Instructions for Growing Lemon Balm
How to Grow Lemon Balm
in Your Herb Garden
Lemon Balm is one of the easiest herb plants to grow. It is a perennial that will winter over in many areas, particularly if mulched in the fall. It is used as a culinary herb, giving a lemon flavor to teas, jellies, salads, and sauces. You can float the sprigs decoratively in drinks (even white wine) to add a summery lemon flavor. The leaves make a lovely garnish.
This herb’s flower is a favorite of bees, so plant it strategically around your yard to attract these important pollinators to your other plants. Ages ago, it was customary for beekeepers to rub the inside of a new beehive with balm to encourage the bees to stay.
Gardening Tips for Growing Lemon Balm - Lemon balm can be invasive though, so keep a careful eye on your patch. I’ve found that it’s easiest to control it by planting it in pots or other containers, or else in a raised bed garden with very deep borders. It spreads by underground rhizomes (roots) and is difficult to remove once established.
Lemon Balm has been used throughout history as a medicinal herb. It has a mild sedative effect and is also known to reduce fever and relieve gas. The tea increases perspiration, thus its use traditionally as a remedy for feverish colds. If you drink the tea after a meal, it helps your digestive process. Extracts of the leaves appear to have strong antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Balm tea is also reputed to have a tonic affect on the heart, possibly helping to lower blood pressure. Aromatherapists use the oil for treating stress/anxiety, nervous headaches & depression. The oil from this herb contains citronella and citral.
Other uses: Use the plant to scent your linens or clothes by keeping dried cuttings in your closet or as a sachet. The dried lemon balm leaves & oils are also used in potpourris and perfumes. Try tossing in a handful of lemon balm leaves in with your bathwater. It's antibacterial effects help cleanse your skin (useful for treating acne).
Pick a partially sunny (or full sun) location for growing lemon balm. It spreads quickly though, and can be a little difficult to restrain. You may want to grow it by itself in a raised bed garden to keep it contained.
Growing lemon balm is normally successful in ordinary garden soil, but it is happiest in a spot with well-drained soil in your herb garden. For optimal growing conditions, the garden soil pH should be between 5 and 7.5. (Information on how to test your garden soil pH level.) Mix in a healthy helping of well-rotted manure or compost before planting.
Plant lemon balm from seed in the spring or early fall. Cover with a light layer of soil or seed-starting mix, and keep damp. (Mist to water, or you’ll risk washing your seeds away!).
Lemon balm reproduces primarily through underground rhizomes. Or you can propagate lemon balm by taking cuttings (summer) from existing plants, or by digging up existing plants and dividing them (divide in the spring or fall). If dividing, make sure that each “new” plant has approximately 6 shoots). Plant them at least 1 foot apart.
Keep the soil moist (not soggy) as you're growing lemon balm. Drip irrigation is preferred (it helps prevent many plant diseases that are caused by watering from the top down).
Mulching around the plants helps the soil retain water better (use a mulch that's not been treated or dyed, or the chemicals may leach into your herb patch's soil).
Harvest lemon balm frequently. Pruning this herb often causes the plant to grow bushy and more compactly. Harvest by cutting off shoots when they are approx. 1 foot long, being careful not to bruise the leaves.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.