Growing Lemon Balm in Pots

Although it's a member of the mint family, lemon balm is uniquely different! As the name suggests, this common garden herb doesn't taste like your average mint. It instead possesses an aroma and flavor of lemons! This extraordinary flavor profile makes lemon balm a perfect candidate for making refreshing teas, or for the flavoring of chicken and fish dishes. Its uses are seemingly endless, but unfortunately you won't find this herb in the supermarket. So, how do you get a hold of fresh lemon balm? Well, you have to grow it yourself! Luckily, it's quite an easy herb to grow, and will do well in a variety of situations. With the container gardener in mind, this guide will focus on growing lemon balm in pots!

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Basics Needed to Grow Lemon Balm - 

  • Part Sun - Like most other mint varieties, lemon balm will do well in partly shaded areas. As long as lemon balm receives a couple hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis, it will continue to grow and produce throughout the season. For patio gardeners with limited sunlight, lemon balm is the perfect herb to grow. 
Growing Lemon Balm. Planted with
snapdragons. 
  • Well Draining Soil - Lemon balm doesn't require an overly fertile soil to grow, but it does need proper drainage. An organic potting soil with plenty of perlite will provide mint roots with enough nutrition and drainage for prolonged growth in a container. If the potting soil is too dense, it may stay overly moist and cause root rot. 
  • Small Container - Unless you're looking to grow an enormous lemon balm plant, there's really no need for large containers. Lemon balm will happily grow in containers as small as a half gallon! By growing in small containers, you'll be able to prune and maintain your plant much easier. 
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Grow Lemon Balm in Containers - 
  • Select a Plant from Your Local Nursery - Sure, you can grow lemon balm from seed, but I don't really see the point. With sporadic germination rates and slow seedling growth, you'll spend a lot of preseason planting time fiddling around with an herb that can be purchased at the nursery for only a couple bucks! When selecting a lemon balm plant from your local garden center, look for a plant that is free of brown spots, thin webbing on the leaves (indicative of spider mites), and excess roots hanging from the bottom of the container. 
By midsummer, only
the lemon balm could
survive in this much
shade. 
  • Take Cuttings to Multiply - For whatever reason, if you wish to grow multiple lemon balm plants, don't buy several plants! Save yourself the money and take cuttings from the one plant you purchased from the nursery. By following this Cutting Guide, you can easily produce many lemon balm plants from one donor.
  • Planting Lemon Balm - Once the threat of frost has passed, it's time to plant outdoors. Fill your container with soil and dig a hole in the center that's large enough to fit the roots of the plant. Remove the lemon balm from the small container it was growing in at the nursery, and begin to gently break apart any large clumps of roots. If any roots look damaged or tangled, trim them off. Plant the lemon balm into the container, cover any exposed roots with soil, and water in well. 
  • Watering - As with most mint plants, lemon balm prefers the soil to be thoroughly moist, but not soggy. I recommend watering deeply every other two days, or once the top two inches of soil becomes dry. You may need to increase the frequency of watering if your lemon balm plants begin to droop or have leaves drying out. 
Although a bit hard to see, the arrow
points to the lemon balm plant. It
was in a very shaded spot most of
the season.
  • Spent Coffee Grounds - Lemon balm will grow the entire season without a need for fertilizers, but an extra little boost here and there surely won't hurt! For this, I like to use spent coffee grounds. By spreading a couple tablespoons around the base of each plant, you'll help to maintain a slightly acidic soil pH, and also feed the plants with a small amount of essential nitrogen. This process can be done two to three times throughout the growing season. 
  • Harvesting - The foliage of lemon balm can be harvested at any point during the season. You can trim off a little at a time, or trim back a large plant to just a few growing shoots. No matter how much is harvested, lemon balm will continue to grow. As essential oils within the leaves degrades rapidly, they should be used or frozen immediately. 
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Long after the summer crops were
cut back, the lemon balm pressed on!
While it may seem like a lot of information to take in, there honestly couldn't be an easier plant to grow! With lemon balm, it's just basically plant, water, and watch it grow. Even gardeners who are unsure of their capabilities will find that they can grow huge lemon balm plants with very little input! Thanks for reading this guide on growing lemon balm in pots. Good luck with your garden, and as always, feel free to leave any questions you may have. 


4 comments:

  1. Do not plant lemon balm! It is extremely invasive and will take over your entire garden. Put a slice of lemon in your tea instead ifyou crave the taste.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do not plant lemon balm! It is extremely invasive and will take over your entire garden. Put a slice of lemon in your tea instead ifyou crave the taste.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lemon balm, like other mints, is best grown in pots so it doesn't take over everything in your garden. I had great success growing it on my porch until some local re-paving kicked some fungus spores into the air, and it developed mint rust; I couldn't grow it in that area again without disease. I miss it. It's great in a lemon honeyed stone fruit and berry salad, and refrigerator tea with the leaves is one of the most refreshing drinks to have in the summer!

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  4. Should lemon balm in a pot be planted with any sort of helper for good drainage like washed sand or stones mixed in with the potting soil? I currently have a layer of rocks at the bottom of my pot but was told I may want to re-pot with something like gravel or washed sand throughout instead. Also, is any mulch needed at the top of the pot?

    ReplyDelete