Lemon can be grown nearly everywhere

Sunday, April 25, 2004

No matter where you live, you can put in a planting of lemons. Not lemon trees, just lemons. (And I don't mean plants that are "lemons" in the sense of duds.)

Many lemony plants are perfectly cold-hardy outdoors. Lemon balm, a perennial herb with lemon-scented leaves, is one of the easiest plants to grow. Too easy, perhaps, because of how freely it spreads. Better behaved is lemon thyme, which grows only 4 inches high so is nice as a groundcover, or planted between stepping stones to release its scent as you walk by.

Two other cold-hardy plants also offer lemony aroma. The first is costmary, a minty plant whose leaves smell lemony only after they have been dried. The other plant is richweed, also known as horse-balm. Its aroma is really citronella, so the plant probably is better for smelling than for cooking.

If you are willing to take care of a few potted plants, your palette of lemony plants greatly expands.

Lemon geranium is no harder to grow than any other geranium as a houseplant, and is equally forgiving if you occasionally forget to water. The plant thrives in a sunny window, but gets along reasonably well with much less light.

Of course, you also could plant a real lemon tree. Its not really very hard to grow in a pot. Keep it indoors in winter at a sunny window, prune the shoots and roots in spring, let it bask outdoors in summer, and youll harvest lemons. An added bonus are the sweet-scented flowers.

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