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The tangy leaves from a lemon myrtle tree are a common ingredient in sweet desserts and savoury chicken and fish dishes. Whereas the essential oil distilled is a household cleaning staple thanks to its antibacterial properties. Its fluffy white flowers attract butterflies and make lemon myrtle the perfect ornamental shade tree or large shrub for any roomy garden.
How to grow
Lemon myrtle trees grow best in full sun to part shade.
The Australian native grows as a tree in subtropical climates and a shrub in cooler ones. Opt for frost-free temperate zones.
Lemon myrtle trees require moist and well-drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Its ideal to enrich the soil before planting with plenty of organic compost and manure to encourage better growth.
New shrubs or trees need to be watered regularly when young and to keep the soil moist. Once established, although fairly drought tolerant, the plant will benefit from a deep watering in hot, dry weather.
Feed after flowering with a slow-release fertiliser. As a safety tip after applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and remember to rinse the leaves well before consuming.
During hot, dry spells water regularly to keep the soil moist. Mulch around the base of the tree, avoiding the trunk - this will help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.
Trees can be cut back at any time of the year but must be clipped more regularly when housed in a pot. A regular light prune for hedges and privacy screens will help encourage a dense habit and maintain a neat form.
The glossy green leaves burst of a strong lemon scent when crushed or after rain.
Clusters of lightly perfumed and cream coloured flowers appear during summer and autumn, followed by small, nut-like capsules.
Where to plant lemon myrtle in your garden
Whether it's a small shrub or a tree, lemon myrtle can add a beautiful fragrance to any space. The Australian native prefers a spot in full sun with well-drained soil. However, can still be grown in cooler sheltered areas. If a classic tree shape is desired for your front garden, remove the lower branches from the main trunk.
How to propagate lemon myrtle
Lemon myrtle can easily be propagated via seeds or cuttings. With seeds, soak them overnight and sow in trays with seed-raising mix, ensuring they are only lightly covered with the mix. Position in a warm spot and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. Germination can take approximately 3–8 weeks.
If your friends or neighbours have a lemon myrtle shrub, ask them if you can divide off an established clump and plant it up in a pot or your yard. Simply cut a stem off the main plant(beneath a leaf node), strip the foliage from the bottom of the cutting and insert (at least 3cm deep) into a suitable propagating mix. Water well and set aside in a warm position.
Diseases and pests
Relatively new in Australia, myrtle rust is a fungal disease that can attack the new growth of young plants. It causes the leaves to develop dark purple spots, which are eventually covered in bright yellow powdery spores. To prevent and reduce the spread, do not attempt to move any plants known to be infected with myrtle rust. Instead, launder all clothing, hats and gloves worn while handling affected plants before using them in other areas. For chemical treatments consult your local garden centre for a list of approved products.
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The essential guide to Australian native plants
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