The Dos and Don’ts of Growing Lemon Balm Indoors

published Jun 4, 2019
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Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy

Mint’s cousin, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has a delicious, light citrus flavor. It makes a wonderful addition to many recipes and is a wonderful homeopathic remedy for digestive issues—Greek and Roman texts even reference the herb as the “elixir of life.”

In an outdoor garden environment, lemon balm is sometimes considered a pest because of its invasiveness, but it’s the perfect container plant. Lemon balm can struggle indoors, but with enough attention it should thrive.

Pro tip: Remember, you can always add more water but you can never take it away. With lemon balm, it is best to water with a small quantity more frequently.

The dos of growing lemon balm indoors

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Put your plant in a bright window. When grown indoors, lemon balm needs extremely bright light to thrive.
  • Give it a home with good drainage. All herbs need well-draining soil and a pot with a drainage hole.
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Propagate in water. Take a fresh cutting and pop it in a cup of distilled water. You’ll see roots starting to sprout in two to three weeks.
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Use as a cut flower. If your lemon balm blooms, simply enjoy the pretty sight. (But maybe don’t eat it—see the “don’ts” below!) Try cutting a few blooms and using them in a flower arrangement or in a bud vase.
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Give it a rub. Pass your hand over the leaves and enjoy the delicious scent! You’ll notice that the plant gives off the scent without contact, too.

The don’ts of growing lemon balm indoors

  • Let it bloom. Once the plant “bolts”—or blooms fully—the flavor of the leaves changes drastically, becoming bitter.
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Over-water. Lemon balm recovers quickly from under-watering. Let the top of the soil dry before watering again.
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy
  • Pot in a small container if you want a large plant. Like mint, lemon balm grows quickly to the perimeter of its container.
  • Let it sunburn. Once the leaves are sunburned, they’re done for and will need to be stripped. Turn the plant each time you water to prevent this from happening.
  • Forget to check for bugs and fungus. Lemon balm is especially susceptible to powdery mildew.