, or only light shade, and given plenty of room to grow.

This plant does get very tall, usually very quickly. My experience has been in the range of 10 to 12 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide.

Be sure to plant near a patio or porch to get the full effect of its strong, but lovely, delicately sweet fragrance. Almond verbena is a repeat bloomer, usually from late spring all the way through fall, maybe taking a break during the hottest time of an extremely hot, dry summer.

And when in flower, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will be attracted to it like magnets.

Listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8, in most warm climates, almond verbena will be deciduous, especially in mild winters. But even if it doesn’t die back to the ground, it will perform best if you treat it as you would other root-hardy perennial shrubs, shearing it back to the ground in late winter. This hard pruning forces almond verbena to put on all new growth, making it fuller, greener, and bushier. A little light pruning in mid-summer can reinvigorate the plant for fall growth.

Plant almond verbena in well-drained soil and water sparingly, but regularly. Once a week watering should be fine, and fertilizer is not needed. This easy-care, root-hardy shrub would make a great addition to any low water-use garden.

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August To Do List

Plant: ornamental & wildlife

  • Not a great time to plant. If you must, shade newcomers and water daily if soil is dry.

Plant: food crops


  • OKAY to prune red oaks and live oaks until February. Spray immediately with clear varnish.
  • No need to apply pruning paint to other trees
  • Dead head flowering plants
  • Late August to early September: lightly prune perennials and roses to encourage fall blooming
  • Cut stalks of plants like coneflower to the rosette


  • Foliar feed flowers and vegetables with liquid seaweed
  • Container annuals
  • Citrus with high nitrogen fertilizer like Citrus-tone. Fertilize every few weeks through growing season.


  • Watch for aphids and spider mites. It’s easy to spray them off with a hard blast of water. Be sure to get the undersides of the leaves.
  • Aphids and other insects can plague crape myrtles and other trees in summer (“raining trees” are due to the honeydew secretions). Blast with water hose on regular basis.
  • Aphids and other insects can create sooty mold on plants, a fungus that develops from their secretions (honeydew). Wash off the culprits and the leaves. Remove damaged leaves to the trash (not the compost pile).


  • Keep that lawn mower setting on high. Keep the roots cool by leaving the grass long. Don’t remove more than 1/3 of the top at a time. Leave clippings on the lawn to naturally fertilize.
  • It’s very important to keep the grass high in August. If September brings cooler weather and rain, weed seeds will start to germinate.


  • Start planning the fall garden. Clean up debris in the vegetable garden. Apply compost and mix in organic slow-release granular fertilizer to get ready for fall plantings
  • Explore native wildlflower seeds to plant this fall
  • Think about next spring and the perennializing bulbs to add this fall

Other tasks

  • Solarize areas where you want to kill grass or weed pests for future planting
  • Collect seeds from summer blooming plants. Clean off the chaff and let dry indoors. Store in jars, envelopes, or paper bags (not plastic) to plant next spring.
  • Deeply water new plants. Even if rain comes, check the soil to 3” deep to make sure their roots have water. A brief shower doesn’t mean it penetrated to the roots.
  • Keep a garden journal to note bloom times and insect habits.


  • Prune herbs often to encourage new growth
  • Water fruit and nut trees deeply to avoid fruit drop-off
  • Accept August! Plants are hunkered down, like we are. They’ll perk back up soon.

I’m after opinions on pruning Verbena bonariensis. Mine is *still* flowering and in the past I’d read cut it back in March but I’ve since read some say cut it autumn ‘after flowering’. Also when you cut it how low so you go ? I’ve cut it low and lost plants in the past but when I’ve cut it higher it’s only sprouted from near the cuts and not the base which gives a straggly plant.


I would not cut them down just yet. This plants is not a perennial so treat it as an annual. It will self seed over autumn and new growth from these seeds will reappear in early summer. The original plant will die back and will not flower again

Hope this helps as they are a beautiful, graceful plant for the boarder

I’ve never thought of them as an annual but a short-lived perrenial, mine are in their second year and are better than they were in their first. In my last garden they tended (bad winters permitting) to last about 3 years.

Hi i let mine flower until they are finished on my allotment. They are an amazing plant and the butterflies they attract are beautiful.

I cut mine down level and they come back stronger. I will take a picture and post today one i have is at least 6ft High

Its hard to believe the plant size when you are fumbling with the seed which is tiny

Yeah mine are 7ft + too.

They self-seed all over my garden I’m pleased to say.

I have hundreds in flower atm – a beautiful haze of purple in the autumn sun.
I also grow V Rigida amongst some very deep red roses – they send out runners and and are a much smaller version of bonariensis with mauve flowers – also very beautiful.

I find v.bonariensis and rigida come back year after year

Perennial here too, as long as they’re somewhere with adequate drainage to cope with winter rain and cold soil. Having other planting round them also helps to stop them turning up their toes in very cold spells..

I cut them back in spring if I want to keep them at a reasonable height. Leaving them till then gives them a bit of protection from bad weather. You can cut some back again later on and use that material as cuttings. They ‘take’ very easily in gritty compost.

It’s a place where beautiful isn’t enough of a word.

How to prune verbena

mine self seed like weeds , but I love them.

I leave mine as long as they are upright as birds, esp goldfinches love the seeds.

If they get moved by wind, I’ll cut them back then, but usually they’re ok until they get a good hard chop in Spring.

Some of mine have been there for 3 years now since I planted the first lot.

By: Debra L Turner

21 September, 2017

The attractive lemon verbena shrub is so much more than just another pretty face. Delicious, relaxing flavored tea can easily be brewed from its sweet, aromatic, lemony leaves. Stems and greenery can also be rendered into aromatic oil for use in making your own personal fragrances. Foliage can be dried to create festive potpourris. Fast growing and virtually pest and disease free, lemon verbena is winter hardy only to USDA Zone 8, but with a heavy layer of winter mulch and the occasional sip of water, your shrub will return to you in the spring. These plants seem to thrive especially well when judiciously pruned throughout the growing season.

Use clean, sharp shears to prune your lemon verbena in mid-spring. Remove any dead or damaged wood. Cut main limbs and stems back to about 12 to 14 inches above ground level to encourage a neat, compact habit.

  • The attractive lemon verbena shrub is so much more than just another pretty face.
  • Delicious, relaxing flavored tea can easily be brewed from its sweet, aromatic, lemony leaves.

Begin harvesting leaves and stems from your lemon verbena early in the summer. Young growth can be trimmed back with scissors as much as 12 inches at any one time without harming the plant. The more you trim, the fuller the shrub will grow.

Cut out any dead or damaged limbs whenever you see them, throughout the growing season.

Trim back any stems that you feel give the lemon verbena a shaggy appearance. This may be done anytime that you think the plant begins to look unkempt.

Prune the lemon verbena very well in early fall. Cut the entire plant back by one-third. Trim new growth completely back to the older growth.

  • Begin harvesting leaves and stems from your lemon verbena early in the summer.
  • Trim back any stems that you feel give the lemon verbena a shaggy appearance.

Care Of A Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena requires regular watering and well-drained soil. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch conserves moisture, regulates soil temperature and keeps weeds in check. Mix the fertilizer according to the instructions on the label and then apply it to moist soil — fertilizing dry soil may scorch the roots. Harvest lemon verbena just before the small flowers develop. If the plant looks scraggly, prune it hard in early spring, but leave a few buds on the stems, as new stems grow from the buds. Often, directing a strong stream of water at the plant is enough to dislodge a light infestation of aphids.