What is Lemon Mint?
Lemon mint, or Monarda citriodora, is an annual plant that is native to both the midwestern and southern areas of the United States. It is also referred to as purple horsemint or lemon bee balm, and, not surprisingly, it belongs to the mint family. Its fragrant flowers are purple, and tend to bloom during the spring and summer. Parts of this plant can be placed into herbal teas and added to salads. The leaves are known for having a sweet smell that is reminiscent of citrus.
This plant tends to grow anywhere from one foot (0.30 m) to three feet (0.91 m) tall, and should be spaced out about two feet (0.61 m) from each other when planted next to other lemon mint plants. It requires either partial or full sunlight, and though it may tolerate dry conditions temporarily, it does best in soil that constantly stays moist. The soil should also be either neutral, or only slightly acidic or alkaline. Lemon mint tends to do best in states that get plenty of sun and that have a lot of clay in the soil. It may be seen most often growing in prairies and along the side of the road.
The flower on the lemon mint is typically either dark pink or light purple, and emits a sweet aroma that attracts bees, butterflies, and birds alike. The stems tend to be square, and are covered with long spirals of petals on each one. The flower blooms in late spring or early summer, but if taken care of and watered regularly, it can thrive through early fall. The lemon mint plant is known for being quite easy to grow, and being able to spread quickly if allowed, often creating a lush field of purple blooms.
There are other uses for lemon mint besides attracting visitors, such as hummingbirds and butterflies, to gardens. When crushed, the leaves emit a citrus-like scent, which many people find pleasant to smell. The attractive purple flowers and agreeable scent also make this plant perfect for cutting and adding to a bouquet of flowers. Additionally, the leaves can be useful in making an insect repellant for unwanted visitors, and are also often used to make herbal tea or even a tasty addition to a salad when crushed. It should be known, however, that despite the citrus smell of lemon mint, it tends to taste more like oregano than fruit.
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