Sweet Almond Verbena

One fun aspect of hosting GardenLine is talking about a specific plant, even briefly, and seeing how much email the mention generates. And, often, the reaction will come with a bit of a delay.

Here's a good example.

"I heard you talking about a plant you dearly love that smells great; some kind of almond plant! But I couldn't write it down when you were talking about it, and I can't remember what it was. And now I want to go get one."

I got no fewer than five emails since Sunday asking the same thing. So, I guess it’s worth reviewing a profile I once did on that plant - the sweet almond verbena.

Technically, it's known as aloysia. And, as the listener noted in the email, its wonderfully fragrant blooms are the most remarkable attribute. In fact, other than night-blooming cereus, not many fragrant plants sweeten up the air as much as almond verbena. (And, personally, I'm not a big fan of cereus … I think its fragrance can be overwhelming.)

Sweet almond verbena is also the perfect choice for a moonlight or “white” garden, with its silver-gray foliage and white flowers. In moonlight, the garden will seem to glow!

The verbena’s tiny white flowers attract birds, butterflies and honeybees galore. And did I mention the fragrance? Its intoxicating scent is far-reaching and long-lasting. You can take an evening stroll and catch its sweet fragrance on the breeze from dozens of feet away! What does it smell like? You get varying answers. I think it smells like almonds that have been sugared up – sweet almonds! Others say it smells like sweet cola.

And, yes, it can withstand our winters. I didn't lose any of mine in the freezes of January 2010 or February 2011. While it may shed its leaves during the heart of winter, it always seems to come roaring back by springtime. I have some in pots and one massive planting in the landscape. While it's obviously easier to provide winter protection for the containerized ones, the landscape specimens will become drought-tolerant after a year.

There are only a couple of downsides to the plant. First, while the blooms are fragrant and beautiful, the plant and its leaves don't stand out very much, and they're rather boring. Second, those in containers will need to be watered a lot, because the leaf canopy is so dense Mother Nature's rains rarely get to the roots. And its root system is so prolific and dense, it requires more than normal watering.

I think you can feed it just about anything intended for blooming plants. I've fed mine a number of things, and it seems to like them all. As long as you use at least a 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer, it should respond well. Products like Medina HastaGro fit that bill. I've also used Nelson ColorStar with great success as well, although it's not a 1-2-1 blooming-plant food ... it's a slow- or controlled-release blooming plant food, so you’d only need to use it every 2-3 months.


PHOTOS: Randy Lemmon

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