With their tiny flowers and leggy stems, these aromatic shrubs from the warmer parts of the Americas aren't grown for their looks; they're valued for their blossoms and scented leaves, which can be used for seasoning or to flavor iced drinks and teas. Like most herbs, they require good drainage.
aloysia citriodora (Lippia citriodora)
- When you read of the scent of verbena in novels of the antebellum South, this is the plant being described.
- Prized for its shiny, aromatic foliage, which fills the air with a citruslike fragrance.
- Legginess is the natural state of this shrub.
- It grows to 6 feet or taller, sprawling to 6 feet wide; narrow leaves to 3 inches long are arranged in whorls of three or four along the branches.
- Plant it among lower plants, or locate it against a wall or fence where you can pinch-prune it to create an interesting tracery.
- It can also be trained into a standard and tolerates clipping into a hedge.
- Major pruning is best done in late winter and early spring.
- Bears open clusters of very small lilac or whitish flowers in summer.
- Needs well-drained soil.
- Plants wintered indoors usually lose their leaves and then sprout again in spring.
oreganillo, mexican oregano
- Native to desert mountains from California to Texas and northern Mexico.
- This dense grower reaches 5 feet high and wide, with numerous small stems and small (12 inches.) leaves.
- From spring through fall, produces very sweet-scented white flowers that can be used as a flavoring or for tea.
- Performs best when it gets lots of heat.
- Good in natural landscape, herb garden, as informal hedge.
Note: Often confused with Aloysia lycioides, a larger plant (to 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide) bearing blossoms that have a more vanillalike fragrance and are sometimes tinged with purple. Plants sold under either name may be one or the otherbut both are outstanding ornamentals. Both make excellent honey. Aloysia lycioides is the Mexican oregano of commerce.