How to Grow Lemon Balm

  • jack Officer
  • May 31, 2023

Melissa officinalis

Nothing jogs my memory of summer season fairly just like the recent, citrusy scent of lemon balm.

A vertical close up image of a lemon balm plant, with bright green leaves and a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text across the image.

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One among my favourite components in recent natural tea, this usually neglected herb is straightforward to develop, with a breadth of medicinal, culinary, and different makes use of.

And it’s sure to fill your backyard and kitchen with the loveliest of lemony aromas.

Prepared so as to add this herb to your backyard? Right here’s what’s forward:

What Is Lemon Balm?

Colloquially identified by many names corresponding to Melissa, candy balm, honey plant, balm mint, backyard balm, English balm, and coronary heart’s delight, lemon balm is an herbaceous perennial member of the mint household.

Close up of the leaves of Melissa officinalis on a soft focus green background in bright sunlight.

It’s a sprawling, bushy perennial herb with toothed, reverse leaves on sq. branching stems, tiny white flowers, and a refined lemon perfume and taste.

Whereas it grows naturally in sandy areas, it has been cultivated in all method of climates and circumstances, in dry, damp, and disturbed areas, from the mountains to the ocean.

It has many fantastic makes use of in food and drinks, drugs, cosmetics, and even crafts.

Historical past and Folklore

Lemon balm is native to Southern Europe, although it has been naturalized world wide.

Its use dates again to 300 BC, when it was used medicinally by Historic Greeks and Romans.

The primary century Greek doctor Dioscorides recorded use of this herb as a treatment for toothaches, scorpion stings, and canine bites, in addition to to encourage menstruation and relieve the signs of gout.

A close up of a bee collecting nectar from the flowers of a Melissa officinalis plant, on a soft focus green background.

It was additionally usually used to draw honeybees. That is probably the place the genus title Melissa got here from, derived from the Greek phrase “mélissa” or bee.

A patch of Melissa could be planted close to hives to encourage bees to return.

The plant probably arrived in North America with the early colonists, who used it to make tea and potpourri, and entice bees to hives. It additionally served as a lemon substitute in jams and jellies.

It was listed as one of many sixteen herbs documented in Thomas Jefferson’s backyard e book in 1794, listed below “Objects for the backyard this 12 months.”

In plant lore, this herb is related to well being, longevity, and royalty, and has been thought to have powers of affection, therapeutic, and success.

Inserting a sachet below a pillow crammed with lemon balm is alleged to carry a couple of enjoyable and rejuvenating sleep.


Lemon balm is a energetic, uplifting herb that has lengthy been taken as a tea to appease, encourage focus, and scale back stress.

It has a fame for lowering nervousness, restlessness, and insomnia, and has traditionally been used to deal with indigestion, gasoline, and bloating.

Three glass vials with cork stoppers containing essential oil on a wooden surface with Melissa officinalis leaves scattered between them. In the background is a large jar of dried herbs and a wooden mortar and pestle in soft focus.

In response to David Hoffman in his e book “Medical Herbalism: The Science Rules and Practices of Natural Medication,” it’s also excessive in antioxidants, together with luteolin, glucoside, and rhamnazin, and has some antiviral properties.

The oil is typically utilized as an antiviral in opposition to herpes.

In case you are searching for extra info relating to medicinal use of this herb and others, you could find Hoffman’s e book on Amazon.

Medical Herbalism: The Science Rules and Practices of Natural Medication

Protected for consumption by kids and adults, it makes a beautiful tea or tincture, is fantastic in cooking, and provides a pleasant perfume to oils, salves, and lotions.


Lemon balm is a cinch to develop, and could be propagated in quite a lot of methods.

From Seed

Direct sow seed in early spring by broadcasting seeds on the soil floor or cowl solely frivolously with soil, as this plant wants mild to germinate.

Add compost if you want, although this herb doesn’t require any particular soil circumstances.

A close up picture of lemon balm leaves in bright sunlight, on a soft focus background.

Seeds ought to sprout in 5 to 9 days with soil temperatures starting from 65 to 70°F.

You may as well select to start out seedlings in flats indoors or in a greenhouse in early spring. Sprinkle seeds in trays on high of potting soil, and hold them moist till they sprout.

From Cuttings

Cuttings could be taken within the spring or fall. To propagate from cuttings, merely minimize just a few inches from the comfortable suggestions of a longtime plant.

Within the spring, cuttings must be taken just a few inches beneath the guidelines of latest development. Within the fall, they need to as a substitute come from stems which might be nearer to the bottom of the crown that haven’t flowered.

