The lemon balm is an herbaceous perennial that belongs to the Melissa genus. Its scientific name is Melissa officinalis. Oftentimes, this plant is confused with the Bee Balm plant, although they are not the same. It belongs to the mint family, which is known as Lamiaceae and is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.
Features of the Lemon Balm Plant
This plant typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet tall and 1.5 to 3 feet wide. The foliage is bluish-green in color and gives off a gentle lemon scent, of the likes of mint. The flowers are white in color and appear in the blooming season, which is the summer.
These flowers are full of nectar. It is because of this nectar that bees are attracted to this plant. The flavor of the nectar comes from the terpenes citronellal, citronellol, citral, and geraniol.
The plant is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant. It is a rather low-maintenance plant as compared to the rest and can grow to become healthy with minimal care.
Cultivation of the Lemon Balm Plant
It is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7. There are various methods of cultivation for this plant. These are by division, seeds or stem cuttings. It grows best in well-drained soils that have an average amount of moisture. The plant can bear poor soil conditions, too, but care should be taken to ensure that the soil is not soggy.
Soggy soil can cause root rot, and that can be a major problem for the plant. Adding to that, it doesn’t require a lot of water to grow except in the summer season where supplemental water is needed to keep the plant growing healthily.
In colder weather conditions, the plant needs winter mulch in order to keep growing. Moreover, the plant needs full sun in order to thrive. In areas where the summer is really hot, part shade is preferred for the growth of this plant.
In addition to that, it is recommended that no fertilizer be used owing to the fact that fertilizing can cause the scent of the plant to be reduced.
Uses of the Lemon Balm Plant
The lemon balm plant can be put to many different uses. Some of the major ones are listed below.
This plant is known to help those suffering from anxiety disorders. Research shows that taking lemon balm with a few other ingredients can help with nervousness and other anxiety-related issues.
Consuming lemon balm twice a day for two weeks at a stretch can help those with sleeplessness to sleep better. It can also improve the quality of sleep significantly.
Lemon balm can also help relieve stress. Research has shown that taking one dose a day can help make a person calm and alert. It can also help with making one’s memory sharp.
Products containing lemon balm can help improve acid reflux, cramps, stomach pain, and nausea. It also helps people with intestinal issues.
Colic in infants
Products with lemon balm if given to infants with colic issues twice a day for a week continuously can help reduce their crying time significantly.
Consuming lemon balm orally for 4 months reduces agitation and can help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It helps improve memory and retention.
Varieties of the Lemon Balm Plant
There are many different varieties of the lemon balm plant. The most popular ones are listed below and explained in detail with their ideal growing conditions.
Citronella Lemon Balm
This variety is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. It typically takes 7 to 21 days for the seeds of this cultivar to germinate. It is ideal if this cultivar is planted through seeds by pressing into the soil.
If this planted is sown indoors, it should be sown 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. The temperature of the soil should be 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart to accommodate their growth.
This cultivar needs full sun to grow. In areas where the climate is hot, part shade is preferred. The soil should be moist but well-drained. Care should be taken that the water does not stay on the soil in order to ensure that root rot does not happen.
This cultivar also has many different medicinal, culinary, and ornamental uses. It attracts a lot of bees and beneficial pollinators. It also has a very soothing scent to it and is one of the most flavorful varieties available.
If you hate getting bit by mosquitoes, then you’ll love this variety of lemon balm, as it acts as an effective mosquito repellant. If grown outdoors, you don’t have to worry about those pesky insects ruining your quiet time with nature.
Quedlinburger Lemon Balm
This cultivar has a higher amount of essential oil than other cultivars of the same plant. It has a beautiful lemon scent and has a lot of cosmetic and medicinal value, too. This plant is a perennial that is very easy to grow.
It typically grows to a height of 30 cm and has a width of 40 cm. Its companion plants are tomatoes, mints, chives, basil, and parsley. It is best that this plant is grown outdoors in the months from February to July. It takes around 1 to 2 weeks for the germination of the seeds to happen. Harvesting can take around 40 to 60 days.
Care should be taken that there is a space of 2 to 3 cm between the plants when sowing. This ensures that there is enough space for the roots to grow. This cultivar needs full sun to grow. In case of very sunny areas, partial shade is needed for the ideal growth of this plant.
Well-drained, fertile soil is needed as well to ensure that this plant has a healthy growth. Regular watering is required, but fertilizer is not needed. Regular trimming after the plant is 30 cm in height can ensure that the plant grows to become vibrant. This cultivar attracts butterflies and ladybirds and repels fleas and mosquitoes.
Variegated Lemon Balm
This cultivar is a perennial herb that is a part of the mint family. It typically grows to a height of 5 to 7 inches tall, and it is best if this cultivar is grown in pots. This plant has a very strong mint flavor and is used a lot in culinary dishes and aromatherapy.
The foliage is green and yellow in color. It can make any garden bed very attractive due to its lively colors. The foliage also attracts a lot of honeybees to the garden.
White flowers show up in the summer season, which is the blooming season for this plant. Pruning is occasionally needed for this robust grower to grow into a healthy plant. A point to be noted about this plant is that it self-seeds, and therefore, is very easy to grow. This variety also needs full sun to grow, alongside fertile, well-drained soil.
Aurea Lemon Balm
One thing that sets this variety apart from the others is that it can grow in poor soil. At the time of growing, the plants should be spaced 1 to 2 feet apart so that the roots have enough space to grow. Typically, this plant grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet tall and around 1.5 feet in width.
The flowers are edible and fragrant, and the smell is very long-lasting. This plant can tolerate deer and rabbits. The blooming period of this plant is early summer to late summer. Partial shade to full sun is ideal for the growth of this plant, and its growth is also helped if the soil is mostly sandy or clay.
The USDA hardiness zones for this plant are 3 to 7. The plant is a low-maintenance plant and requires a normal amount of water to thrive. Fertilizers that are water-soluble and temperature-controlled can be used in order to give supplemental nutrients for this plant to grow healthily.
Lemonella Lemon Balm
This variety is the most fragrant of all the variations of lemon balm. The leaves of this plant are used in salads or soups. It has many health benefits and is used in teas to relax the nerves. It is also used to make face washes that work for acne-prone skin. This variety can also be applied topically as an insect repellant.
Lime Lemon Balm
This variety has bright green colored leaves that have a very strong lime scent. It is drought tolerant and relatively very easy to grow. It is a perennial that should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart at cultivation time in order to ensure good air circulation.
Adding to that, full sun or partial shade is ideal for the growth of this plant. The seeds of this variety take around 2 weeks to germinate.
This plant is a very useful plant because of the numerous benefits it offers. Apart from that, its colorful foliage can uplift the look of any garden.