Bee Balm Flower Plant – How To Plant Bee Balm And Bee Balm Care

The bee balm plant is a North American native, thriving in woodland areas. Also known by its botanical name of Monarda, bee balm is very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The bee balm flower has an open, daisy-like shape, with tubular petals in shades of red, pink, purple and white. Bee balm plants are perennial, coming back year after year to add cheerful color to your garden.

How to Plant Bee Balm

Bee balm plants prefer moist, rich soil, and a sunny location. Bee balm will tolerate shade, particularly in hot-summer areas. Plant it in any protected spot that would benefit from a bright shot of color.

Most varieties of the bee balm plant are between 2 1/2 feet to 4 feet tall, but there are also dwarf varieties

less than 10 inches high. Dwarf varieties are excellent for container gardens or up front in your flower border where you can appreciate the shaggy, tubular blooms of the bee balm flower.

Pick bee balm flowers frequently to encourage flower production. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, will also promote a new flush of blooms.

Bee Balm Care

Growing bee balms is fairly easy as long as you keep the soil moist. Provide a good, multi-purpose fertilizer, and work it into the soil around the bee balm plant.

If you want a bushier plant, pinch off the stem tips as new growth appears in the early spring. In late fall, cut the bee balms down to just a few inches tall. In cold areas, it may die completely to the ground during the winter, but will reappear in the spring.

The bee balm plant is susceptible to powdery mildew, appearing as a gray, powdery dust on the buds and leaves in moist, cool weather. If your bee balm plant develops mildew, you can treat it with a fungicide spray from the local garden center. Mildew may also be prevented by planting bee balm where it will have good air circulation, and avoiding watering from overhead.

If you have never enjoyed the bee balm flower, growing bee balms will add not only a touch of old-fashioned beauty to your flower garden; it will also attract butterflies and bees for your enjoyment.

Monarda (Bee Balm)

One of the showiest summer-blooming perennials, Monarda (Bee Balm) has very distinctive, brightly colored flower-heads that create captivating border displays and provide a great impact when used in mass plantings. The blooms consist of asymmetrical, two-lipped tubular flowers borne in dense, globular terminal heads, which rest upon a whorl of decorative bracts. Exuberant, they spice up summer borders and it is difficult to resist their floral charm, despite the susceptibility of some varieties to powdery mildew.

  • Members of the mint family (Lamiaceae), Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) and Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) are the most commonly cultivated of the 16 species native to North America. Monarda didyma produces scarlet-red flowers collared by red-tinged bracts, whereas Monarda fistulosa enjoys light lavender to pinkish-white flowers surrounded by bracts that are often tinted with pink. Both species have tall, sturdy square stems and a spreading habit. They gave way to many cultivars and hybrids, which come in a wide array of colors including brilliant shades of red, violet, purple, pink and white.

‘Leading Lady Lilac’

‘Petite Delight’

‘Balmy Lilac’

  • Blooming for up to 6 weeks, usually from mid summer to early fall, these showy perennials are a striking addition to informal borders, wildflower meadows and prairies. The boldness of Monarda blooms makes it terrific for massing or as an accent plant. They combine very well with other summer perennials such as phlox, irises, daylilies and yarrows. Useful in the late summer garden, they also bridge the gap before the first asters. They also make excellent cut flowers!
  • Stiff-stemmed, they provide showy silhouettes in fall and winter, extending their season of interest, while all around them is collapsing to mush. Just as they make good cut flowers, their seedheads are worth including in dried flower arrangements.
  • Monardas grow in clumps of upright stems, 1-4 ft tall (30-120 cm). Their foliage of aromatic, ovate-lanceolate leaves can be enjoyed in salads or simply by passing by.

‘Gardenview Scarlet’

‘Beauty of Cobham’

‘Blue Moon’

  • They perform best in full sun or partial shade and are adaptable to a variety of soils. Monarda didyma requires rich, moist soils for best growth, while Monarda fistulosa is more tolerant of dry conditions.
  • Monardas can be prone to powdery mildew. To prevent this problem, make sure you provide good air circulation, do not let the soil dry out, remove diseased leaves and stems and select mildew-resistant cultivars.
  • Monarda flowers attract streams of butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial pollinators but they are deer and rabbit resistant.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage new blooms. Fast growing, Monarda spreads vigorously and will need to be divided every 2-3 years.
  • Monardas should be cut to the ground after flowering to promote the growth of new healthy shoots and leaves.

‘Squaw’

‘Marshall’s Delight’

‘Fireball’

Growing Bee Balms in the Home Garden

In July and August, the attractive flowers of bee balm (Monarda) are a common sight in gardens, along roadsides, and in prairies. The flowers are produced atop 2- to 4-foot-tall plants. The 1 1/2- to 3-inch-wide flower heads are composed of slender, tubular flowers. Flower colors include white, pink, red, lavender, and purple.

Bee balm is a member of the mint family. Like most other plants in the mint family, bee balm has square stems, opposite leaves, and is aromatic. Bee balm foliage has a mint-like aroma and is used in herbal teas, salads, and as garnishes. The flowers are also edible.

Bee balm attracts bees (hence the common name), butterflies, and hummingbirds. Other common names include bergamont, horsemint, and Oswego tea.

Bee balms are relatively easy to grow when given the proper site and care.

Site Requirements

Bee balms perform best in full sun. While plants tolerate partial shade, they won’t flower as heavily and are more susceptible to powdery mildew. They also prefer moist, well-drained soils.

Watering

Bee balms like an even supply of moisture during the growing season. For best performance, water bee balms every 7 to 10 days during dry periods. When watering, soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Applying a mulch around the plants will help to conserve soil moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.

