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Month: May 2020
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Lemon verbena is a plant deserving a spot in your garden not just because of its scent. In the following, we discuss lemon verbena care from planting to harvest.
Lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora) is one of the most refreshing herbs one can cultivate in their garden. It is also known as lemon beebrush and it belongs to the verbena (or vervain) family (Verbenaceae). Even just a light touch of the leaves releases a refreshing citrus aroma. Don’t let the lemony scent misguide you, though: lemon verbena is not related to the lemon tree, which, like most other citrus plants, belongs to the rue family (Rutaceae).
Lemon verbena originally comes from subtropical regions of South America and was only brought to Europe at the end of the 18th century. The outdated scientific name of this plant, Aloysia citrodora, points to Maria Luisa Teresa de Parma (1751 – 1819), the wife of the then Spanish King Carlos IV. For this reason, some foreign-language names of lemon verbena still hint at the name of Maria Luisa. For example, lemon verbena is referred to as “hierba luisa” in Spanish and “Luiserlkraut” in Austria.
Lemon verbena is an attractive potted plant for the terrace or balcony, but it is only partially hardy. The perennial and deciduous shrub reaches growth heights of around one to two metres in temperate climates in Europe. Under favourable conditions, the lemon verbena can grow even taller. One of the best parts of this plant, apart from its’ lemony scent, are the dainty flowers, which can range in colour from white to pink and violet.
Growing lemon verbena
Lemon verbena thrives best in a warm, sunny and sheltered locations. You can cultivate this plant exclusively in a pot or plant it in your garden bed in areas with milder climates.
Growing lemon verbena in a bed
Planting out should take place in spring so that the roots can develop well until autumn. In its original habitat, lemon verbena prefers loose, neutral to slightly alkaline soils without waterlogging. The vegetation period of lemon verbena in temperate climate zones extends from May to November. Lemon verbena blooms in August and is mainly pollinated by insects such as butterflies and bumblebees. However, the seeds only ripen in long, warm summers. Lemon verbena is not tolerant to frost. Therefore, it needs to be overwintered in a protected environment.
Growing lemon verbena in a pot
For pot and container cultivation, standard substrates, which are also used for classic balcony plants, are sufficient. A sunny to semi-shady place in a pot on the terrace or on the windowsill is ideal. Depending on how well the individual plant grows, it should be repotted into a larger flower pot about every one to two years.
Propagating lemon verbena with cuttings
Although it is possible to grow lemon verbena from seeds, it requires a lot more time and effort. Therefore, we recommend propagation using cuttings to multiply your lemon verbenas.
Lemon verbena cuttings
In early summer, cuttings about 15 centimetres long should be cut off the woody branches and placed in pots with growing soil. Rooting can be promoted by covering with foil, because the cuttings love warm temperatures between 18 and 25 °C. Once they have developed roots, they can be replanted in pots. Here again, you will have to be patient, because the plants can be cut only once they have reached at least 10 cm in height. In this way, the shrub branches out better and grows back bushier.
Sowing lemon verbena seeds
It is best to sow lemon verbena seeds in the months of February and March in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. A permeable substrate, which can nevertheless store water well, is ideal for growing lemon verbena. The seeds should be placed into the soil at a sufficient distance of about 1 to 2 centimetres. Because lemon verbena seeds require light to germinate, they should not be completely covered with soil (so that the light can still reach them). After that, place the plant container in a bright, warm place without direct sunlight. You should not forget to moisten it regularly so that the seeds can start germinating. A transparent cover (e.g. made of glass) can provide optimal temperature and humidity conditions for germination. After a few weeks, the first seedlings should show. Plants that are too close together can then be removed.
Lemon verbena care
Although lemon verbena is considered to be very undemanding, there are still some aspects of its care that need to be taken into account in order to enjoy your own lemon beebrush for as long as possible.
Watering lemon verbena
The soil should always be kept lightly to moderately moist. Excessive watering is to be avoided, as otherwise waterlogging is encouraged, and the plant becomes more susceptible to disease. Occasional dry soil does not bother the plant, but complete drying out of the substrate should be avoided.
Fertilising lemon verbena
Regular fertilisation between April and August promotes lush, bushy growth. It is best to use organic slow-release fertilisers, which ensure a sufficient supply of nutrients over the course of several weeks and even months. The fertiliser is decomposed by the soil organisms and is thus gradually available to the plant.
