Bee balm, Monarda didyma, have bright flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.Find facts on bee balm, oswego tea, and a list of some of the best varieties for your yard and garden.
Bee Balm Facts
Monarda species contain a fragrant spicy oil that is extracted from crushing the leaves. Bee balm, Monarda didyma contains the highest levels of this oil and is very popular. Bee balm grows in Zones 3-9 and reaches 36” high by 24” wide. It is a perennial plant with an upright growth habit with a medium texture. Bee balm tolerates full sun or light afternoon shade and needs good air circulation.
In mid to late summer whorls of scarlet red or pink flowers appear on the plants. The foliage is fragrant and hairy underneath. The flowers are one of the most popular plants that attrtact hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Place them in borders, or add them to container plantings, or naturalize them. Good companion plants include daylily, sweet flag iris, and gaura.
Bee Balm Care
Plant bee balm 18-24” apart in spring or autumn. Slow release fertilizer can be applied when planting. Try to keep the soil moist at all times. Staking is usually not necessary with this monardo species. Keep the plant deadheaded to encourage reblooming. They can be pruned back in fall once frost withers the foliage.
Propagation is done by dividing in spring, once new growth is seen, or in autumn.
1. To divide bee balm, cut back the foliage to 3-4” above ground level.
2. Lift the entire plant and plunge a sharp spade through the roots.
3. Reset pieces with healthy roots and shoots.
Pests and diseases include powdery mildew. Try to select varieties that are mildew resistant. Also, try to select sites with good air circulation, keeping soil moist, not soggy or bone dry, and avoid overcrowding.
Best Bee Balm Species resistant to powdery mildew include ‘Aquarius’, with pink flowers and bronze-stained foliage, ‘Bowman’, with purple flowers, ‘Gardenview Scarlet’, with large bright red flowers, ‘Marshall’s Delight’, with pink flowers, and ‘Violet Queen’, with violet-purpled flowers.
Seeds such as Panorama, and Panorama Red Mix, and Pergamo are good choices.