Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Zone 8 Perennial

Lemon verbena has maintained a hold on us for several years.  In zones 8 to 10 it grows into a large bush that is annually covered with incredibly sweet smelling flowers.  Here in zone 4 it must be wintered over inside of the house with only a single year's growth.  At first glance that does not sound like a big deal, but this plant resists removal from the ground like no other.  Almost with the first insertion of the spade, the leaves go into serious wilt.  No amount of shade and water can move the plant away from its pout.  At times all of the dried leaves fall away from the plant.  Some plants never recover and we wind up watering dead sticks for much of the winter.  Finally the obvious became visible.  Now we plant out the young plants in three gallon pots.  These potted plants are pulled from the ground at the end of the growing season and placed on a south facing windowsill with no problems.

Recently, one of these plants was given a severe pruning to encourage the appearance of new growth.  Soon the tiny beginnings of new branches began to appear.  We believe that tender new growth will assume new roles as crowns and roots.  A sharp thin blade was used to cut away a new growth and a section of the old woody branch.

A dip in rooting compound preceded careful insertion into potting soil.  The bottomless juice jar fits over the pot and into the plastic pot saucer.  High humidity is needed while the new cutting starts to send out roots.  We will water these new plants from the bottom for some time.  The jar cap can be removed to allow for some air movement and then the entire bottle will be removed.

Last year all of the cuttings rooted.  We now have four cuttings in pots.  The plant in the picture has turned toward the light.  We see that as a sign of life.  If we need to start over, there are three more year old plants to prune.  The wintered over plants get a nice place in the garden to grow large and lend their sweet scent to the garden for their last summer here. 

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