Pruning lemon verbena
In autumn, before the first frost, you can cut back the lemon verbena to two buds. New shoots are usually at the tips of the shoots. If the branches are left long and uncut, they become bare at the bottom and new shoots would develop only from the upper two buds. During the main growing season, lemon verbena can be pruned more thoroughly for the harvest.
Overwintering lemon verbena
Lemon verbena is extremely sensitive to frost. Under good conditions and in particularly sheltered locations, however, it can even survive a cold winter outdoors. To do this, the branches should be cut back to just a few buds in October. A layer of straw about 30 centimetres thick or a covering with garden fleece provides the necessary protection against the cold. Well wrapped, the lemon verbena can survive in the garden bed until mid-April.
But if you want to be on the safe side, bring the potted plant indoors before the first frost. Unless you cut back the lemon verbena in autumn, you can overwinter the plant at about 5 °C in the cellar, shed or staircase. However, darker, cooler rooms have the advantage that the plant sheds its leaves by itself, thus reducing the risk of rotting. Even when cut back, the plant can be overwintered in the dark. As the plant does not bear any leaves during hibernation, it does not need light. However, it should be watered from time to time.
The lemon verbena sprouts again at stable temperatures of about 15 °C. From March onwards, the plant can therefore be grown in a moderately heated room. After about ten days the first tender leaves and shoots should appear. If no more frost is to be expected, the lemon verbena may be put outside again in mid-May. Intensive watering and fertilising give the plant new vitality and strengthen it for the coming year.
Harvesting lemon verbena
The leaves of lemon verbena can be harvested from May to September. For this purpose, either individual leaves are plucked off or whole branches can be cut off a few centimetres above the ground. Only healthy plant parts should be harvested. Withered or discoloured leaves should be removed and disposed of. Fresh leaves are excellent for making herbal lemonades or for refining desserts.
Unfortunately, there is not enough light in winter to harvest fresh lemon verbena all year round. The plant would suffer, and pest infestation and stunted growth would be the result. If you still don’t want to do without lemon verbena, you should stock up on it during the summer months. The plant can then be cut back in autumn and sent into the well-deserved winter rest.
Storing lemon verbena
The fresh leaves of the lemon verbena can be frozen or pickled in oil. However, the simplest method of preserving lemon verbena is to dry it. It is best to wipe the fresh leaves off the cut branch. Then lay them out loosely on a cloth or newspaper. In an airy, warm place, the leaves will dry within a week. However, direct sunlight should be avoided. The slower and gentler the drying process, the more likely it is that the green colour and aroma will be retained. The drying process is only complete when the leaves crack when pressed together. If there is still too much residual moisture, mould may form during storage. If stored in an airtight, non-transparent container, the lemon aroma is preserved for a long time.
Lemon verbena: benefits and use
Lemon verbena contains an essential oil in all its parts. This essential oil is responsible for the fresh lemon scent if the plant. The scent intensity of the leaves is considerably stronger than that of most other similarly smelling plants. If you want to bring the fresh scent into your home, fill small herb bags with the dried herb. It can also be used to ward off insects, because mosquitoes, flies and some other insects seem to avoid the scent.
Lemon verbena is said to have positive effects on the digestive system and is considered to be antispasmodic. It also has a calming effect on nervousness and insomnia. A relaxing blend of evening tea made from lemon verbena, also known as “verveine”, is very popular in France. A cold brew made from lemon verbena is often referred to as “verbena tea”. Although verbena (Verbena officinalis) is closely related to the fragrant lemon verbena, it tastes extremely bitter.
To make an aromatic tea from lemon verbena, pour a quarter of a litre of water over 1 teaspoon of the crushed leaves of the lemon verbena and let it steep for about 5 minutes. When cooled, it tastes wonderful in summer as an iced tea and can be used to flavour other drinks. In the kitchen, the fresh lemon verbena leaves can be used as any other leafy greens. However, it is much more often used as a seasoning herb. The lemony aroma works wonderfully with fish and poultry. But it is also used to season salads and to flavour desserts such as pudding or ice cream. If you want to benefit from the taste of lemon verbena in winter as well, it is best processed into syrup, jelly or pesto.
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Herbs are essential for every home cooked meal. Find out here how to successfully plant herbs on the windowsill, on the balcony and in the garden bed.
