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What is Aloysia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 June 2018
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Aloysia is a genus of aromatic shrubs in the verbana family. These plants are native to Central and South America. They have been used by Native Americans for centuries, and they were among the first plants European explorers brought back with them for cultivation in European gardens. They are hardy in a wide range of climates and can be found at many nurseries and garden supply stores.

These plants are generally grown for their foliage. The leaves vary in shape and texture, depending on the species, from long, glossy, bright green leaves with smooth edges to broader dull leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are usually small and white to purple, growing in dense clusters. Without being bruised or crushed, these plants let off a rich, sweet smell. Their leaves and flowers can be used in tisanes, potpourri, and other products like scented linen sprays.

Lemon verbena, also known as A. triphylla or A. citrodora in older texts, is a famous member of this genus. As the name implies, it has a rich, lemony scent. Sweet almond verbena is another popular plant with gardeners. Known as beebrushes because they tend to attract bees and butterflies, members of this genus can be grown as specimen plants in the garden or trained into hedges and borders. They should be provided with some room to spread out, or they will impinge on neighboring plants and pathways.

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Hardy through United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone seven, Aloysia tends to become leggy as it grows. People can pinch back new growth to encourage the plants to branch out, but even with careful pruning and pinching, the plants tend to sprawl over time. In temperate climates, the bushes can grow quite tall. Gardeners should plant Aloysia in full sun to part shade, in an area of the garden with rich, well-drained soil. Water requirements are moderate and some Aloysia species are specifically drought tolerant.

Gardeners interested in growing members of this genus can cultivate from cuttings or obtain seedlings at a nursery. In Central and South America, nurseries that specialize in native plants often carry these aromatic bushes and can order them by request from customers. When selecting companion plantings, gardeners should consider potential odor clashes. Some lemony plants, for example, smell superb on their own, but peculiar when they are planted near other plants with a lemon-like aroma. Because Aloysia puts out scent continuously, it can also overwhelm plants with more delicate and subtle aromas.

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