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Monarda aka ‘BEE BALM’ – why you need this in your garden

Category: Plant Spotlight | Posted by: Mike Forste

The genus Monarda comes from Spanish botanist, Nicholas Monardes, who published a book in 1571 about the medicinal values of N. American plants, most of which were well known by the indigenous peoples.

Common name, ‘’bee balm,’’ most likely comes from its ability to soothe pain associated with bee stings if leaves were worked into a poultice and rubbed onto afflicted area of skin. Other historical uses include perfume, food seasoning, relieving headaches and muscle aches, and even to ward off evil spirits!

A member of the mint family, characterized by its square stem, fragrant foliage, opposite leaves, and spreading habit. Scientists have named 17 species, all of which are native to North America.

Most available on the market are either selections or hybrids of didyma and fistulosa, both native to the eastern part of N America.


(Oswego tea/scarlet beebalm)

  • bloom color of reds and scarlets
  • Oswego Tea gets its name from seed being collected from a M. didyma in Oswego, New York by heralded American botanist, John Bartram in 1745.


(wild bergamot)

  • blooms in shades of pink/lavender
  • Wild bergamot gets its name because its flavor is similar to true bergamot (Ci
  • Apparently, this was the popular substitute after the Boston Tea Party, as it provided a comparable flavor to Earl Gray.

Other species worth mentioning:

Punctata (dotted bee balm)

Bradburiana (eastern bee balm)

Attracts many numbers of pollinators, especially bees, moths, and hummingbirds! Small birds will be drawn to the seedheads that form atop the plant, singing sweetly as they dine.

Most breeding efforts today are focused on compact habits with large flowers and increased resistance to diseases.

Powdery mildew is the common enemy of beebalm. Usually occurs after periods of wet, and while it does not typically kill the entire plant, it can cause complete defoliation and weakening of the plant to the point where it looks haggard. Treat preventatively or cut back the plant when it is done blooming to encourage regrowth.

Can be considered somewhat aggressive in the garden as it spreads by underground rhizomes, but can be kept in check by planting other rhizomatous perennials and plants with tough, raised crowns that will not be overtaken by the monarda. Examples include: grasses, beardtongue, irises, coreopsis, rudbeckia, echinacea, garden phlox. Perfectly suited for a natural or native pollinator garden.

Varieties we carry:

M. didyma

‘Bee Mine Red’


‘Raspberry Wine’

‘Jacob Cline’

‘Sugar Buzz Bubblegum Blast’

M. Punctata



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