- botanical name: Melissa officinalis
- perennial zones 4-9
- height 18-26″
- spacing 12″ apart
- full sun tolerant, morning sun/afternoon shade
- average soil, will tolerate poor, dry soil
- uses in garden: bog, border, container, cut foliage, drought tolerant, ground cover, mass plant
- very fragrant, use in salads, in dressings, meat marinades, teas
- deer resistant
Lemon Balm can be grown by anyone, gardener or not, in highly varied conditions. It is so easy to grow because it is very hardy, can take small amounts of water, and spreads easily. In fact, it is advisable to grow Lemon Balm in pots unless it is separate from the rest of the garden (or unless you are a very dedicated gardener who enjoys cutting back) because it tends to be invasive. Growing it is very rewarding, though, because of its delightful lemon scent and flavor. It will add a tangy zest to any dish that is complementary to the flavor of lemon, whether it is fruit salad, fish, salad dressing, or meat marinade. Lemon balm is also delicious in iced tea.
Lemon Balm, a native of the Mediterranean region – naturalized in Europe and North America, is a medicinal herb used to treat all kinds of ailments including insomnnia, cramps, headache and toothache.
Lemon Balm plants are also available. Purchase them here.
Indoors – sow in flats 6-8 weeks before the last frost. 7-14 days to germination. Seeds need light to germinate so tamp the seeds lightly into the soil-starting medium and mist lightly. Transplant to individual pots when the seedlings have 4 true leaves. After the last frost, transplant to garden giving the plants 12″ spacing. 70 days to harvest,
Outdoors – direct seed in the spring of early fall, sowing about one seed per inch. Tamp the seeds lightly into the soil and keep moist until germination occurs. No need to thin, but can thin to stand up to 12″ apart, in rows 2 feet apart. Mulch if winter goes below 0 degrees F.
Plants can also be grown from cuttings taken in the spring or summer months. Other methods include – layering or by division in the spring.
In the first year, two cuttings are possible. Harvest before flowering for optimum fragrance. To harvest, cut off the entire plant about two inches above the ground, careful not to bruise the foliage. Dry within two days of picking as it has a tendency to turn brown quickly. Lay flat on screens or sieves and lay in the shade when temperatures are near 90 degrees F. If you plan on using it for making teas, you can dry both the leaves and the stems.