Monarda is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. The genus is endemic to North America. Common names include bergamot, bee balm, horsemint, oswego tea, the first inspired by the fragrance of the leaves, which is reminiscent of bergamot orange.
|Common Name||Bee balm, monarda, wild bergamot|
|Botanical Name||Monarda spp.|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||10–48 in. tall, 10–36 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Rich, moist|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Red, purple, pink, white, lavender|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
Light: Bee balm does best in full sun. Though it will grow in part shade, it tends to stretch and become leggy over time.
Soil: Bee balm does best in evenly moist soil rich in organic matter. It can tolerate lighter soil, but richer soil will encourage taller, stronger specimens. Boggy conditions are not tolerated, nor are soils that are allowed to dry out for long periods of time.
Spacing: Plants should be spaced 18-24 inches apart.
Bee balm is in the mint family, and absolutely lives up to the family name. It will intensively spread over a season via a mat of underground stems (stolons), but can be kept under control by regular digging and dividing.
Planting: Plant bee balm in the spring or early fall. Either time of year works well; however, when fall-planting Bee Balm, it's best to trim back the foliage to encourage the plant to focus its energy towards the roots.
Growth Habit: Bee balm can grow up to 4 ft tall with a spread of 3-4 ft, but dwarf varieties top out at just 15 inches, with a spread of 18-24 inches.
Staking: Taller cultivars of bee balm occasionally need staking, but usually the strong square stems do a good job of keeping it upright and stray outer stems can be cut off. If your garden battles high winds in summer, it would be advisable to create a string and stake network for the plant to grow through at planting time.
Watering: Bee-balm prefers evenly moist, well-draining soil. Soil that is allowed to substantially dry out can contribute to summertime problems with powdery mildew and weaken the plant. During its first year in your garden, it’s crucial to keep to a regular watering schedule so it can establish a strong root system.
Fertilizing: Soil rich in organic nutrients should give bee balm what it needs during the first year or two, but it can benefit from the addition of a balanced organic fertilizer if soil is not being amended regularly with compost or rotted manure.
Mulching: Mulch is a great idea for bee balm as it is loves moist soil, is shallowly rooted, and tends to crowd itself out. Sometimes even a sprinkling of good soil will suffice in a pinch; however, a two-inch layer of organic material such as well-rotted manure, compost, or double-shred hardwood will preserve the moisture bee balm loves in order to stay beautiful.
Trimming & Pruning: Deadheading bee-balm will encourage the plant to continue to set blooms from lower nodes late into the summer season. For best results, make sure to do so on a regular basis, and not just at the end of the first flush of bloom.
Pests & Disease: The major enemy of bee balm is powdery mildew, which is a fungal disease that attacks when heat and humidity pair up – particularly with drier conditions in the garden.