Lemon balm is a classic that should not be missing in any herb garden. The intensely fragrant herb is easy to care for and is also suitable for large pots or balcony boxes. The intense lemon scent gives the perennial plant its name. You can overwinter lemon balm outdoors without much care, because the species is one of the robust and hardy herbs. With its characteristic scent, the leaves are predestined for fresh consumption, but dried lemon balm also has an intense taste. The fragrant plant blooms in July and August and can be harvested after the winter from the budding in May until well into the autumn. Without pruning, a large number of white flowers appear from June, which are eagerly visited by bees and other insects. Hence the name honey flower.
Useful information Location Cultivation Planting Care Watering Harvesting Pests & Diseases FAQ
Interesting facts about lemon balm
Botanical name: Melissa officinalis L. Other names: lemon balm, honey flower, hummingbird, heart comfort, lemon herb Use: perennial shrub, for tea, bath additives, cold drinks, desserts, salads, fish dishes and sauces with asparagus or potatoes Origin: Eastern Mediterranean Flowering period: June until July Flower colours: white-pink Special features: the lemon-like smell of the green leaves is fascinating, coveted food plant for many insects, characteristic square stalks like most mints (Lamiaceae), hardy, also ideal for the balcony
In which location does lemon balm feel most comfortable?
Melissa officinalis prefers a sunny to partially shaded location with humus-rich, well-drained soil. The sunnier the fragrant plant is in your own garden, the more intense the scent that gives it its name. The fragrant lemon balm tolerates short, dry phases, but the soil should not dry out too much. The ideal location has a pH value of 6. In herb spirals, lemon balm is cultivated in the lower, moist area, but standing water should be avoided. For a short time, the hardy lemon balm can also be used as a houseplant in the house and harvested. However, the ingredients are slightly less dosed in the house. Lemon balm is ideal for large tubs,Balcony boxes or a raised bed and can therefore also be cultivated without a garden. Individual leaves can be harvested for the preparation of tea and the like until well into autumn. The vessels are outdoors all year round. Make sure the soil is always slightly damp. Next year, new foliage will sprout from March.
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How is the cultivation of lemon balm?
Melissa can be purchased as a plant, propagated by division, or cultivated by growing from seed. The seed is sown in spring in what is known as a preculture and requires temperatures of 16 to 20 °C to germinate. It is important that you do not cover the seed with soil, because lemon balm belongs to the group of so-called light germinators. The seed trays or pots with potting soilshould stand in a bright, warm place and after 10 to 14 days the first seedlings will be visible. After another 2 to 3 weeks you can prick out the young plants. Here you plant several young plants in a larger pot. Under optimal cultivation conditions, the herbs develop within 4 to 6 weeks and can be planted outdoors from mid-May.
Sowing and harvesting calendar of lemon balm
How do I plant lemon balm in the garden?
Melissa officinalis is undemanding and requires little maintenance. If the location is bright and without root pressure from large plants, the perennial will develop well. The well-known herb feels very well on humus-rich soil, waterlogging is not tolerated. For good growth, put high-quality potting soil in the planting hole when planting. With a dose of natural fertilizer you promote growth and soil life. Avoid using mineral fertilizers. Compost or organic fertilizer will do.
How do I care for lemon balm?
Regular pruning is important for bushy growth. Even if no leaves are used, it is advisable to cut back the long shoots from time to time. The plant branches well and tender new shoots grow back. A pruning in autumn is not necessary, because the shoots serve as natural winter protection. Ideally, remove the foliage in early spring. In severe frost, you can put some brushwood over the herb to protect it.
Note: Lemon Balm forms rhizomes and runners and spreads in good conditions. Since it belongs to the shallow-root group, you should chop with caution.
How to water the fragrant lemon balm?
In the first year after planting, it is important that you water your lemon balm as needed. This means that you water the herb with 3 to 5 liters of water 1 to 2 times a week during phases without precipitation. In this way, the aromatic plant quickly develops into a robust plant. Once the herb has adapted to the location, watering is usually no longer necessary.
How do I harvest and use Melissa officinalis?
