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How to Grow Monarda — Bee Balm

Bee balm Monarda

Monarda–commonly called bee balm–bears hooded red, pink, white, or lilac summer trumpet-shaped flowers borne in whorls. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. Monarda is a tall clump-forming perennial with, aromatic lance-shaped green leaves.

Monarda has dark green leaves with a strong pleasant odor of mint and basil.

Monarda is a perennial; it is not long-lived where winters are warm and summers are long and hot. It is prone to mildew where the soil is dry and the weather is humid.

Monarda is a genus of about 15 species of clump-forming rhizomatous perennials and annuals. They are native to prairies and woodlands of North America.

Monarda didyma, Bee balm

Get to Know Monarda

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 4-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -30°F (-34°C)
  • Height and width: 2 to 4 feet (.6-1.2m) tall; 1 to 3 feet wide; dwarf varieties grow 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Opposite lance-shaped or oval sometimes aromatic mid-to dark green leaves on square stems.
  • Flowers: Tubular, sage-like flowers
  • Flower colors: Violet, red, pink, white
  • Bloom time: Midsummer
  • Uses: Attracts hummingbirds, mixed borders, cottage gardens
  • Common name: Bee balm, bergamot, Oswego tea, horsemint
  • Botanical name: Monarda didyma
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Origin: Praurues and woodlands of North America

Where to Plant Monarda

  • Grow Monarda in full sun in Zones 4-6, grow in part shade in Zones 7-9.
  • Plant Monarda in humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Monarda Uses and Companions

  • Plant Monarda in a mixed or herbaceous border. Monarda attracts bees and humingbirds.
  • Plant Monarda in herb gardens and borders. Naturalize Monarda in a moist site.
  • Good garden companions include Alchemilla mollis, Chrysanthemum superbum, Delphinium, Erigergon, Filipdendula, Hemerocallis, Lythrum.
Bee balm, Monarda x hybrida
Bee balm, Monarda x hybrida

When to Plant Monarda

  • Set out established Monarda in spring or fall.

Planting and Spacing Monarda

  • Space Monarda 1 to 3 feet apart depending on variety. Give bee balm plenty or room for air circulation of mildew may attract the plants.

How to Water and Feed Monarda

  • Give Monarda moderate water; keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Monarda every 6 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer or work a slow-release fertilizer into the soil in spring.

Monarda Care

  • Mulch around Monarda to conserve soil moisture.
  • Trim spend blossoms to prolong blooming.
  • Divide Monarda every 2 to 4 years as needed.
  • Monarda is susceptible to mildew, space plants for good air circulation.
  • Cut plants back to the ground after flowering to promote fresh growth.

Monarda Pests and Diseases

  • Monarda is prone to powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spot.
Leaves of Monarda didyma

Monarda Propagation

  • Monarda seeds germinate in 7 to 4 days at 60° to 70°F (16°-21°C).
  • Sow seeds in a container in a cold frame in spring or autumn.
  • Divide clumps in spring before new growth commences.
  • Root basal cuttings in spring.

Monarda Varieties to Grow

  • Monarda didyma: native to the eastern United States; scarlet flowers surrounded by reddish bracts; there are several cultivars including Marshall’s Delight’, ‘Gardenview Scarlet’, ‘Stone’s Throw Pink’, and ‘Violet Queen’ are mildew resistant; Dwarf varieties grow 12 to 18 inches tall.
  • M. fistulosa bears lavender flowers to light pink encircled by whitish bracts; less showy than M. didyma.

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