Plant This: Sweet almond verbena

Looking for a flowering, sweet-scented shrub that can take the heat and drought dished out in a central Texas summer? Then try sweet almond verbena (Aloysia virgata), an Argentinian deciduous shrub with a strong vanilla almond fragrance. Mine grows at the base of our elevated deck, and the sweet scent wafts up to us when we’re out in the evening.

With scratchy, coarse leaves and an open, rather gangly growth habit, sweet almond verbena is not a good focal-point plant. Better to hide it behind prettier, smaller shrubs or perennials. But it is Texas tough once established, thumbing its nose at the Death Star and blooming all summer long in full sun on a spare ration of water.

And the white flower spires are lovely close-up—rather like the flowers of our native kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana), which I also highly recommend, but which doesn’t bloom continuously all summer, as sweet almond verbena does.

Another bonus is that honeybees love it. Sweet almond verbena dies back after a hard freeze but is root-hardy. I cut mine to the ground by mid-February, before new spring growth begins, but it doesn’t really put on a lot of growth until it gets hot. It can get pretty big by the end of summer—maybe 8 to 10 feet tall and wide—but you can cut it back mid-season to keep it smaller and still get a late-summer flush of flowers.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

12 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    Pam, this really does look like a bee magnet. Being “Texas tough” is a good thing too.

    Yes, indeed, especially in a summer like the one we’re having. —Pam

  2. Bluestem says:

    Pam, Have you seen or grown beebrush, Aloysia gratissima? It is the Texas relative of sweet almond verbena. I grow beebrush in my prairie garden in Plano. It is very hardy. The bush is covered in flowers after a rain or watering with a sprinkler. Like sweet almond verbena, the flowers are very fragrant and attract many, many bees. Beebrush is profiled on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.

    I’m not familiar with it, Bluestem. From the images on the web, it strongly reminds me of kidneywood, even though they’re not related. The Wildflower Center website says it grows in rocky but moist soil. I know that your prairie garden is not regularly irrigated, however, so I assume it will take drought conditions as well? —Pam

  3. That looks like a good, lush Aloysia to try here or better yet in Las Cruces. Our native species, A. wrightii, is finer in texture and a woody shrub, and it smells so fresh and minty – unworldly. But it went dormant in May, even mine that gets some hand-watering. Yours sounds incredible for texture and scent.

    It’s not really that pretty in form, and the texture is rough, David. But the scent is indeed lovely, and I like the glowing white flower spikes. —Pam

  4. I love almond verbena! And what a perfect idea for that deck presentation!

    Thanks, Linda. When I smelled it at the nursery, I knew I had to find a place for it somewhere. —Pam

  5. AngryRedhead says:

    I’ve heard of this plant and then totally forgot about it till this post! Thanks for the reminder and planting recommendation! I might shove it in the side yard between a couple Mediterranean cypress trees.

    I bet you’ll be able to smell it even from a side yard, AR. —Pam

  6. Jenny says:

    Looks beautiful. The death star is one thing- how about old Jack?

    Jack? I’m blanking, Jenny. —Pam

  7. Laura Munoz says:

    I just planted this in early, early spring. I’m looking forward to the vanilla scent. Thanks for posting about this plant!

    My pleasure, Laura. Hope you get some blooms soon. —Pam

  8. It looks great in your garden, Pam. One of my Divas of the Dirt friends has grown the fragrant Almond Verbena for several years so I’ve been tempted! But knowing that it dies to the ground in your garden, and does the same in her North Central Austin garden, makes me think Almond verbena would be an annual in my part of far NW Austin, like Pride of Barbados and Esperanza. Oh, well. Too bad.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Esperanza died in my northwest Austin garden last winter too. But sweet almond verbena came back without a hiccup. —Pam

  9. Bluestem says:

    Pam, regarding beebrush, the plant I have may actually be Aloysia wrightii that Desert Dweller mentioned, although I have never noticed a minty scent. From what I can tell, the two plants look very similar. My plant, which ever it may be, can take drought with no problem. The Wildflower Center website lists moist soil conditions for many plants that I consider to be drought tolerant. I suppose they are giving the plant’s preferred condition. I think it would be helpful if they included a drought tolerance scale as well.

    Yes, that would be a great addition to their plant listings. Thanks for the update. —Pam

  10. Lori says:

    I love this plant! I remember the first time I encountered it, in bloom at Barton Springs Nursery, and the fragrance stopped me in my tracks. Another plus I’ve found with this plant is that it makes a fabulous screening plant because it grows so quickly and can be pruned to be more dense. In years where we’ve gotten more rain, I’ve seen it shoot up quickly to about 7 feet tall and I’ve limbed it up to make a fabulous little specimen tree. I’m hoping one of these winters will be mild enough that it won’t die back to the ground and I can get a good tree form going.

    That’s exactly how I ended up with sweet almond verbena, Lori. I smelled it at BSN and had to have it. —Pam

  11. Mamaholt says:

    Pam, can that verbena take shade?

    I don’t know, Mamaholt. Mine gets a lot of sun and seems pretty happy. Maybe ask at Barton Springs Nursery to see what they say. —Pam

  12. Abase says:

    I love the cinderblock idea. How did you close up the bottoms so the dirt/plant doesn’t fall though?

    The information about my cinderblock succulent wall is here. —Pam