Cultivation of herbs has become a real trend. This is no surprise at all, because herbs have a lot to offer. They add spice to life and should not be missing in any garden. Herbs can be easily grown in a pot or on a windowsill, even if you don’t have that much space available. In the following, you can find out which herbs should be grown in the bed and which are suited for pots. In addition, we provide all the information on how to plant herbs.
Planting herbs: step-by-step instructions
Most herbs can be cultivated both in the pot as well as in the garden bed. However, your approach to herb care should be a little different depending on where the plant grows. For example, potted herbs need to be watered more often because their root balls tend to be a lot smaller. Herbs planted out in the garden bed, on the other hand, need to be grown in the right location and overwintered well. Moreover, garden beds need to be weeded regularly, which takes up a significant amount of time. If your goal is to achieve a harvest as quickly as possible, it is better to buy young plants instead of growing the plants from seeds. Young plants that have been recently purchased should be replanted as soon as possible.
How to plant herbs:
- Loosen the ground with a suitable substrate
- Dig a hole that is deep enough for planting (the base should be at ground level after watering)
- Remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole
- Fill with fine soil
- Water the plant immediately
Selecting the herbs
Herbs can be roughly divided into annual and perennial plants. However, each herb has specific requirements regarding its location. Here is an overview of what needs to be considered when planting the individual herbs and which species go together particularly well.
Botanically speaking, plants are considered annual if they reproduce only once in a growing season and die at the end of it. However, in some regions, plants are also considered annual for their lack of winter hardiness, because they were bred specifically for high yields (which in turn decreased their robustness). Dill (Anethum graveolens), chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), coriander (Coriandrum sativum), borage (Borago officinalis) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) are all considered annual herbs.
A basic rule to follow when planting herbs is that annual and perennial herbs should not be planted together. This actually makes perfect sense from a gardening perspective, as many short-lived species prefer an annual change of location. However, it is more important to reflect on whether a side by side cultivation is possible and also reasonable. Possible risks of increased susceptibility of the plant to diseases or growth-inhibiting intolerances need to be taken into consideration. The most amicable of the annual herbs is probably basil (Ocimum basilicum), which, due to its essential oils, can even protect its plant neighbours from pests and fungal diseases.
Well-known examples of perennial herbs are thyme (Thymus vulgaris), oregano (Origanum vulgare), sage (Salvia officinalis), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), savoury (Satureja hortensis), tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). The latter is tolerated well by other herbs, though it should not be planted right next to basil, as these two herbs do not enjoy each other’s company at all. Savoury, oregano and sage, for example, are great perennial herbs that can be planted side by side.
Sunny locations are ideal for the cultivation of Mediterranean herbs. These include savoury, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), basil, lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), oregano, sage or thyme.
As many of these species originally come from the Mediterranean region, they prefer poorer soils that are not waterlogged. When choosing plants for the garden bed, do bear in mind that many Mediterranean herbs are not hardy.
Herbs that are not hardy:
- Lemon verbena
Herbs for semi-shady locations
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), dill, parsley (Petroselinum crispum), fennel, tarragon, chives, lovage (Levisticum officinale), peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and chamomile do not depend on sunshine in order to grow. The east or west side of a house is ideal for the cultivation of these herbs. Furthermore, these plants usually prefer soils that are slightly moist and also rich in humus and nutrients.
Herbs for the windowsill
It makes sense to plant the most common kitchen herbs within easy reach. Because frankly, hardly anybody truly enjoys walking through half of the entire garden in rainy, cold weather just to get a handful of herbs. In cities, very few people have a whole garden or balcony to themselves anyway. Fortunately, most herbs can thrive wonderfully when grown in pots on windowsills. Especially in winter, having fresh and aromatic herbs right in the kitchen feels like a treat. Chives and parsley, for instance, can easily be potted in autumn and cultivated on the kitchen window. With their fresh green appearance and wonderful aroma, they can also help dispel gloomy moods during those dark months of the year. Mediterranean and non-hardy herbs should be planted into pots before the first frost anyway, so that they can be moved to their winter quarters.
Tips for herb cultivation on the windowsill:
- Repot from time to time
- Neither water the plant too much nor too little
- Do not forget to fertilise
- Harvest correctly in order to maintain a favourable growth habit
Tip: A layer of gravel or clay fragments under the substrate ensures that the water can drain off easily. This helps avoid waterlogging.
