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Whether you call it bee balm, monarda, bergamot, or Oswego tea, this plant is great for bringing pollinators to the garden. Blossoms reminiscent of fireworks in a variety of colors mean more than just pollinators enjoy these blooms! Vigorous growth and a long bloom time also make this plant a standout in any garden setting. The many additional uses of different parts of the plant make them handy to have around.
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From 1 to 8 feet
To 2 feet wide
garden plans for Bee balm
The many different colors and forms available mean you really can't go wrong when choosing a bee balm plant. Because of the popularity of pollinator plants lately, there has been a surge of availability of many lesser-known bee balms. This resulted in an increase of colors as well. Typically blooms fall between warm red and cool lavenders. They work well with almost any color scheme in a garden. The blooms begin in early summer, and many varieties continue well into the fall. In order to encourage constant blooms, remove old blossoms.
Bee Balm Care Must-Knows
One of the most important things to know about bee balm is that they are vigorous plants. In small garden settings, some varieties of bee balm can out-compete less aggressive neighbors, so be careful where you plant them. Bee balm spreads by rhizomes, or underground stems, which makes them easy to split and divide. They are also one of the top rabbit-resistant plants for your garden.
Ideally, bee balm should be planted in full sun—obvious considering it's native to the South. This allows them to put on the best floral display and create dense growth. Plants in part sun don't perform as well and tend to get foliar disease issues, something that bee balm is notorious for.
While bee balm can be drought tolerant, most varieties prefer to stay moist, especially during the summer. They do need to be in well-drained soils; standing water causes problems with rot. An exceptionally long period of drought can weaken them, making them susceptible to foliar diseases. To prevent this, supplemental wateringapplied at the plant base may be beneficial in the heat of the summer. (Be sure to avoid wetting the leaves to prevent the spread of fungus.)
The biggest problem with bee balms is that they are susceptible to powdery mildew. Characteristically, powdery mildew shows itself as a white, powdery-looking dust on lower and mid leaves. As this continues, it causes defoliation of the plant, making them look unsightly with naked stems. To prevent this, place plants in areas with good air circulation. Powdery mildew thrives in moist, warm conditions and is spread by wind and water droplets. Clean up any leaf debris because it can harbor dormant spores into the next growing season. While powdery mildew seems unhealthy for your plants, it will generally not kill them. The best way to control it is to look for varieties that are more resistant.
Because of the recent rise in popularity of bee balm, a slew of new cultivars has flooded the market lately. This is great news. New work has focused on improving disease resistance, dwarfing plants down to a more manageable size and scale, and introducing new species into the genetic pool and new flower colors.
More Varieties of Bee Balm
Bradbury's bee balm
Monarda bradburiana is a late-spring bloomer that is also sometimes called eastern bee balm, white bergamot, or eastern horsemint. Fluffy lavender flowers top plants that grow 15-24 inches tall. In autumn, the foliage takes on a deep burgundy hue. It is rarely affected by powdery mildew. Zones 4-9
'Lambada' bee balm
Monarda citriodora 'Lambada' is a Great Plains native plant commonly called lemon bee balm, lemon mint, lemon balm, or purple horsemint. It grows 18-24 inches tall and bears whorls of pink bracts with white flowers dotted with purple. It usually grows as an annual but occasionally survives for a second year of bloom. Zones 3-9