This lovely plant is a great addition to any garden. It is easy to grow, is very drought tolerant and is quite happy in dappled shade or on the north side of a building. This makes it an excellent choice for some of those hard to grow in spots. The fresh green leaves brighten any semi shady spot and it makes a great pot plant for a shady patio. It's delightful sharp lemon aroma when the leaves are touched or crushed make it a delight. The flowers are small and not too noticeable but the aroma and hardiness of the plant make up for it's lack of show. Added bonus the deer don't eat it!
Lemon Balm is a hardy perennial plant that dies down in the winter. It has bright green crinkly leaves which are slightly hairy, with strongly toothed margins. These are arranged in pairs on each side of a square stem. The leaves are very attractive in their own right and make a good addition to any flower bed. The plant grows to about 2-3 feet in height forming a clump that will spread if not contained. The flowers are small, white, pale lilac or yellow and arranged in irregular whorls at leaf nodes on upright stems. They are not showy. Plants are grown for their interesting leaves and wonderful lemon scent that the leaves produce with bruised. The leaves are also very strongly lemon tasting and can be used in all kinds of culinary dishes and drinks.
Care and Placement.
Lemon balm will grow in zones 3-9, although zone 4 and up will need to mulch it in the winter. It is a member of the mint family and will spread, though not as invasively as mint - if not contained. It will grow in full sun but would do better in a shaded location in higher zones with lots of heat and sunshine. In zone 6 it will grow easily in low shade or on the north sides of buildings. It is very drought tolerant needing little water once the plants are established.
It will grow in almost any kind of soil from heavy clay to sandy. It prefers to have some drainage and does not do well if the soil in constantly waterlogged. It's quite happy in poor soil and needs little water or fertilization once it's established. It's a great plant for those semi shady areas that are hard to fill and happy to be neglected. If planting in a more forest garden some weeding will be necessary since it won't beat out the native plants.
It's a great plant for containers especially for shaded patios or decks where it's interesting leaves and lovely scent are very welcome. Pots keep it contained and in most zones the plants will survive in the pots over the winter without much extra care.
Cut down dead foliage in winter.
Growing from Seed.
It's very easy, but needs a little patience since the seeds can be slow to germinate. Seeds are very fine and need little or no covering. Keep moist not wet and wait, the plant is well worth it.
Fresh leaves can be chewed right off the bushes. They are delicious in salads and fruit salads and make a good substitute for lemon peel in recipes. Leaves can also be added to hot water to make a wonderful lemon tea. Chopped leaves can be added to fish and chicken dishes and sprinkled over fresh vegetables. Candied they are a great addition to any cake decoration. The leaves are also frequently used as one of the ingredients of pot-pourri.
There are a great many uses for Lemon balm some general and some specific. It is said to induce a mild perspiration and a tea is often used to soothe menstrual cramps and helps relieve PMS.
It will most often sedate people and is particularly suited to conditions of sympathetic excess, hyperadrenalinism, or hyperthyroidism. Heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, and even aneurysm have found a treatment wit this herb. It is also to calm fevers with nervousness and fevers in young children. Along with many other medicinal uses.