Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. Its foliage gives off a delicate lemony scent making it a delightful addition to walkways or near seating areas where you can enjoy the fragrance in the breeze. It grows to heights of 2 to 3 feet with an equal spread. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about lemon balm’s meaning and symbolism, its history and origins, uses and benefits, and essential tips for growing lemon balm at home.
- Lemon Balm Meaning & Symbolism
- About Lemon Balm
- Uses and Benefits of Lemon Balm
- Lemon Balm Meaning & Symbolism
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lemon Balm
- How to Grow and Care for Lemon Balm Plants at Home
- Lemon Balm Plant FAQ
Lemon Balm Meaning & Symbolism
The lemon balm plant holds the symbolic meaning of virtue, sympathy and compassion. It also has meanings associated with healthy boundaries in relationships, friendship, healing and love. Ancient Greeks revered lemon balm as they thought it had a special relationship with bees. It was thought that planting lemon balm near a hive would prevent the bees from straying.
About Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Lemon balm is a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family and the genus Melisssa.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances, Toxicity?
Lemon balm produces medium to large leaves that are often wrinkled or crinkly in shades of medium to light green. New growth often appears yellow green, but the color deepens as the foliage matures. Stems are square like other mints. Lemon balm does bloom, but the blooms are small and nondescript. Nearly all varieties are lemon scented.
Popular Lemon Balm Types, Species, and Cultivars
Citronella Lemon Balm
This variety is deeply fragranced and is probably the plant you think of when you hear the name lemon balm. It grows to heights of 10 to 12 inches and has intense flavor and fragrance.
Variegated lemon Balm
Variegated lemon balm sports foliage that is yellow/green along the edges with deeper green veins. It grows to heights of 5 to 7 inches, making it ideal for containers or the front of the herb or flowerbed. Variegated lemon balm has a distinct minty flavor.
Aurea Lemon Balm
This variety has distinct wrinkled leaves in shades of green and yellow. It is similar to variegated lemon balm, but the colors are brighter and the plant grows to heights of 2 to 4 feet with a spread of 18 inches. Aurea lemon balm is tolerant of poor soil and can be grown in full sun or partial shade.
Lime Lemon Balm
This variety sports lightly textured foliage in bright medium green. It emits a distinct lime fragrance with the flavor to match. Lime lemon balm grows to heights of 18 to 24 inches and can be grown in either full sun or partial shade. To add a little variety to your lemon balm, try growing lime lemon balm with one of the lemony flavored varieties.
Not surprisingly the genus name ‘melissa’ is derived from the Greek word ‘melitta’ meaning honeybee while the term ‘balm’ comes from the Greek word ‘balsamon’ meaning sweet smelling oil or resin.
What regions are Lemon Balm native to?
Lemon balm originated in North Africa and the Middle East and spread to Southern Europe.
When Is Lemon Balm in Season?
Lemon balm produces highly fragranced and flavored foliage from spring until fall. While it does bloom in midsummer, if you are growing lemon balm for flavoring you will want to remove the blooms. Blooming reduces the amount of oils in lemon balm as the plant works hard to produce the blooms. If, however, your desire is to attract bees and butterflies to the garden, letting your lemon balm bloom will do the trick.
Uses and Benefits of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has enjoyed a rich history as a herbal remedy for a wide variety of ailments.
- The Ancient Greeks used lemon balm to heal both snake and dog bites, as well as an ingredient in wine to soothe and calm patients.
- The Ancient Arabs used lemon balm to treat heart problems.
- During the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to relieve headaches and toothaches, treat morning sickness, and even prevent baldness.
- It has also been used historically to treat flatulence, fevers and to regulate menstrual cycles. Lemon balm has been used in surgical dressings to kill germs.
- The Lemon balm plant is currently used as an astringent to cleanse pores, kill bacteria and viruses, treating cold sores, combating dementia, and even treat hyperthyroidism and regulate moods.
- In addition, lemon balm is commonly used as a flavoring in tea and as a seasoning for fruit salad and fish.
Lemon Balm Meaning & Symbolism
The lemon balm plant produces tiny white or purple flowers that attract honeybees and other flying insects. While they can be added to floral displays along with the foliage as a filler, they are not typically used as a cut flower.
The lemon balm plant symbolizes virtue, sympathy and compassion. It can also represent healthy boundaries in relationships, friendship, healing and love.
Spiritual Meanings and Associations of Lemon Balm
- Lemon balm is thought to encourage love and can be carried on the person, used as incense or potpourri or even infused in wine to enhance its magical powers of bringing love into your life.
- Drinking lemon balm tea while meditating is thought to stimulate trust and patience.
- Lemon balm is also considered a protective herb and can be grown on the windowsill or hung in the home to ward off negative energy and influences. In ancient times, lemon balm plants were grown by the door to ward off evil and promote happiness in the home.
- The lemon balm plant is ideal for adding to fairy gardens as garden fairies love lemon balm.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lemon Balm
A lemon balm plant is a wonderful gift for a housewarming as the new homeowner can plant it in the garden to enjoy its beauty and host of benefits to the home. Symbolically, it wishes the new homeowner a happy and productive life in the new home.
It is also suitable as a hostess gift, especially if the host enjoys gardening or relishes learning about new herbal uses and remedies.Consider lemon balm for birthdays, Mother’s Day and other personal celebrations if the recipient is likely to enjoy a living gift.
How to Grow and Care for Lemon Balm Plants at Home
Lemon Balm Light Requirements
Lemon balm prefers a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day but will grow in partial sun. Growing lemon balm in partial sun will result in deeper green foliage and a more compact plant.
Soil Considerations or Lemon Balm Plants
Lemon balm prefers well-draining soil with a pH between 6.7 to 7.3 but will grow in nearly any soil that drains well. Soil that remains soggy or wet for long periods will cause the roots of lemon balm to rot.
When and How to Water Lemon Balm Plants
Lemon balm prefers one to two inches of rainfall a week. If your location does not receive this amount of natural rainfall, supplemental watering may be needed during hot, dry spells. Water deeply to saturate the soil to the root level. Water again when the soil feels dry 1 inch below the surface, or you observe signs of wilting or slowed growth.
Feeding and Fertilizing Lemon Balm Plants
Lemon balm does not require supplemental fertilizer as too much fertilizer can diminish the fragrance and flavor of lemon balm.
Common Lemon Balm Problems, Pests & Diseases and Treatments
Lemon balm does not suffer from pest problems, but it can succumb to powdery mildew. To avoid this, allow plenty of space between plants and avoid watering them late in the evening as the wet foliage can promote powdery mildew.
Lemon balm is an enchanting addition to the flower or herb garden as it attracts honeybees and butterflies to the yard. Its fresh scent and textured leaves are uplifting and invigorating.However, lemon balm can be invasive in the garden. If you are concerned about your lemon balm taking over the bed, plant it in containers.
Lemon Balm Plant FAQ
What is lemon balm plant used for?
Lemon balm has a long legacy of being used as a herbal remedy for numerous ailments such as headaches, insect bites, and insomnia.
Is lemon balm plant edible?
Yes, lemon balm is an edible herb in the mint family and is a popular addition to tea infusions as well as in many culinary dishes.
Is Lemon balm poisonous to dogs?
Lemon balm is non-toxic to dogs and other animals.
Does lemon balm attract bees?
Lemon balm plants are very attractive to honeybees and bumblebees drawn by the heady fragrance the flowers produce during the summer months.
What does lemon balm symbolize?
The lemon balm plant holds the symbolic meaning of virtue, sympathy and compassion. It also has meanings associated with healthy boundaries in relationships, friendship, healing and love.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
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