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Lemon Balm


Melissa officinalis


(me-LISS-ah o-fis-ah-NALE-lis)




FAMILY: Labiatae


TYPE: Perennial


LOCATION: Sun - but likes partial shade best. Best location is morning sun and afternoon shade.


PLANTING: Start seed indoors in the winter. Set out transplants in the spring. Divisions and cuttings can be done anytime during the growing season.


HEIGHT: 20 to 24 inches


SPREAD: 24 to 48 inches


FINAL SPACING: 18 to 24 inches


BLOOM/FRUIT: Small white flowers clustered up the stem in summer.


GROWTH HABITS/CULTURE: Bushy, spreading herb with heart-shaped mint-like lemon scented leaves with scalloped edges. Likes loose, well-draining soil, and little fertilizer. Use occasional light feedings of compost. Over fertilization produces large leaves with little fragrance. Cut back often to maintain thick, compact plants.


PROBLEMS: Spider mites during hot and humid summers. Don't overwater and spray with the fire ant control formula or Garrett Juice plus orange oil. Some worm and pill bug and aphid infestations can be controlled the same way. If you let it go to seed it will be everywhere.


HARVEST/STORAGE: Harvest the foliage anytime and use fresh if possible. Can be dried or frozen but not as effective at holding the scent or flavor.


CULINARY USES: Good tea plant. Odena’s tri-lemon tea includes lemongrass, balm and lemon verbena. They like to be boiled awhile. Good to flavor deserts. Lemon balm produces high quality honey. Use it for oils, vinegars and liqueurs.


MEDICINAL USES: Lemon balm has been used for anxiety, allergies, insomnia, nervousness, itching and shingles. Good for respiratory problems, has lots of vitamin C and is an antidepressant. One of the longevity herbs. Good for digestion and soothes nausea and headaches. Take as a tea.


LANDSCAPE USES: Attractive in shady areas of landscape, but be careful - it will spread badly. Good honey plant.


INSIGHT: The name "Melissa" is from the Greek word for bee, indicating the plant's attraction for these insects. Use it in potpourri and flower arrangements, too. A good garnish for desert, fruit and tossed salads. Variegated forms are available but they are not as flavorful.





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