Is Lemon Balm A Hardy Perennial?

Is Lemon Balm A Hardy Perennial?

The undemanding culinary herb can be cultivated in the bed, in a pot on the balcony or terrace, as well as an indoor plant. However, the wintering of lemon balm, which is hardy in itself, depends on the form of cultivation.

  • Lemon balm in the garden bed is hardy.
  • In container culture, protection from cold and frost is necessary
  • For indoor plants are not necessary to take special precautions

Lemon balm


Lemon balm, also called lemon balm for short, is the best known species of the genus Melissa (lemon balm). Botanically, the genus belongs to the labiates family (Lamiaceae). The home of Melissa officinalis, which is the scientific name of the plant, is Western Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. In Central Europe, it can be found running wild in forest clearings and forest roads. The culinary herb is perennial and can live up to 30 years. In agriculture it is grown in two- to three-year crops.

Wintering lemon balm


Depending on whether you planted lemon balm in a garden bed or in a container, you will need to consider different factors and instructions for overwintering.

Garden bed


Due to their good frost hardiness, lemon balm planted in the bed do not need winter protection. This is because the rhizome, which is the underground storage organ of Melissa officinalis, is hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as minus 34.5 degrees Celsius. Withered shoots are cut off near the ground in the fall, as they have no function for overwintering. Alternatively, you can cut the brown parts of the plant in early spring.

Winter care in the bed


Bare frost is the biggest enemy of Melissa officinalis during the cold season. The characteristics of this weather are:

  • low temperatures,
  • little snow and
  • a lot of sunshine.


This weather condition leads to the fact that the plants suffer from lack of water. Therefore, you should water the planted kitchen herb on frost-free days. But be careful, too much water can cause rotting roots and rhizome.

Pot cultivation


Unlike outdoors, kitchen herb in a container needs winter protection, as cold and frost can penetrate through the planter to the rhizome. Whether you winter the plants indoors or outdoors depends on conditions. In any case, you should cut off the wilted parts of the plant close to the ground before overwintering lemon balm.

Overwintering outdoors


If the culinary herb is to remain on the balcony or terrace during the winter, you should be able to offer it a sunny location. Ideally, the pot should be placed against the south wall of the house. Other mandatory measures against frost and cold are:

  • Wrap the planter with thick fleece or bubble wrap.
  • Place the pot on a thick wooden or polystyrene board (against the cold “from below”)
  • Cover substrate with brushwood, leaves, straw or sawdust (against the cold “from above”)


The winter protection is removed when no more severe (night) frosts are expected. If unexpected frost occurs, you can also bring the plants indoors overnight.

Wintering in the winter quarters


If the plants are to spend the cold season indoors, they need a frost-free but cool winter quarters. Heated living spaces are too warm. The question of whether the location should be light or dark is answered differently. For a dark location speaks that you can avoid sprouting of the kitchen herb during the cold season. Should the lemon balm nevertheless sprout, these shoots are cut off close to the ground in early spring.
The labiatae should not be allowed outdoors until frost is no longer expected. If it is overwintered in the dark, you can move it to a brighter location in March/April so that the culinary herb can get used to the sun.

Winter care in container culture


If lemon balm moves to winter quarters, it will also need water during the winter. Therefore, you should water it from time to time with a little water. If it is planted on a balcony or terrace during the winter, you should provide it with a little water, especially in the event of a bare frost.

Lemon balm as a houseplant


If lemon balm is kept as a houseplant, you do not need to take special precautions for wintering. However, you should adapt the care measures to the autumn or winter light conditions:

  • Fertilize every six to eight weeks
  • Increase the interval between watering step by step.
  • When spring comes, reduce the interval between watering again. Fertilize every fourteen days starting in April.

Frequently asked questions

Does my dwarf balm need winter protection?

The plants do not need winter protection if they are planted out in the bed. In container culture, they need to be protected from frost and cold.

My lemon balm is in the kitchen. Do I have to move it in winter?

No, the plant can stay in the kitchen. Since it is kept as a “houseplant”, it can be cultivated throughout. However, you should reduce the care measures.

Can I divide lemon balm before wintering?

Yes, this procedure is even recommended, in addition to propagation with cuttings.

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