Lemon mint: planting, hardiness & usage


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

Lemon mint is quite simple to grow in the garden. When this herb is happy, it produces plenty of leaves with a plethora of uses, such as lemon mint teas or flavouring desserts.

Close up of lemon mint leaves.
The leaves of Mentha x gentilis var. citrata are very delicate with a pleasant lemon scent [Photo: DSGNSR1/ Shutterstock.com]

Among the huge number of mint varieties, there are not only those with the classic, intense menthol flavour. Alongside strawberry mint (Mentha species) or apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), lemon mint (Mentha x gentilis var. citrata) is another mint variety with a fruity-fresh aroma. It can be grown in the garden and in pots in a similar way as other types of mint. We answer the questions of whether the lemon mint herb is frost tolerant, what to consider when planting lemon mint, and many more in the following article.

Lemon mint: origin and characteristics

There are about 30 species in the mint genus. Numerous mint hybrids have also been created through mostly natural crossbreeding. One of these is the peppermint (Mentha x piperita). New varieties regularly appear on the market as a result of breeding. Therefore, there is not just one lemon mint. Rather, there are different varieties and crosses whose scents and tastes are reminiscent of lemon. One of the most common is Mentha x gentilis var. citrata, a variety of ginger mint (Mentha x gentilis Syn. Mentha x gracilis). There is also a variety of peppermint that is traded as lemon mint. This is Mentha x piperita var. citrate, which is known as Eau de Cologne mint.

Tip: Ginger mint, which is also called noble mint, is a type of mint that probably resulted from a natural cross between field mint (Mentha arvensis) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The ginger flavour of the leaves is rather subtle and their menthol content is relatively low. Mentha x gentilis var. variegata is a form of ginger mint with yellow variegated leaves.

Like all mints, lemon mint (Mentha gentilis var. citrate) is a deciduous perennial. Every year it develops new reddish shoots 40 to 50 cm high. Compared to other mints, these have very delicate and fine leaves that exude a pleasant lemon fragrance. Mentha x gentilis var. citrata flowers from July to September. Lemon mint’s bright purple flowers then attract numerous insects. Like other mint species, lemon mint forms runners and thus spreads further and further in the bed. However, its spreading instinct is not as pronounced as that of some other mint species.

What is the difference between lemon mint and lemon balm? Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and lemon mint both belong to the labiates (Lamiaceae) plant family, but within it they belong to different genera – the mints and the balms (Melissa). At first glance, the plants look similar, as both are herbaceous perennials. Since both belong to the labiate family, even the flowers are similar. You can tell the plants apart by their leaves, however. While the leaves of lemon mint are rather smooth, the leaves of lemon balm have a coarser, blistered structure. In contrast to lemon mint, lemon balm is somewhat more drought-tolerant. There are also differences in terms of the constituents; lemon balm does not contain menthol, for example. Therefore, its lemon aroma is usually a little more intense.

Planting lemon mint: how and where to do it

Like all mints, lemon mint herb prefers a warm, sunny location, although full midday sun should be avoided. Even in partial shade, lemon mint usually thrives without problems.

It is best to plant lemon mint in a loose, hummus and nutrient-rich soil with a neutral pH value. In the garden, you can improve heavy, clay soil by working some of our Plantura Rasensand and Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost into the subsoil before planting the lemon mint. This reduces the risk of waterlogging, which lemon mint does not tolerate. Soils that are too sandy and dry out quickly can also be improved by working in our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost so that the soil can better retain water and nutrients.

Tip: In the herb garden, lemon mint can be grown well with chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) or coriander (Coriandrum sativum). Note, however, that lemon mint may well crowd out the plants in its vicinity thanks to its runners. This can be prevented by using a root barrier that reaches about 50 cm into the soil.

The best time to plant lemon mint herb is in spring, around mid-March. After finding a suitable location and preparing the soil, you can start planting the lemon mint. To do this, dig small planting holes at a distance of about 40 cm and place the young plants in them. Then water the lemon mint plants well.

Planting lemon mint at a glance

  • Ideal time: In spring, from about mid-March.
  • Location: Sunny to semi-shady; loose, nutrient-rich and moist soil.
  • Planting distance: 40 cm.
  • Water well after planting.

