Growing Lemon Balm Herb Plants in Northeast Florida Gardens
Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis For Northeast Florida Origins:
Lemon Balm is native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. It may be found growing under many different names, bee balm (not to be confused with Bee Balm – Monarda) lime balm, or even liquor balm. The plant’s genus name ‘Melissa’ is Greek for “Honey bee” being named for lemon balm’s attractive qualities to bees when in bloom during the summer months.
Lemon Balm is an easy care perennial herb for the Northeast Florida garden. A close relative to the mint family, lemon balm is cultivated for their highly aromatic foliage. The flavor is strongly lemon, with just a hint of minty undertones. Used fresh or dried to flavor many European liqueurs, and to add a distinct lemon flavor to meat and vegetable dishes. Lemon balm is often added to drinks similarly to mint to add a fresh lemon flavor to teas or fruit punches and mixed alcohol drinks. Medicinally, fresh lemon balm leaves can be used to make a tea to help with nausea, aid relaxation, and as an antidepressant to aid in a feeling of wellbeing.
Growing Season for Lemon Balm Herb Plants in Northeast Florida:
Lemon Balm is a perennial plant selection for our mild winter climates here in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area gardens.
Sun Exposure for Lemon Balm / Melissa officinalis in Northeast Florida:
Plant Lemon Balm in a part shade / part sun exposure, or in full sun locations in our Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida area landscapes.
Soil Preference for Lemon Balm / Melissa officinalis:
Plant lemon balm in well composted soils that are moist but not soggy or wet.
Amend your planting site generously with compost when installing your new lemon balm plants. Add fresh compost each year, under the plant’s foliage, in the early spring.
Water and Fertilizer Requirements of Lemon Balm Herb Plants:
Newly planted seeds will require watering every day until the set of mature leaves emerges, then taper back to three times a week, then twice a week for in-ground plants and three to four times a week for plants in a potted containers.
In general herbs require little in the way of fertilizer. To much fertilizer with herbs can be worse than not enough. Over fertiliztion can lead to lush green growth with a reduced quantity of volatile oils in the leaves. Reduced oils, means reduced flavor and aroma in your herbs.
However, in Florida’s sandy soils you may find your plants in some need of som help, particularly if compost wasnt added to the soil when planting. Try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed at one ounce of each per gallon of water. Put into a sprayer and water every other week or as needed with the mixed solution.
If you find your plant struggling at any point, make up a batch of compost tea and water generously. Repeat as needed weekly or biweekly.
Size of Lemon Balm When Mature:
Lemon Balm plants will grow to 12-18 inches high and wide.
Sowing Lemon Balm Seeds into Northeast Florida Soils:
Sow lemon balm seeds shallow into the top of the soil, barely covering them with soil as they require light to germinate. Seeds will sprout in 12-20 days.
Lemon balm self sows readily, remove spent flowers in summer if not allowing the plants to naturalize an area.
Harvesting Your Lemon Balm / Melissa officinalis in the Northeast Florida Landscape:
Lemon Balm can be harvested fresh any time of the year here in our Jacksonville and St. Augustine area gardens. Simply trim back foliage to as much as half of the plant’s height as needed.
Blooms and Seeds of Lemon Balm for Northeast Florida Landscape:
Blooms of Lemon Balm plants are small and creamy yellow. Born on the plants during the summer season, they are not very showy and quite inconspicuous to humans but attractive to bees.
Seeds are very small and germinate readily when plants are left to seed at the end of summer, and they can be dug and transplanted into the garden where you would like more plants.