One of my favorite aromatic herbs is the lemon balm. It has a mild lemon and minty scent, ideal for flavoring salad, seasoning for fish dishes, for brewing tea or other medicinal purposes. Because of its scent, it is widely known to repel some bugs, like mosquitoes. With proper care, this herb thrives remarkably well in our humid tropical climate here in the Philippines.
Growing Lemon Balm in Pots
Lemon balm grows well in a sunny or partly shady environment. It will benefit a lot from full sun, but too much of the sun’s rays could scorch its leaves. Partial shade is advisable during the height of summer, especially in the afternoon. It is necessary to keep its soil consistently moist, as it has the tendency to wilt easily from heat and drought.
Lemon balm can also be grown from seeds, although from experience, I’ve had a much higher success rate from propagating this herb through cuttings. I had initially bought a healthy seedling from a local garden shop, and transferred it to a medium sized pot (8-inch diameter). Like any typical herb, lemon balm needs a rich, well-drained soil to allow the roots to grow and spread properly. Add organic compost mixed into the soil as fertilizer every couple of weeks. When grown in pots, lemon balm usually grows up to 24 inches.
While it is part of the mint family, it is not as invasive as the typical mint herb. This means that its roots does not spread out too much like mint that tends to take over other plants in the area. However, it can become very bushy, taking up more space in the garden. So regular pruning of the top leaves is needed, also to allow it to develop healthier roots and stems.
Uses of Lemon Balm
I have used lemon balm occasionally as an infusion for my cold drinks (instead of lemon slices) and also as a mosquito-repellant outdoors . It has been known for other medicinal uses, like treatment of colic and upset stomach, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. I found this interesting website by The Nerdy Farm Wife who has compiled 12 ingenious ways to use this lovely smelling herb at home.
Happy gardening everyone!