A close up of bright green Melissa officinalis leaves, on a bright soft focus green background.

Take away two thirds of the leaves from the bottom of every stem, and pinch off the tricks to forestall wilting.

Subsequent, dip the stems in rooting hormone or honey, and place in a sterile planting combine mixed with equal components coarse sand to assist retain moisture.

Water cuttings instantly and hold them out of direct daylight.

The vegetation ought to root in about three to 4 weeks. You may as well pace up the rooting course of by inserting pots over a heating pad set to 70 to 75°F.

It’s a good suggestion to harden off cuttings in a vivid and windy space for a couple of week earlier than replanting outdoor.

From Seedlings/Transplanting

Harden off seedlings planted in trays and began indoors by bringing them exterior for just a few hours every day. Transfer them exterior about 4 weeks earlier than the final frost date.

A close up of a lemon balm plant, against a window in bright sunshine.

They are often planted as quickly because the soil is able to be labored in spring. House vegetation 1 to 2 ft aside and water instantly after transplanting.


This perennial will also be simply propagated by division.

Simply dig up clumps of a longtime plant when it’s dormant within the early spring or fall, divide into smaller items, and replant both in pots or straight within the floor.

You’ll be able to learn extra about dividing perennials right here.

Methods to Develop

Melissa could be grown in full solar or partial shade. Whereas adaptable to nearly any soil and solar circumstances, some individuals discover that it may possibly lose shade if uncovered to an excessive amount of solar, and that some shade can really enhance the flavour.

An optimum rising surroundings for this herb consists of moist soil, good drainage, and safety from sizzling climate. It’s at all times a good suggestion to include some compost into the soil previous to planting.

Moreover, as a result of it has such a strong and sprawling root system, you possibly can plant it on a hillside to forestall erosion!

A vigorous grower, as soon as established this herb hardly ever wants fertilizing or a lot in the way in which of particular care.

A vertical picture of a garden bed, in the center is a Melissa officinalis plant and a small trowel in the soil. In the background, green leaves of other plants and soil in between them in bright sunshine.

Like different mints, it tends to sprawl. However not like its creeping kin, lemon balm spreads by seed reasonably than through rhizomes. Whereas it does self seed fairly simply, it received’t take over the backyard in fairly the identical method.

That stated, it’s a good suggestion to plant it someplace that you’re high-quality with it sticking round for some time with an expanded footprint! Or you possibly can simply develop it in containers if you happen to choose. See extra on this beneath.

If you wish to forestall it from spreading, merely harvest the tops previous to flowering so it doesn’t have a chance to go to seed. Mulching may also assist to forestall seed unfold.

A hand from the right of the frame is picking lemon balm leaves, the other hand is holding a small wicker basket half full of leaves. The background is green leaves and stems in bright sunshine.

You’ll be able to skinny vegetation all through the season, which can hold development in examine and assist to enhance air circulation, particularly in sizzling and humid climate.

To prune, simply snap off a stem from the bottom and use the recent leaves instantly, or dry them for later use.

You’ll be able to skinny out a couple of third of the plant directly, taking care to take away any leaves which might be broken or brown across the edges as a consequence of warmth, chilly, low humidity, or excessive wind.

This plant responds properly to chopping. If a plant has develop into overgrown, appears to be like burdened, or is displaying indicators of illness, you possibly can simply minimize the entire thing all the way down to the bottom and look ahead to it to re-grow.

It can probably develop again with thicker, extra lush foliage the subsequent time round.

Container Rising

Lemon balm is a good possibility for container gardening, and it pairs properly with summer season annuals corresponding to dill or basil.

To develop lemon balm in a container, plant seeds or transplants in a pot that’s no less than eight inches deep and 15 to 18 inches extensive. Place the pot in a location that receives no less than 5 hours of direct daylight a day.

A white flower pot on a wooden shelf in front of a window, containing lemon balm, bright green leaves contrasting with the soft focus background, in bright sunshine.

Although not as flavorful when grown indoors, it will also be stored inside with 14-16 hours of synthetic mild supplied per day, if obligatory.

Container vegetation could have to be divided within the fall to keep away from turning into root sure.

Rising Suggestions

  • Whereas adaptable to most soil circumstances, planting in moist, properly draining soil with some safety from sizzling climate will lead to more healthy vegetation.
  • Mulch to enhance drainage and forestall seeds from spreading.
  • Bear in mind to skinny all through the season to maintain development in examine and enhance air circulation. Use the go away you’ve pruned to make recent lemon balm tea!

