Lemon Balm



Growing lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is relatively easy, and it’s a delightful addition to any herb garden with its refreshing lemon scent and numerous culinary and medicinal uses. Here’s how to grow lemon balm successfully:

  1. Climate and Location: Lemon balm thrives in full sun to partial shade. It prefers well-draining soil and is relatively adaptable to various climates. It grows well in USDA hardiness zones 4-9.
  2. Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of 6-8 inches and removing any weeds or debris. Lemon balm prefers fertile, moist soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or aged manure into the soil to improve fertility and drainage.
  3. Planting: Lemon balm can be grown from seeds, divisions, or transplants. If starting from seeds, sow them directly into the garden in early spring after the last frost date. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and keep the soil consistently moist until germination, which typically takes 7-14 days. Space the plants about 12-18 inches apart.
  4. Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist, especially during dry periods. Water the plants deeply when the soil feels dry to the touch, but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot. Mulching around the plants can help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.
  5. Fertilization: Lemon balm is not a heavy feeder and generally does not require much fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer or compost around the plants in early spring to promote healthy growth.
  6. Pruning: Lemon balm can become leggy if not pruned regularly. Pinch off the growing tips regularly to encourage bushy growth and prevent the plant from becoming too tall and spindly. You can also prune back the entire plant by one-third in late spring to promote new growth.
  7. Harvesting: Harvest lemon balm leaves as needed once the plants are established. Cut the stems just above a leaf node to encourage regrowth. The leaves can be used fresh or dried for culinary purposes, teas, or herbal remedies.
  8. Pests and Diseases: Lemon balm is relatively pest and disease-resistant but may occasionally be affected by aphids, spider mites, or powdery mildew. Monitor the plants regularly and treat any infestations promptly with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

By following these tips, you can successfully grow lemon balm and enjoy its citrusy fragrance and versatile uses in your garden and kitchen. Lemon balm is also a favorite plant of bees and other pollinators, making it a valuable addition to pollinator gardens.


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