Herbs for the balcony
Larger pots can also be placed on the balcony. Depending on where the balcony is facing, the location requirements of the individual herbs need to be taken into consideration. A balcony facing south offers the best levels of sunlight. However, soil in pots usually dries out faster and, for this reason, plants in pots should be watered more frequently. The exact opposite is the case on north-facing balconies. Due to less sunlight, the water in pots evaporates much more slowly. From this we can conclude that a balcony on the east or west side is ideal for growing herbs that prefer semi-shaded locations.
In addition to the optimal location and a suitable substrate, the size of the planters also plays a crucial role in the cultivation process. Some herbs, such as dill and lovage, have roots that go quite deep and, therefore, they need a pot that is tall enough for them. However, deep-rooted plants or plants with a particularly profound root system, such as tarragon or wormwood, are not suitable to be grown on the balcony.
Herbs for the garden
Of course, herbs can be cultivated in the garden too. Since usually only limited space is available, the selection of herbs should be based on the need and intended use of the gardener. The best way to plant herbs is in a way that you can easily reach them.
Herbs for the herb bed
Specifically in monastery gardens, herbs gardens tend to have a very structured layout. Herbs grown there tend to be divided in groups and planted in symmetrically arranged beds. These beds are usually bordered by low hedges, fences or paths. Cleverly arranged paths between the beds allow easy access to plants and can be very helpful, especially in bad weather. On top of that, geometrically designed beds are quite easy to maintain, and a clear structure makes finding the individual herbs a lot easier.
The following must be considered when planting herbs:
- The location requirements of individual herbs differ
- Do not combine annual plants with perennial plants
- Place taller-growing plants in the middle or in the back
- Plant drought-tolerant herbs on the edge
- Place vigorous plants in delimited areas
Herbs work great in mixed cultivation. They do very well with flowers, vegetables and fruit bushes. Green, colourful or beautifully flowering herbs, such as marigold, borage or purple marjoram, also blend in wonderfully with ornamental gardens. Some herbs even support the growth of other plants due to their active ingredients, which can certainly be made use of in the vegetable patch. Basil, when planted between tomatoes, cucumbers or cabbage, wards off mildew and whiteflies, for example. Herbs such as chives and parsley, which are easy to preserve, can also be grown in larger quantities as needed. With aromatic plants such as tarragon and wormwood, planting just a few plants is usually sufficient to deter pests.
Tip: Some herbs prefer to grow alone or should only be placed at a specific distance from other plants. Such plants are, for instance, lovage, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
Herbs for the raised bed herb garden
Just like the usual garden bed, a raised garden bed can also be filled with all kinds of herbs. Most herbs do not have very deep roots. Therefore, a height of about 50 centimetres is usually sufficient for a raised herb garden. When planting Mediterranean herbs in the raised bed, it is important to make sure, already when filling the bed, that the lower layers allow the water to drain. The ideal location of the raised bed depends on the herbs that are planted in it. Some species need a sunny spot, while others are quite comfortable in partial shade.
Tip: Here are some detailed instructions for planting a raised bed herb garden.
Herbs for the herb spiral/herbal snail
The herb spiral, also known as herbal snail, is a modern and effective version of the usual herb garden. A mound of soil is arranged in the shape of a spiral (or a snail shell) and surrounded by a wall made of small stones, for example. The size of the spiral can vary depending on the amount of space available. The hill-like shape creates different habitats for the plants. Moisture-loving herbs such as mint, parsley or chives are planted at the foot of the spiral. Thyme and Thymus pulegioides, on the other hand, feel very comfortable at the top, since they prefer a sunny and dry location. Mint, cress, sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and chives can be placed on the shady north side. And Mediterranean herbs like sage, rosemary and lavender thrive very well on the sunny south side.
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Fungus gnats are greatly feared among hobby gardeners. In this article, we will show you which homemade remedies are best suited for getting rid of fungus gnats.
In Europe alone, there are more than 600 known species of fungus gnats (Sciriadae). The small flies can infest ornamental plants and vegetables inside the house as well as outdoors. The larvae of the gnats often migrate in large numbers, forming processions of up to 10 m. If you struggle with fungus gnats in the house, using household remedies to combat the gnats might be worth a try. In the following, we will first explain how to recognise an infestation caused by the gnats. Afterwards, we will show you some natural ways to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants.
