Lemon balm is an ancient herb native to southern Europe, closely related to mint. It has wrinkled, oval leaves and boasts a fresh, citrusy scent that many cooks like to add to salads, soups and more. Its use as a remedy can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, where its leaves were used in a variety of tonics and teas, and its essential oils were extracted to aid in digestive problems. While this plant may not be as popular as other herbs, lemon balm is still a wonderful herb for your garden. Read on to learn more about how to care for lemon balm – outdoors and indoors.
Table of Contents
- Lemon balm care tips – grow in a pot or outdoors.
- Lemon balm care – finding the right location
- Care lemon balm: tips for the soil
- Create a watering schedule
- Pay attention to temperature and humidity
- Pests and diseases of lemon balm in the garden or at home
- Lemon balm care and pruning
Lemon balm care tips – grow in a pot or outdoors
Pots are preferred
This versatile herb grows quickly outdoors – after sowing seeds in early spring, it’s not uncommon for a lemon balm to grow 30 to 60 inches tall in just one season. For this reason, many gardeners plant lemon balm in containers, whether growing indoors or outdoors, to control its invasive nature. Like many other herbs, lemon balm does best outdoors, but can also be grown indoors if you consider its special needs.
You can grow lemon balm indoors year-round, along with several other herbs. Once they grow, you should thin out the plants so they are about 10 inches apart. If you want to harvest them for cooking or for your own tea, you should grow at least four plants.
You can easily grow lemon balm from seeds or plants in spring, mid-summer or even late summer. When you plant the seeds, you should either sow them indoors to speed germination or plant them directly in the ground after the danger of frost has passed. If your seeds don’t germinate right away, don’t give up – it may take a little while for them to get going.
Care for lemon balm – find the right location.
Both indoors and outdoors, lemon balm loves a sunny spot. However, unlike lemon balm in the garden, on your balcony or patio, which can tolerate some shade, the one indoors needs plenty of sun, at least 5 to 6 hours a day. Place your herb containers near a windowsill that gets plenty of light throughout the day. If you find that your plant is getting too much direct sunlight or its leaves are turning brown, move it periodically to avoid burns.
Care for lemon balm: tips for the soil.
Lemon balm plants prefer a slightly sandy, well-drained soil. Most simple potting soils are suitable, but if you find that your mix is a bit too dense or stays too moist between waterings, you should mix it with sand or a drier soil type. Also, the pH of the soil should be neutral to acidic, with a certain level between 6.7 and 7.3 providing the best conditions.
Create a watering schedule
When watering your plant, it is better to water it too little than too much. The exact schedule for watering depends on the environment in your home and the amount of sunlight. However, as a rule of thumb, you should water in small amounts once 2-3 inches of soil in the pot has dried out.
Pay attention to temperature and humidity
This herb will likely come back year after year, especially if you grow it in the ground and find the right conditions – it tends to prefer cooler temperatures, so its growth might be more difficult in hot or humid conditions. However, you can also grow lemon balm as an annual. Bees and other pollinators love the plant.
Pests and diseases of lemon balm in the garden or at home.
By and large, lemon balm is disease resistant, which is why many gardeners enjoy growing it. Still, there are some things to watch out for. Root rot and powdery mildew can result from too much watering or poor drainage. It can be easy to water the plants too much or too often. Instead of watering lemon balm daily, try watering it every few days. Watering the plant thoroughly instead of frequently will set it up for long-term success.
Care for and prune lemon balm
Frequent pruning keeps the fast-growing plant in check and encourages continued production of flavorful foliage during the spring and summer months. Cut back the main shoots when they are 15 to 20 inches tall. Prune the entire plant – one-third of the plant, with sharp shears, near the leaves or buds – once a month after it reaches full size in early to mid-summer.
Use the removed leaves as a spice, for garnish or to flavor drinks. Remove the old flowers as soon as they have wilted. This prevents seed formation and encourages growth and flowering.