Members of the Melissa plant genus are perennial herbs that are often used in cooking.
They reach a height of up to 60 cm (2 feet). They flower from summer through to autumn.
They have an appearance similar to that of mint.
Some of the common names for members of Melissa plant genus include balm, Lemon Balm and Sweet balm.
Melissa officinalis photograph by sermarr erGuiri
If you plan to use Balm in the kitchen, then the leaves can be used fresh or dried.
They should be removed just before the plant blooms for best flavour.
Lemon balm picture by Color line.
If you need to dry the Lemon balm leaves, then do so as quickly as possible. This should be done at a temperature of at least 33 degrees centigrade (92°F).
Store the dried Lemon Balm leaves in an air tight container, and use when required.
Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm, Balm gentle), photograph by Gertjan van Noord; CC.
Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm flowers, picture by Christoph Zurnieden; CC.
The other species in this genus are Melissa axillaris (Small-Flowered Melissa), Melissa flava, and Melissa yunnanensis
Common Names: Balm: Lemon; Sweet.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: Up to 24 inches (60 cm).
Native: Southern Europe. Western Asia.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 9.
When growing lemon balm and other Melissa plants outdoors, the seeds should be sown on the surface towards the end of autumn.
Lemon balm plants can grow in both sunny and lightly shaded areas.
They have a preference for a sandy and dry soil. Ideally the pH should be from 6.5 to 7.5.
Do not grow in a rich soil as this affect the taste. A poorer soil should be used for the best tasting lemon balm.
Lemon balm can be started indoors. Sow the seeds about two months before you expect the last frost of spring.
They will take from two to three weeks to germinate in the light. Germination shpould take place at a temperature of about 20 degrees centigrade (68°F).
Once growing, transplant seedlings in mid spring. Space out at about 50 cm (20 inches) apart.
When growing lemon balm, balm, and other Melissa plant species for use in cooking, it is best to harvest and cut back the plant hard regularly before it has chance to bloom. Plants that have flowered will not taste good.
At the end of the growing period (autumn), cut back to ground level.
Give the plants plenty of space to grow in, as this will help to prevent mildew.
If you require more Melissa plants then either let them self seed, or take cuttings from the stems in spring or summer. Alternatively, you can even propagate by dividing the plant at the beginning of spring.