Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is a lovely mild herb named for the lemony scent of its leaves. Originally grown in South Europe, lemon balm is often used in combination with other herbs and is frequently found in poultry and fish dishes, desserts, and teas.
Light requirements Full sun to part shade. Protect plants from hot afternoon sun in southerly zones.
Planting Space 20 to 24 inches apart.
Soil requirements Nutrient-rich, well-drained soil is ideal.
Water requirements Lemon balm thrives in moist soil that’s not soggy. Improve drainage in wet areas by adding organic matter to soil.
Frost-fighting plan Lemon balm is perennial in zones 4 to 9. Plants are not frost-tolerant. If you need plants to survive a light frost, cover them with a frost blanket.
Common issues Lemon balm can spread rapidly in the garden. Help prevent self-sowing by clipping stems back to a few inches several times during the growing season, so the plants don’t set seeds. Clip as soon as flowers appear. Lemon balm is generally pest-free.
Harvesting Pick lemon balm leaves at any point in the growing season. Leaves tend to become smaller after plants flower. Clip leafy stems to be as long as you want. Plants branch freely from just below where you snip stems, so place cuts accordingly.
Storage Fresh lemon balm stems keep in water at room temperature five to seven days. For longer storage, dry or freeze leaves. Individually quick freeze leaves on a parchment-lined tray and store in freezer bags, or freeze in ice cubes.