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Lemon Balm ~ Melissa officinalis Plant Care Guide

lemon balm carina's garden june 10 2013

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), also known as balm[2] or balm mint and not to be confused with bee balm (which is genus Monarda), is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to center-southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

It grows to 70–150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. These attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for ‘honey bee’). Its flavour comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%).

Melissa officinalis may be the “honey-leaf” (μελισσόφυλλον) mentioned by Theophrastus.[4] It was in the herbal garden of John Gerard, 1596.[5] There are many cultivars of Melissa officinalis, such as:

  • M. officinalis ‘Citronella’
  • M. officinalis ‘Lemonella’
  • M. officinalis ‘Quedlinburger’
  • M. officinalis ‘Lime’
  • M. officinalis ‘Variegata’
  • M. officinalis ‘Aurea’

(M. officinalis ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ is an Improved variety bred for high essential oil content.)


Melissa officinalis or Lemon Balm

Melissa’s sweet lemony scent and mint like leaves make it a nice plant to have in the garden. It is both a culinary and a medicinal herb. With its mild lemon flavor and scent we use it often in teas and in potpourri.

Lemon Balm is another mint family member which makes it pretty darn easy to grow. It can be grown as a perennial plant in zone 5-9. In colder regions you might want to consider it as an annual, or it can be over-wintered indoors.

You can grow Lemon Balm in containers or in the garden.

It seems perfectly happy in either place. Just remember it will need more attention in a pot- it can get thirsty in hot weather and may need frequent watering and an occasional light feeding. Don’t let it wilt TOO much or it may take awhile to recover.

Lemon Balm may become invasive

…if you live in moist climates, have a lot of rainfall and don’t trim off seed heads. That may be why many people choose to grow it in containers. I don’t have a problem with it spreading too much in my occasionally soggy, humid Midwest garden, but I usually manage to clip off seed heads before they drop all over the place.

Lemon Balm is easy to grow from seed. Press the seeds into damp soil. You don’t even have to bother covering them. Keep the seeds moist and wait. Germination may take a few weeks and you may have seedlings popping up over a period of two to three weeks.

Once your Lemon Balm is growing well, keep it trimmed back regularly for the best flavored leaves and to keep the plant looking good.

lemon-balm flowers
Lemon Balm Flowering

When it sports its pretty little white flowers you may find lots of bees and other pollinators flocking to it. They seem to like it as much as I do! These Lemon Balm flowers will dry and produce tiny seeds.

Want to save some seeds and grow more ‘from scratch’ ?

lemon-balm-seed head

Lemon Balm seed Heads

This is what the flower stalks look like before the little seeds are dried and ripe….


Fresh Lemon Balm Seeds

Now you can see they are dried and brown. The seeds within are usually black and ready for harvesting at this point.

When your Lemon Balm flowers you can clip off most of the flower spikes and just save one or two for seeds. Clip off any you won’t be saving before they turn brown and start dropping seeds. That way you don’t have runaway Lemon Balm all over the garden.

To extract the seeds try rolling the dried seed head or each individual dried flower between your fingers.  You will be rewarded for your work with a few tiny seeds.

You can also stick the seed heads upside down to dry in a paper bag. Many of the seeds will eventually drop in to the paper bag relieving you of all that exhausting seed head rolling ;-)




See Also …

How to Grow Lemon Balm in a Pot

Lemon Balm Medicinal Qualities

Lemon Balm  ~ Herbal Society of America PDF



11 responses

  1. Have them, but keep them trapped in 2 big pots , I think I have lost some running free along the western side of the front fence.
    We name them ” CAT MINT ), GOOD IN TEA, but boy, ATTRACT CATS, which LOVE THEM, and one time, I find some cat pop in one of the pots …lol 😀
    Ya think I should have put some FOX bait also around the pots ???…Nahhhhh love animals, even CATS. 😀

    June 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    • what?? are you serious they hate lemon and citrus, that’s odd … thanks for warning.

      there was so much cat poop yesterday behind the peony plant on east side, was gross, felt like i needed biohazard suit. am not really sure how it got there, was not soft ground at all. i threw dirt, sod and poop in garbage, did not try and save the soil … was like stephen king movie

      June 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      • Not sure why cats love them, but they do .. 😀
        Your right …CAT NIP …SOWYYYYYYYY 😀

        June 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    • you are thinking wrong plant, this is Lemon Balm

      this is cat nip

      June 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      • Yup, that is it….got THE Wrong mint 😀

        June 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

  2. whew it’s ok, same mint type leaves but you had me worried, am trying to get them out of my garden. i like cats, outside and not in my gardens.

    cat poop is very bad, especially pregnant women. do not deal with litter boxes or cat waste if pregnant!

    here is another cat nip

    been thinking of planting them their own garden with this stuff so they stay out of mine 🙂 lol

    June 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    • Create CATS HEAVEN, but then, if you use that mint for tea, ya better wash it good, IT WILL STINK ….yuckkkk 😀
      I have 2 feral cats adopted me since my dog is gone, BOTH TOM CATS LOL 😀 ( So they think ), when I feed the Magpies birds, and they join the dinner of left overs 😀

      June 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      • lol, we have feral cats everywhere i have couple dog bowls i fill with food for them. i also have two of my own, gifts from my daughter lol … one is spoiled diva who hates everyone unless they have food and other is young male learning his way in life lolol (poor thing gets a lot of azz kickings around here with all the other cats)

        June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

  3. Nice pics ADDED …Great pics

    June 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    • thank you, not sure why they disappeared can’t be a copyright on sharing garden info, Fair Use called …

      June 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

  4. the top pic is my lemon balm and my photo, anyone can use it if they like, it’s lemon balm pic for goodness sake not a Rembrandt

    June 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm

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