Lemon Balm

This herbaceous perennial is a bushy plant with lemon-scented leaves and spikes of creamy-white or pale purple flowers in the summer. It can be used for a wide variety of culinary, cosmetic, medicinal and aromatic purposes and is good at attracting bees to the garden.

Growing lemon balm

Lemon balm is originally native to southern Europe and yet it will usually grow fine in most areas. Lemon balm will grow well in most soil types although the one thing this plant cannot abide is being waterlogged or getting excessively wet in the winter, so in particularly wet regions it would be better to grow this useful herb under cover. Lemon balm can be grown indoors in a pot as long as it gets at least six hours of sun a day. Water early in the day, especially with indoors or undercover plants as this will help prevent problems such as powdery mildew.

Wherever lemon balm is grown, a mulch can be beneficial and the soil should be kept moist, though not drenched. If heavy winter rain is expected then a cover will be required. Supply water consistently and try to make sure that the soil around the plant stays consistently moist.

Lemon balm shade or sun?

Lemon balm will appreciate a site in full sun though it will also be fine in partial shade. If it is planted in a favourable spot it will have a spreading habit so could create some useful ground cover as a companion plant. It will attract useful pollinators to your food plants and flowers.

Be careful not to over-fertilise as this will lead to large but less flavourful and aromatic leaves.

How and when to harvest lemon balm?

Harvesting your lemon balm will actually help the plants to grow and lemon balm that is flagging often responds well to cutting it back hard. It will often grow back twice as thick.

Unlike many other herbs, which should be harvested first thing in the morning, lemon balm is best picked mid-late afternoon when the essential oils are at their most concentrated. Handle leaves gently as they can bruise and turn black when treated roughly. It is best used whilst fresh.

Why grow lemon balm in the garden?

Lemon balm compliments a wide range of other herbs in a culinary setting and can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and a range of drinks. With such flexibility, it is a very useful addition to a kitchen or herb garden.

Another benefit of lemon balm is its fragrance and the appearance of the flowers which attract and delight human visitors as well as bees. Plant close to a garden seating area or by your entrance so you can enjoy the lovely smell of these useful and delightful plants.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Melissa officinalis