How to recognise a fungus gnat infestation
Fungus gnats can grow to a size of between one and seven millimetres. Their bodies are thin and of a dark colour. The larvae, too, are slender with a white to grey body and a black head. The quickest way to recognise a fungus gnat infestation is seeing the small flies buzzing around a flower pot. They are especially noticeable if you move the pot or water the plants. When infested with fungus gnats, oftentimes the plants don’t grow well and remain rather small. You might also be able to spot the larvae in the potting soil, feeding on the roots of the plants. This can cause severe damage. The larvae can even hollow out the stems of the infested plants that way.
How to prevent gnats in plants with sand
Sand is great as a preventative treatment for fungus gnat infestations. You can apply a thin layer of fine sand onto the potting soil in order to prevent the female gnats from laying eggs. This method is very effective as fungus gnats require the surface of the soil to be wet to lay their eggs. Quartz sand is particularly well-suited for this method. However, you need to make sure not to get the sand wet when watering the plants. Try watering your plants through the underpot. This way, the sand remains dry and the fungus gnats won’t be able to lay their eggs.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with coffee grounds
Unfortunately, coffee grounds often end up in the trash even though they can be used in various ways even after you have enjoyed your hot beverage. They can, for example, help to get rid of gnats in houseplants or in the garden. Before applying the coffee grounds, you should dry them thoroughly to prevent mould from forming. You can then spread the dried coffee grounds onto the potting soil of the infested plants. A thin layer will keep the female gnats from laying their eggs. This way, you can disrupt the reproduction of the gnats. Additionally, the coffee can also act as a fertiliser for your plants.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with baking powder
Baking powder or baking soda is fairly cheap and most people probably have it in their kitchen anyway. The application is very easy. You simply sift some of the powder onto the surface of the soil, which you should then moisten a little bit. When that is done, you should just wait. The larvae will absorb the moist powder and will die as a result.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with tea tree oil
Using tea tree oil is another simple way of getting rid of fungus gnats. Many people use the essential oil for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects in skincare. In order to get rid of gnats in the garden or the house, you should combine 20 drops of tea tree oil with a litre of water and mix the solution thoroughly. You can then water the infested plants with the mixture. With this method, though, you can only get rid of the larvae in the soil. Therefore, you should use some adhesive traps to catch the adult gnats swarming around the plants.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with lavender oil
Lavender oil is not only calming and helps with insomnia but it is also a great way to get rid of fungus gnats naturally. The application and effects are similar to tea tree oil. You simply mix 20 drops of lavender oil with one litre of water and water the infested plants with the solution. If the oil does not mix well with the water, you can add a tablespoon of soapberry powder as an emulsifier.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with neem oil
Neem oil is another oil that is very effective against fungus gnats. It comes from a tropical tree of which many parts are being used for combating various insects. You only need 10 millilitres of neem oil per litre of water. Mix the two components thoroughly and water the infested plants with the mixture. Neem oil is not harmful for humans or pets and can therefore be used without hesitation.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with garlic
There are several ways of using garlic (Allium sativum) to fight fungus gnats. Garlic cloves contain the sulphurous substance allicin, which can kill fungus gnat larvae. You can either cut off the tip of a whole garlic bulb, which you will then stick into the potting soil. Or you can also peel the garlic and dice the cloves into small cubes. Then, you can simply spread the chopped garlic pieces onto the soil of the infested plants.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with parsley
You might find another method for fighting fungus gnats in your own kitchen or garden. You can take a bunch of parsley (Petroselinum crispum), chop it into small bits and spread it evenly onto the soil. Fungus gnats cannot stand some of the substances contained in parsley. They will therefore avoid your plants.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with nutmeg
Another household remedy against fungus gnats comes straight from your spice rack. The myristic acid contained in nutmeg can help get rid of fungus gnat larvae in the soil. You can simply scatter some nutmeg powder onto the substrate. The spice will penetrate the soil further when you water the plant and will help get rid of fungus gnat larvae.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with matches
Using matches is a particularly simple method of fighting fungus gnats and their larvae. Just burn some matches and stick them into the soil with the head of the match in the substrate. The heads of the matches contain sulphur, which helps get rid of the larvae. It also prevents the adult gnats from settling down in the soil.
How to get rid of fungus gnats with tights
It may be somewhat odd-looking, but using tights is a very effective method against fungus gnats. The goal is to prevent the female gnats from laying their eggs in the soil. You can simply pull the tights from the bottom over the flower pot and then tie a knot around the stem of the plant. This way, you can not only prevent the gnats from laying their eggs but the insects won’t be able to leave the pot to mate. However, for this method to be effective, you have to leave the tights on the flower pot for at least six weeks.
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