Melissa officinalis or Lemon Balm is an upright perennial herb native to Southern Europe and North Africa. Opposite leaves will reach 1-3 inches (2.5-7.5 cm) long and are broadly ovate with a lemon scent when they are brushed against. The plant will reach 2 feet (60 cm) tall with an equal spread. Plants have been used medicinally and for culinary uses since early times. They have also been used to treat everything from scorpion bites to heart ailments. It is very easy to grow these plant in containers. Plants are hardy in the landscape in USDA zones 4-8.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, plants will bloom from June through September. The tubular, two-lipped white flowers are up to ˝ inch (1.3 cm) long.
Culture: Melissa officinalis do best in full sun, but will survive in shade situations. The plants like a moist, well drained soil. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or perlite. The pH of the soil should be around 7.0. Plants are well watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. We fertilize them monthly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. During winter months in the greenhouse, water is somewhat restricted but the plants are never allowed to dry out thoroughly. If used in the landscape, plants will die back to ground level.
Propagation: Melissa officinalis is propagated from cuttings, division in spring or from seeds. Seeds should be surface sown for best results and will germinate in 7-14 days at 70°F (21°C).
Melissa officinalis was featured as Plant of the Week April 20-26, 2007.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.