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Is Lemon Balm Invasive? (Explained)

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Having a variety of plants alongside lemon balm in your garden is great. Not only do they make your garden beautiful, but they also ensure that you’re not just mono-cropping.

Nevertheless, beyond lemon balm’s alluring scent, you may be looking ahead to the potential effects it can have on your other crops. Therefore, you may have been wondering if the lemon balm is invasive.

 So, is lemon balm invasive? Lemon balm is an invasive herbal plant. That is, it can spread to other parts of a garden or farm quickly. But, this invasive characteristic of the lemon balm is because of its seeds. So, it’s not just the swift sprouting nature of the lemon balm’s roots that causes its invasiveness.

Is Lemon Balm Aggressive?

Yes, because of its mint nature, lemon balm grows aggressively fast. Furthermore, because the seeds are quickly scattered about and grow faster, they tend to take over the garden easily.

Lemon balm’s seeds take about six to 14 days to germinate after you plant them or when in contact with soil.

Also, lemon balms are not soil-selective, so they multiply on any soil, thus their aggressive growth. In addition, they are not dependent on much sunlight for growth; therefore, whether or not the sun is high, they still grow.

Whether you grow them in a pot or directly on the ground outdoors, germination and growth begin once the lemon balm seeds are in contact with soil.

Moreso, lemon balm’s roots can go deep into the soil in search of water. So, even when you don’t water the soil you planted your lemon balm in, it will still grow.

Furthermore, even though lemon balm seems like a succulent plant, it can adapt to drought-like situations quickly and conserve water. So, these natural survival capabilities make it quite an aggressive plant.

Nevertheless, when you compare lemon balm’s aggressiveness with that of some other plants like myrtle and sage, whose drought resistance is top tier, it may look like child’s play. Still, it is pretty impressive in regards to a typical everyday herb.

Is Lemon Balm A Good Ground Cover?

Most varieties of lemon balm can spread around your garden and cover the ground quickly.

This is very beneficial in some cases, as good ground cover helps to retain soil moisture. However, to fully maximize this ability of lemon balm, it would be best to plant it with plants that require good soil cover.

Some of these plants include carrots, onions, tomatoes, kale, kohlrabi, etc. One more advantage of this feature is that you can have your garden free of small weeds without having to do much work to keep it clean.

However, lemon balm’s problems in your garden start when it becomes a weed itself. Sadly, lemon balm’s incredible ground covering ability does come with some disadvantages.

When there are too many stands of lemon balm in a particular area, they will compete for nutrients and space. In its unconscious spread, lemon balm will end up reducing the yield of your crops.

So, knowing the adverse effects of uncontrolled lemon balm stands in your garden, you must be wondering how to prevent them.

How Do You Keep Lemon Balm from Spreading?

With lemon balm being a herbal perennial that grows at any chance it gets, it can be pretty challenging to control it from spreading. However, it is not impossible to have control over its growth in your garden.

To effectively manage the spread of lemon balm, it would be best to tackle the things that propagate it. So, some ways of preventing lemon balm from spreading include:

1. Pruning and trimming off the stalks that form flowers. The lemon balm’s flowers are what form its seeds. So, to stop it from spreading wildly, it would be best to cut off flower buds and stalks. You should do this process before the flowers bloom enough to have seeds.

2. Cutting out the stems to promote further growth. When you keep trimming the stems of your lemon balms, instead of continuing to bloom and form flowers, they will try to replenish the cut stems.

And before blooms begin to form, this trimming will even create room for more leaves to develop.

3. You can also cut down the lemon balm to half of its length so it starts growing from the new height. Thus, it will take a longer time for its flowers to bloom and form seeds.

The more often you cut down the lemon balm, the less the chances are of having blooms that will form flowers. This means that fewer seeds will be developed and effectively reduce the spread of the lemon balm stands.

4. To prevent spreading from the roots, it would be best to plant your lemon balm in a container with a solid bottom. Doing this will help keep the roots in place because there will be no attachment and further growth.

Nevertheless, this procedure is only necessary when you plant your lemon balm in a container, not when directly planted in the ground.

5. When seeds are already spread on the ground, and you don’t want more lemon balm plants, it would be best to apply mulch. You can use mulch by laying it on areas where you do not want new stands of lemon balm to grow.

What mulch does is that it serves as a barrier between the soil and sunlight and prevents photosynthesis — the formation of energy from sunlight.

Although most seeds can develop without sunlight, the seedlings they grow into can not. So, immediately the seeds of the lemon balm form seedlings; they will not be able to survive in the dark.

I’d recommend you apply a non-organic mulch as it is much better because only a small quantity will help you achieve what you want.

Although you could use organic mulch, you’ll need to apply relatively larger quantities to increase the thickness of the mulch layer on the soil.

The thickness should be at least three to four inches.

6. You should apply clove oil to the unwanted stands of lemon balm. Clove oil is widely known to control broadleaf and invasive plants.

It uses certain chemical substances it contains to impair the growth of weeds. So, using organic herbicide containing clove oil will help prevent new stands of lemon balm and kill the already growing unwanted ones.

Conclusion

Although lemon balm is a beautiful plant that offers several benefits, it can pose a problem when you leave it untended.

In addition, because lemon balm is invasive, you will have to ensure you appropriately eliminate its wild-spreading stands.

And this can be a problem if you lack the knowledge to go about it. Luckily, in this article, I have written on how you can effectively contain the spread of lemon balm in your garden.

If you apply the methods I have given — trimming, potting, mulching, bud removal, and using clove oil —  wild stands of lemon balm won’t threaten your other crops.

References

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