It is also possible to plant lemon mint in a pot. Here it cannot spread unintentionally throughout the garden with its runners. Use a wide planter with a capacity of at least 5 litres and fill it with a drainage layer at the bottom. This can consist of pebbles or expanded clay and should be about 5 cm high. Use a high-quality, preferably peat-free planting substrate on top. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, for example, is not only completely peat-free, it also consists of 100 % natural raw materials and is sustainably produced in Germany.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
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Tip: If you have purchased or harvested lemon mint seeds, a pre-cultivation in spring is a good idea. Sow these light-germinating seeds to a maximum depth of 0.5 cm in pots with a diameter of 8 to 10 cm, which are filled with a moistened growing medium. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seeding Compost, which is also peat-free and made from natural raw materials, is well suited for this. At 18 °C and slightly moist soil throughout, the lemon mint seeds usually germinate within 2 weeks. Continue cultivating the young plants in a bright place until they have reached a size of about 7 to 10 cm. A little fertiliser at this stage will encourage vigorous growth. Then they can be transplanted to their final location.

Lemon mint care

During the growing season, the soil around the lemon mint should always be slightly moist. In summer, it is therefore often necessary to water the plants in the garden regularly. Regular watering is even more important for lemon mint in pots, because the substrate dries out much faster there. Especially in the first year after planting, lemon mint is still dependent on frequent watering, as its root system is not yet fully developed.

Tip: One way to save water in the garden is to spread mulch around the lemon mint plants. Lawn clippings are best suited for this, as they provide nutrients at the same time.

Likewise, do not neglect fertiliser when it comes to the lemon mint herb. The plants will thank you with lush growth and a rich harvest. It is recommended to work a slow-release fertiliser into the soil around the plants at the beginning of the growing season in spring. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is well suited for this. It works over a period of at least 3 months and consists largely of organic components, which also promotes humus build-up and has a positive effect on soil structure and water retention capacity. Similar results can be achieved with good, mature compost. After about 3 months, the fertilisation may be repeated in summer.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
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Caring for lemon mint also includes regular pruning. This prevents the plant from spreading too much and at the same time helps the harvest. Just like when pruning mint in general, you should make sure to cut off not only upright shoots but also runners that run along the ground. As lemon mint is very tolerant of pruning, it can be harvested and cut practically all year round. However, the lemon aroma is most intense in the period leading up to flowering and then diminishes noticeably. In spring, shortly before new shoots appear, brown, dead shoots can be removed completely.

Lemon mint forms a dense root system. Plants in pots should therefore be repotted after 3 years at the latest. Spring is also a good time for doing this. Make sure that the new planter is at least 5 cm larger in diameter than the old one.

You can find more tips on caring for lemon mint as well as information on possible diseases and pests in our article on caring for mint.

Care at a glance

  • Water regularly so that the soil is never completely dry.
  • Apply a slow-release fertiliser twice a year, in spring and summer.
  • Vigorous pruning curbs growth and provides a rich harvest.
  • Plants in pots should be repotted after 3 years at the latest.

Is lemon mint frost tolerant?

Mentha x gentilis var. citrata tolerates temperatures down to – 22 °C and Eau de Cologne mint (Mentha x piperita var. citrate) even down to – 28 °C. Both lemon mints are therefore very hardy and usually survive the winter in the garden without any problems. The green shoots die back in autumn, but in the following spring the lemon mint perennials sprout again from the rootstock.

Take care when overwintering lemon mint in a pot, as the roots of the lemon mint are less well protected than in the garden soil. It is therefore a good idea to pack the pot in a jute bag, for example.

Lemon mint use and effect

Lemon mint contains menthol compounds, although much less than peppermint. Therefore, it is the fresh, lemony flavour rather than the minty taste that is in the foreground. You can make a lemon mint tea from its fresh or dried leaves. In addition, lemon mint can be used in recipes in a variety of ways. It can be used to enhance desserts and sweet dishes, but can also be used in cocktails, lemonades and savoury dishes.

Due to the lower menthol content, the effect of lemon mint is less pronounced. Therefore, it does not have the undesirable side effects that can occur when peppermint is taken too frequently. So if you are looking for a mint for daily consumption, lemon mint is the right choice.

If you don’t want to miss out on the aroma of lemon mint in the winter months, read about the different methods of preserving the leaves in our article on drying and freezing mint.

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