5 Best Lemon-Scented Herbs for a Garden

Lemon balm tea

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Lemon is a pleasing scent for most herb lovers. It can come from a multitude of different herbs, either as the main fragrance or as a delicate note that brightens the scent.

Lemon-flavored herbs are popular for teas and cooking recipes. These herbs bring a bright, cheerful flavor to lighter foods like pasta, fish, and chicken, and can make a not-so-tasty tea more palatable.

If you want to add that lovely lemon scent to your garden, take a look at five herbs to consider.


In addition to their pleasing fragrance, most lemon-scented herbs also have medicinal properties or can be used as organic cleaning products.

  • 01 of 05

    Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

    lemon verbena

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Lemon verbena is the most fragrant of the lemon-scented herbs and has been used in aromatherapy and perfumery for hundreds of years. Because of its concentrated flavor and scent, it won't take much to flavor a steaming cup of herbal tea. Lemon Verbena works well for room cleaning and freshening. Mixed with a bit of beeswax it helps to bring a wonderful scent and shine to wood. It is refreshing and uplifting, perfect for making herbal vinegar for a household cleaner or window spray. Its calming lemon flavor holds up very well when dried, so it stands up nicely in a tea mixture, too. It can even appeal to picky children. Lemon verbena also makes a fantastic scent for goats milk soap.

    A perennial woody plant in southern zones, Lemon Verbena can be pot grown and brought indoors for overwintering in more northern climates. Prune your plant as you would any woody shrub, removing dead wood and shaping to promote branching.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 8 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun (partial shade in hotter climates)
    • Soil Needs: loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter
  • 02 of 05

    Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

    lemon balm

    ​The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Also known as Sweet Melissa, lemon balm is often referred to as the "happy" herb, promoting uplifted spirits and a sense of overall well-being. Perhaps the most popular of the lemon-scented herbs, lemon balm is a juicy, lemony herb in the mint family. Luckily, it is as easy as any mint to grow. To keep the roots from spreading everywhere, put it in a pot and then plant the pot in the ground. Lemon balm can be cut numerous times during the season. Keep it trimmed to a reasonable size and divide if your pot becomes overcrowded. Lemon Balm will be more fragrant and flavorful when used fresh, but the leaves are easily dried and stored for use in teas and cooking during the colder months.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, moist soil 
  • 03 of 05

    Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)


    ​The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Lemongrass is a tall, grass-like herb, making it a fun annual to grow in pots. It can then be harvested when you take the pot apart at the end of the season. To use lemongrass over the winter, freeze the entire thing, and use it, as needed, just as you would fresh. It does lose its flavor quickly when dried. However, it is possible to dry it, and if you use it fairly soon after drying, it should be fine. Lemongrass is very common in Asian cuisine, particularly Thai food, used in soups and often paired with chicken.

    Lemongrass gets its growing habits from its name; it grows in clumps as do many members of the grass family. It is a warm-season plant so wait to plant until your garden plot has warmed up and be sure to place your lemongrass plants in an area with full sun. Cut stems at ground level as needed during the growing season.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil amended with fish emulsion
  • 04 of 05

    Lemon Basil (Ocimum americanum)

    lemon basil

    ​The Spruce / K. Dave

    The varieties of basil available to home gardeners seem to grow every year. One of the old-time favorites is Lemon Basil, an annual plant that is used primarily for cooking but also works well in potpourri. This basil adds a bright note to any dish calling for basil and is a fun one for experimenting. The added touch of lemon to this potent herb blends well and can compete with and smooth out strong flavors. Lemon basil blends well with tomatoes and many other ingredients found in Mediterranean cuisine. Try using Lemon Basil in pesto for a bright tangy note in this popular condiment.

    Basils grow easily from seed so plant in a sunny spot as soon as the ground has warmed up and you are well past your first frost. Basils will not tolerate cold weather and will be the first to die back in the garden at the slightest hint of frost. Your Lemon basil will benefit from repeated harvesting of the leaves. Pinch back to promote branching which means more delicious leaves and a bigger overall harvest. Also, pinch back flower buds as soon as they begin to form. If you allow the plant to flower, you can still use the leaves but they will likely take on a bitter flavor. Basil leaves can be preserved for winter use by drying and/or freezing.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich soil
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus 'Aureus')

    lemon thyme

    ​The Spruce / K. Dave 

    True to its name, lemon thyme has all the resinous flavor of thyme, and it also has the genuine citrus scent of lemon in every leaf. Lemon thyme also has a pretty variegated leaf that adds interest to your borders and container herb gardens. It is one of those herbs that tastes as great as it looks; be sure to try it on grilled fish and asparagus. It can be used in almost any recipe that calls for regular thyme. Use lemon thyme to make the traditional thyme tea that helps soothe sore throats.

    This herb will have the greatest potency used fresh but a little goes a long way. It also retains good flavor and scent when dried so be sure to remove stems and damaged leaves and put some up for winter use in soups, stews, and tea. Like all varieties of thyme, your lemon thyme will benefit from repeated harvests. A low-growing woody perennial, lemon thyme should be cut back by at least two-thirds at the end of the growing season and can even be cut back to almost ground level.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil; drought tolerant

Lemony plants are a wonderful addition to any garden, indoors or out. There are, however, many more lovely herbs to consider for beauty, fragrance, and culinary uses. Consider these ideas to plan for next spring:

Article Sources
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  1. Thymus × Citriodorus. Missouri Botanical Garden