Lemon balm is one of the fastest growing herbs around, easy to overwinter and can be harvested continuously throughout the summer. The first leaves can be harvested as soon as they sprout in spring. In a good location and with ideal weather conditions, you can harvest as long as the leaves are growing well into autumn. The content of ingredients is highest when you harvest late in the morning and use it fresh. Cut off the shoots with scissors and use the leaves directly, as the unique aroma dissipates quickly. If there is a surplus harvest, you can best preserve Melissa officinalis and enjoy the dried lemon balm leaves in winter.
You can roughly chop the aromatic leaves of the plant and add them to fresh summer salads. The light green leaves are also suitable as a delicate garnish for desserts and summer bowls. Lemon balm has a large number of active ingredients that are also retained in the tea. The essential oil as an ingredient in the lemon balm leaves is made up of the substances citral, geranial, neral and citronelle. These substances are responsible for the scent reminiscent of lemon. Interesting tea blends result in combination with peppermint leaves, chamomile blossoms or sprigs of thyme. There are no limits to your imagination, try and enjoy the variety of uses for lemon balm. Try oneLemon-scented bath or dried leaves in a herbal pillow ! The plant can be preserved wonderfully and used in many ways. Fragrant herbal treasures can also be produced with many other herbs. Would you like to learn more about aromatic herbs and their diverse uses? Browse our blog «Preserve the full aroma of the aromatic herbs now».
Which pests and diseases can occur?
The herb is extremely robust with its lemon scent and is very rarely attacked by harmful insects, caterpillars or diseases. It is important that the garden herb is planted in the optimal location and that waterlogging is avoided. Possible problems can be:
The fungal disease occurs primarily in warm, dry temperatures and preferentially affects the leaf surface and stems. The white coating can be wiped off and spreads quickly under optimal conditions. Cut back generously and apply a treatment with Bio Active Agent for plants susceptible to powdery mildew and fungi. Special plant extracts strengthen the cell walls and thereby prevent re-infestation. Mist the plant dripping wet weekly.
With brown-red spots on the leaves, the plants become unfit for consumption. This fungal disease occurs particularly frequently in very humid summers. It is best to cut back the plants and treat plants susceptible to mildew and fungi with bio-active agents.
First of all, an infestation with lice can be seen on the tips. A lice infestation usually occurs in the room when there is little light. Cut back the plant and discard the affected shoots. Strengthen the aromatic plant with organic plant treatment. The plant’s own immune system is strengthened in a natural way and the spread of pests and fungal infestation is reduced.
FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions about Lemon Balm
How do I preserve Melissa officinalis?
The plant can be used fresh or dried. With a high content of essential oils, the leaves have a much more intense flavor when eaten fresh. With good growth in summer, however, there are various ways to conserve the rich supply. The characteristic aroma is not lost even when drying. After cutting, tie the stems into small bunches and hang them upside down in a shady, airy spot to dry. It is important that the drying is done very carefully, because at drying temperatures above 30 °C the essential oils dissolve in the air and the lemon balm leaves lose their aroma. After just a few weeks, the leaves are dry and can be filled into screw-top jars.
How often can lemon balm be harvested?
With regular harvesting and pruning, a harvest is possible from May to September. The pruning prevents flowering and there are always young shoots on the hardy plant.
Which plants are suitable for the combination?
All species that prefer a sunny location are optimal. With its upright growth and delicate flowers, lemon balm can also be planted in perennial beds or with roses. The plants should have similar water requirements, but you should plant lemon balm and basil at a greater distance from each other.
Can lemon balm self-seed in the garden?
The plant can self-seed in the right location. If this is not desired, the plant must be cut back before flowering.
How is Melissa officinalis propagated?
The herb can be easily propagated by cuttings. The best time to do this is early spring or late summer. Use sharp scissors to cut the cuttings only from healthy plants, these should not have flowers. The young plants develop optimally in seed trays or in a seed set with a transparent cover. After 3 to 4 weeks the first roots have formed and the young plants can be repotted in pots with potting soil. Large plants can also be propagated by division. This can be done in spring or autumn.