Growing Guide
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Lemon Balm

Herbaceous Perennial Flower, Herb

Also known as Common balm, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm, Bee's Leaf, Honey Plant, Apiatrum
Melissa officinalis
Lamiaceae Family

A vigorous and attractive lemon-scented perennial herb that tolerates poor, droughty soils. Spreads aggressively by rhizomes and self-seeding, but makes an attractive filler and background, especially variegated varieties.

Site Characteristics
  • full sun
  • part shade

Soil conditions:

  • tolerates droughty soil
  • requires well-drained soil
  • tolerates low fertility
Drought-tolerant once established. Prefers pH of 4.5 to 7.6.

Hardiness zones:

  • 3 to 7

Special locations:

  • outdoor containers
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: perennial

Ease-of-care: easy

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Can spread indefinitely by rhizomes.

Bloom time:

  • early summer
  • mid-summer
  • late summer
  • early fall

Flower color:

  • yellow
  • white
  • inconspicuous

Flowers are creamy white to pale yellow.

Foliage color:

  • medium green
  • variegated light green yellow

Foliage is deeper green when grown in shade. 'Aurea' ('Variegata') has variegated leaves.

Foliage texture: medium

Dense foliage borders on coarse-textured.


  • cushion, mound or clump
  • round

Forms broad clumps by spreading rhizomes.

Shape in flower: same as above

Flowers borne in whorls in the axils of terminal leaves.

Special Considerations
Special characteristics:
  • deer resistant
  • aggressive - Self-sows readily and spreads by rhizomes. Deadhead to prevent self-sowing.
  • non-invasive
  • not native to North America - Native to Middle East but naturalized widely in Europe and U.S.
  • fragrant - Whole plant is lemon-scented.
  • beneficial insects - Bees.
Special uses:
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed, cuttings, layering, division or separation - Seeds self sow, but they can be planted in a cold frame in the spring or autumn, where germination may be slow. Seedlings should be individually potted and held until planting out the next spring.

Vegetative propagation is done by root division or layering or by stem cuttings.   

Division is easy in spring or summer when divisions can be planted into permanent positions. It is best to pot smaller divisions and hold them in a cold frame until the next spring before planting out.

Stem cuttings taken in July or August root well even in water, and can be planted out in a sunny location in moist soil when well rooted.

Maintenance and care:
Cutting plants back after flowering will produce a fresh flush of attractive growth. Remove flowers to prevent aggressive self-seeding.

Plants will not tolerate high humidity and need good drainage, especially overwinter.

Plants are more compact and have darker green foliage when grown in partial shade.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials

'Aurea' ('Variegated') has yellow variegation on new spring growth, which fades when plants flower. After flowering, cut plants back to encourage new variegated shoots.

'Lime' ('Lime Balm') grows 3 feet tall but has a distinctive lime aroma. It is thought to not be a distinct variety from the species.

'All Gold' has richly scented, pubescent leaves that keep their bright yellow coloration throughout the season. Foliage color is best in partial shade. Grows 1.5 feet tall with a spread of 1.5 feet.