Cultivars to Choose

For the traditional species plant, select M. officinalis, accessible from True Leaf Market.

Its pretty lemony aroma and taste is fantastic recent or dried in meals, drinks, cosmetics, and drugs.

A close up of a cluster of Melissa officinalis leaves.

M. officinalis

Reside vegetation and seeds are additionally accessible from Burpee.

There are additionally various named cultivars accessible to select from.


This variegated lemon balm cultivar has a gorgeous darkish inexperienced leaf with vivid yellow variegation in spring, which fades in summer season.

A close up of the leaves of a variegated lemon balm plant. The leaves are red and yellow, in the background is a purple flower and soft focus greenery in bright sunshine.

It’s an edible decorative with a gentle taste.


This selection grows to 10 to 12 inches in top, and smells strongly of citronella. It has a excessive oil content material and is mildew resistant.


In case you are quick on house and anxious about sprawl, this can be the choice for you.

This sterile cultivar tops out at about six inches tall and 12 inches extensive, and doesn’t flower or produce seed. It has darkish inexperienced leaves and a reasonable taste.

Managing Pests and Illness

Lemon balm will not be generally affected by pests or illness.

In actual fact, this herb can really repel some pests from the backyard. It incorporates a chemical compound known as citronellal, which is repellent to many bugs, and that is what offers it its pleasant lemony scent.

There are only a few pests and ailments to be careful for:

Aphids and Spider Mites

These pesky little bugs have been identified to infest vegetation, particularly when grown indoors or in a greenhouse.

A wooden shelf by a window containing a white flower pot with Melissa officinalis, next to it are two small glasses, one purple, one blue. To the right of the frame is another white pot with ivy cascading out over the side.

Washing vegetation off with a tough stream from a hose or within the sink can assist to take away any pests. An insecticidal cleaning soap could also be used if pests are current in giant numbers.

Powdery Mildew

This frequent fungal illness can go away a whitish powdery look on the leaves. That is usually extra of a difficulty in sizzling and humid climates with cool nights.

Septoria Leaf Spot

This fungus could cause darkish brown or black spots on leaves, and is prevalent in heat temperatures with excessive humidity. Take away and eliminate contaminated leaves once they seem.

If the an infection turns into severe, attempt spritzing off vegetation with a twig of 1 gallon of water, one tablespoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of dish cleaning soap, and one tablespoon of horticultural oil.

Each of those ailments could be prevented by offering good air circulation with common harvesting or pruning.


Lemon balm could be harvested commonly all through the season, although the leaves are essentially the most flavorful when they’re younger and recent.

A close up of Melissa officinalis in a brown wicker basket with a green soft focus background in bright sunlight.

You’ll be able to harvest particular person leaves or sprigs as wanted all through the season by chopping a number of inches of latest development and eradicating the leaves from the stems. Hold leaves on stems for straightforward drying.

Alternatively, harvest giant quantities directly by chopping again the complete plant to nearly floor stage. This may be performed just a few instances all through the season.

Nonetheless you select to reap, this herb will present an abundance! Because it grows so readily, it’s a fairly tough plant to over harvest.

Preserving: Recent Is Finest!

This herb is certainly at its prime when it’s recent.

It tends to lose a few of its taste over time, although I’ve discovered that with correct preservation strategies, it’s doable to take pleasure in lemon balm all year long.

It may be dried on trays or by hanging it in bunches in a darkish place with good air circulation. You may as well put your harvest in a dehydrator for 12 to o18 hours on a low setting.

A close up of dried light green lemon balm leaves, on a white surface.

The bottom line is to dry it rapidly, in any other case extra moisture on the leaves will trigger it to show brown and lose taste.

In case you are planning to dry this herb, it’s a good suggestion to reap on a dry day so the leaves are much less moist to start with.

As soon as dried, strip the leaves from the stems and retailer in an hermetic glass container with a lid in a darkish, dry location corresponding to a cabinet.

Get extra recommendations on drying and storing herbs right here.

Lemon balm will also be frozen. Chop recent leaves, combine them with cooking oil or water, and freeze in ice dice trays for later use.

You’ll be able to be taught extra about freezing recent herbs right here.

An Herb With Many Makes use of

Lemon balm is one among my favourite vegetation to have round as a result of I take advantage of it in so many alternative methods!

It may be utilized in oils and salves, lotions, lip balms, hair rinses, steams, and baths. it’s a tremendous herb to include in selfmade beauty merchandise.

A wooden surface with a glass cup pictured from above, containing lemon balm leaves steeped in water. To the left of the cup are freshly picked green leaves, and to the right, a metal spoon and tiny white flowers.

