How to grow Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

Cutting plants back after flowering will produce a fresh flush of attractive growth. Remove flowers to prevent aggressive self-seeding.

Plants will not tolerate high humidity and need good drainage, especially overwinter.

Plants are more compact and have darker green foliage when grown in partial shade.

In zones where it rarely freezes no winter care is necessary. In colder zones mulch lemon balm heavily but expect it to die back to the ground. It may grow back as temperatures increase in the spring.4 Even with mulch it may still die in colder winters. It can be treated as an annual where freezes and long winters are common.4

When grown as a houseplant lemon balm needs at least 5-6 hours of sunlight. Or this can be supplemented with 14-16 hours of artificial light. Lemon balm grown indoors will not have the same intense flavor as outdoor lemon balm.3

If you find you have more lemon balm then you would like it can be removed by manual methods such as pulling it.4 Make sure to get all the runners and as many roots as possible. If manual methods do not seem to be working you can use an organic herbicide such as one with clove oil in it to help control your lemon balm.4 Make sure to never let lemon balm go to seed if it is a problem in your area.

Growing Lemon balm from seed

Sow indoors from March to May or 8-10 weeks before the last frost.
Soak seeds in hot water before sowing. 1

Seeds self sow, but they can be planted in a cold frame in the spring or autumn, where germination may be slow. Seedlings should be individually potted and held until planting out the next spring.

Easier and quicker from cuttings or dividing and established clump

Soil temperature should be kept higher than 21°C / 70°F to ensure good germination.

Transplanting Lemon balm

Propagate by seed, cuttings, layering, division or separation.

Vegetative propagation is done by root division or layering or by stem cuttings.

Division is easy in spring or summer when divisions can be planted into permanent positions. It is best to pot smaller divisions and hold them in a cold frame until the next spring before planting out.

Stem cuttings taken in July or August root well even in water, and can be planted out in a sunny location in moist soil when well rooted.

Ensure that temperatures are mild and all chance of frost has passed before planting out, as Lemon balm is a hardy plant.

Harvesting Lemon balm

Use freshly picked leaves. Adds flavor to stuffing, jams, fruit salads, vegetable salads and fruit drinks
Harvest just as flowering begins/ then dry bunches well and store in tightly sealed containers.

Seed Saving Lemon balm

Wait until plant has gone to seed and started to dry out. Cut them off and allow them to dry further. Shake dried branches over a tray or paper.

How long does Lemon balm take to grow?

These estimates for how long Lemon balm takes to sprout, grow and harvest are from real observations from real gardeners, right around the world.

Days to Germination How long does it take Lemon balm to germinate?
15 days

Average 15 days | Min 4 days | Max 47 days (27)

Days to Transplant How long until I can plant out Lemon balm?
+ 68 days

Average 68 days | Min 68 days | Max 68 days (1)

Days to Maturity How long until Lemon balm is ready for harvest / bloom?
+ 94 days

Average 94 days | Min 63 days | Max 124 days (6)

Total Growing Days How long does it take to grow Lemon balm?
= 177 days

Lemon balm Etymology

  • The botanical epithet is from the Latin officinalis meaning “used medicinally”3
  • Melissa means “bee” in Greek3.

Lemon balm Folklore & Trivia

  • The leaves are used to effectively treat cold sores, upset stomach, and colic.1
  • If the inside of a hive is rubbed with melissa leaves after a new swarm has arrived, the new swarm will never leave.3

There is evidence that lemon balm may help treat indigestion and the oil has some antibacterial activity.

Other names for Lemon balm

Common balm, Sweet balm, Bee's leaf, Honey plant, Apiatrum

Melissa officinalis L.

Misspellings: Melissa odorata


1 Web MD

2 Bonnie Plants

3 Lemon Balm Guide PDF

4 Do freezing temps kill lemon balm?-SF Gate


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