Growing Lemon Balm: How to Grow the Lemon Balm Plant Organically

Growing lemon balm is an easy project for the beginning gardener. It’s a perennial herb that you can use to flavor teas and to add a wonderful fragrance to your garden. Garden lemon balm is also a great way to attract beneficial bees, as they love the flowers this plant produces.

Lemon balm requires full sun and dry, sandy soil.

Growing Lemon Balm: Plant Snapshot (Melisa officinalis
)

Growing Lemon Balm
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Annual or Perennial? Perennial
  • Recommended varieties: multiple
  • Cold tolerance: Usually hardy in most regions
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: n/a
    • Avoid: None
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Growing Lemon Balm: Planting the Seed

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Lemon balm can be grown from seed quite easily. However, you can also propagate it by digging up and splitting plants in spring or fall.

If you do grow from seed, it's best to plant them in the fall or start them indoors during winter and transplant the seedlings into the garden after danger of frost has passed.

In very hot areas, lemon balm will produce better if it has some shade from the hot afternoon sun.

Snapshot: Planting Lemon Balm

  • Planting depth: Dust with soil (0.1 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: 18 inches (45 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: around 65 to 75 degrees F (18 to 24 C)
  • Days to germination: 7 to 10 days
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Growing Lemon Balm: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Lemon balm likes dry sandy soil, but you may find that you need to water it a bit more during the first season while it's getting established.

As it’s growing, you can pinch back shoots to create a bushier plant, and you can use the tender green leaves throughout the growing season for flavoring.

Snapshot: Growing Lemon Balm

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.5 to 7.0
  • Growing soil temperature: around 60 to 70 degrees F (15.5 to 21 C)
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Growing Lemon Balm: Harvesting Time

Lemon balm can be harvested all throughout the season. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, but harvest the leaves before the plant flowers if you want leaves that are more flavorful and stems that are less “woody”.

Leaving the plants to flower will also attract bees to your garden which will drastically help your other plants produce more and better fruits.

In winter, Lemon balm dies all the way back to the ground, but it will return year after year. If you live in a very cold area where the ground freezes, it's best to mulch the plants during winter.

Snapshot: Harvesting Lemon Balm

  • Time to harvest: about 12 weeks from seed to flower
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Storing Lemon Balm and Freezing Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is best used fresh, but it can be dried for later use. However, dried leaves will not be as fragrant as fresh ones.

Tie bouquets of lemon balm loosely and hang them upside down in a cool dry place. Even a small amount of humidity may keep the leaves from drying properly.
After drying, you can store the leaves in a glass jar for use all winter.

Lemon balm seeds can be harvested from the plant after flowering. But lemon balm can become quite invasive in the garden, as the seeds will fall from the flower heads and propagate. If you don’t want lemon balm to take over your garden, don't let it flower, or remove flowers before the plant can go to seed.

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Growing Lemon Balm: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Lemon Balm. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • European red mite
  • Spider mites
  • Tow-spotted mite
  • Whitefly
  • Diseases

Diseases

  • Leaf spot
  • Powdery mildew
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Lemon Balm

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Lemon Balm photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.

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