Need to have a calming spa expertise at dwelling? Strive filling a mesh bag with a mixture of recent or dried lemon balm, lavender, rose, calendula, and chamomile, and including it to your subsequent bathtub!

You may as well make a floral water known as a hydrosol that may be sprayed round the home so as to add a pure lemony fragrance to the air.

Hydrosols are straightforward to make they usually seize a small quantity of the plant’s important oils.

A close up of a small dropper bottle with a white top, on a wooden surface with hessian string underneath the bottle. In the background are Melissa officinalis leaves, bright green in soft focus.

Right here’s how one can make a hydrosol at dwelling:

  1. Pour just a few inches of water and three to 4 handfuls of the recent herb into a big pot, and place one other smaller bowl within the center, guaranteeing that its rim is above the floor of the water. Placed on the pot lid the other way up and fill it with ice cubes to encourage condensation.
  2. Convey to a lightweight boil, then decrease the warmth and simmer till the smaller bowl has crammed with just a few ounces of water. The condensation that has gathered within the smaller bowl ought to now have a pleasant lemony scent.
  3. Switch this liquid to a small spray bottle to be used across the dwelling. Hold it refrigerated, to increase its usefulness. It will probably last as long as two years if correctly saved.

This plant can also be nice to be used in crafts! Dried leaves can be utilized in potpourri and pillows, and recent or dried cuttings can be utilized as aromatic fillers for flower preparations and bouquets.

Strive making a lemon balm wreath by wrapping flowering stems round a wire ring base.

Commercially, the oil and extract are sometimes used to taste drinks, liqueurs, candies, and beauty merchandise.

Recipes and Cooking Concepts

Within the kitchen, lemon balm could be added to absolutely anything that may style good with a touch of lemon.

Throw it in appetizers, desserts, foremost programs, salads, sandwiches, soups, or stews. Add it to dressing, vinegar, sauces, and jams.

A sponge cake on a glass cake stand on a wooden surface with a white lace cloth. The cake is scattered with lemon balm leaves, and in the background is a plant in a hessian pot, to the left of the frame are two white tea cups and the background is a dark wood surface.

The flowers are additionally edible and could be candied or used to garnish fruit salads, drinks, or desserts.

My favourite method to make use of lemon balm is in iced tea. I completely find it irresistible blended with recent raspberry leaf and nettle. Additionally it is scrumptious blended with black or inexperienced tea.

Simply throw just a few handfuls of recent or dried leaves in along with your favourite tea mix and steep for 5 to fifteen minutes.

A glass cup containing lemon balm leaves in water, with fresh leaves next to it on a wooden surface. In the background is part of a wicker basket in soft focus and some small purple flowers.

We offer instructions on making lemon balm tea right here.

I additionally usually use it as an ingredient in pesto. Once I head out to my backyard to select recent basil, I make a fast cease by the lemon balm patch as properly, and throw some leaves within the meals processor for added zest!

You may additionally like this recipe on our sister website, Foodal, for making natural shrubs. Use lemon balm to create a candy and citrusy consuming vinegar that may be added to cocktails, sodas, or different drinks.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Herbaceous perennial Water Wants: Low, as soon as established
Native to: Southern Europe Tolerance: All soil sorts
Hardiness (USDA Zone): Zone 3-12 Upkeep: Low
Season: Spring-fall Soil Kind: Common
Publicity: Full solar to partial shade Soil pH: 6.0-7.5
Time to Maturity: 70 days Soil Drainage: Properly-draining
Spacing: 1-2 ft Companion Planting: Dill, basil, squash
Planting Depth: Seeds on floor, transplants to depth of pot Household: Lamiaceae
Peak: 5 ft Genus: Melissa
Unfold: 1-2 ft Species: officinalis
Widespread Pests: Aphids, spider mites, European crimson mites, thrips, whitefly Widespread Illness: Powdery mildew, septoria leaf spot, rust, verticillium wilt

An Underrated Ally

Lemon balm is probably not essentially the most talked about herb on the block, nevertheless it actually shouldn’t be neglected.

A Melissa officinalis plant growing outdoors amongst other vegetation, pictured in bright sunlight.

In spite of everything, what’s there to lose? Simply throw out just a few seeds, sit again, and watch it develop. Its power and liveliness will make sure you brighten up your backyard, kitchen, and residential!

Do you’ve gotten expertise rising and utilizing lemon balm? Inform us your tales within the feedback beneath!

Need to increase your herb backyard? Then you definately’ll want these rising guides:

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