Fertilizing

Bee balms don’t require frequent or heavy fertilizer applications. Sprinkling a small amount of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, around each plant in early spring is usually sufficient. Avoid over fertilization. Frequent or heavy applications of fertilizer will encourage rampant, succulent growth and may increase the severity of powdery mildew.

Deadheading

Prompt removal of the spent flower heads will prolong the bloom period.

Division

Bee balms spread rapidly via underground stems or stolons. In addition, the centers of the clumps often die out within a few years. To control their spread and rejuvenate the plants, it’s usually necessary to dig and divide bee balms every 2 to 3 years. Early spring is the best time to dig and divide bee balms. Dig up the plants as soon as they emerge from the ground. Divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should have at least 2 or 3 shoots and a good root system. Replant immediately.

Insect and Disease Problems

Bee balms may occasionally suffer some minor insect damage. However, powdery mildew is a more serious problem. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease. It appears as a grayish white “powder” on the upper leaf surfaces. Severely infected leaves drop prematurely. Disease symptoms are most severe on overcrowded plants, those growing in partial to heavy shade, and drought stressed plants.

Cultural practices can reduce the severity of powdery mildew. When planting bee balms, select a site in full sun and space plants 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Divide plants every 2 to 3 years and water during dry periods. Remove and destroy disease-infested plant debris in the fall. The fungal spores of powdery mildew survive the winter on disease-infested plant debris. The removal and destruction of this material removes the source of next year’s infection.

The best way for home gardeners to avoid the annoying problem of powdery mildew is to select mildew resistant varieties. Varieties that possess good mildew resistance include ‘Marshall’s Delight’ (bright pink flowers), ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ (scarlet-red flowers), ‘Violet Queen’ (violet-blue flowers), ‘Raspberry Wine'(wine-red flowers), and ‘Colrain Red’ (purplish red flowers).

Dwarf Varieties

Most of the commonly grown bee balm cultivars grow 2 1/2 to 4 feet tall. However, there are a few dwarf cultivars. ‘Petite Wonder’ (pink flowers) and Petite ‘Delight’ (rose pink flowers) grow 10 and 15 inches tall, respectively. Powdery mildew resistance for both varieties is fair to good.

When sited properly and given good care, bee balm is a wonderful, easy-to-grow perennial for the home landscape.

Rust

The herbaceous leaves of the Gold Melissa are also negatively affected by rust. This disease is also a fungal disease. An infestation is being indicated with yellow to brown spots on the leaf’s upper surface. On the lower side of the leaf, little pustules with fungal spores will grow. In this case you should also treat the disease with the respective fungicide from a store. The fungus grows inside of the plant and will damage it until it eventually dies.

Parasites

Unfortunately, not only bees and other insects enjoy the scent of the leaves of the Scarlet bee balm, but also snails like to eat their way through the bed.

Monarda punctata

Snails

The otherwise very graceful plant can, in the event of a snail infestation, seem very unattractive. Because of this, you should act quickly against the annoying parasites if you notice holes in the leaves.

  • collect them in the early morning and late evening hours
  • erect a barrier around the bed or the single plants
  • snail fence from a store
  • distribute caustic lime or sawdust around the plants

If children or pets are using the garden, you should avoid the usage of snail corn. Snail corn is poisonous and could possibly damage children or curious animals.

How to plant:

Propagate by seed, cuttings, division or separation – Plant seeds in containers in cold frame. Seeds germinate in 10 to 40 days.

Take basal softwood cuttings with plenty of underground stem in spring. Pot individually and keep in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until well rooted, then plant out.

Divide clumps of the spreading root system every 2 or 3 years in early spring before growth begins. Plant the large clumps directly into a sunny moist location. Pot small divisions and grow in light shade in a cold frame until well established before planting out.

Maintenance and care: Deadhead to prolong flowering.

If foliage develops mildew after flowering, cut back to uninfected leaves at the base of the plant. Thinning stems early in the season can also reduce mildew.

Cut back by half when about a foot tall to delay flowering, reduce height and delay mildew.

Divide every 2 to 3 years as clumps die out in the center.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials

Pests: Stalk borer. Diseases: Mildew is common after flowering. Look for resistant varieties, thin plants, provide good air circulation.

Crown rot

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Wild Bergamot Seeds (500mg):
Wild Bergamot is treasured for its unique, refreshing flavor. Grow bergamot at home to use in your favorite teas. Patriot Seeds offers 100% heirloom herb seeds such as Wild Bergamot. Our seeds are also non-GMO and sourced in the USA. They come in resealable heavy-duty packages that can be used for storage for 5+ years. Bergamot is a perennial that will thrive and self-seed if cared for, giving you more return on your investment in high-quality seeds. When you’re ready to declare your food independence, buy Patriot Seeds!
Wild Bergamot Planting Instructions:
Start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost or direct sow outdoors 1 to 2 weeks before the last frost. You may also direct-sow in October. The optimal soil temperature for seed germination is 60-70 F. Wild Bergamot does best in full sun, but can also thrive in partial shade. Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and barely cover with topsoil. Thin or space the plants to 18 to 24″ apart. Bergamot is a hardy perennial that will grow closer together over time.
Wild Bergamot Harvesting Instructions:
As desired, harvest leaves for fresh use in the kitchen. To dry leaves, harvest them before the flowers open. Both fresh and dried leaves can be used in tea. As soon as the flowers are fully open, cut them for drying. Masses of tiered pink-purple blossoms will grow between August and the first frost.
Did You Know This About Wild Bergamot?
Around the time of the infamous Boston Tea Party, the Oswego Indians introduced wild bergamot to the American colonists. Bergamot provides its distinctive flavor to teas such as Earl Grey.

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