Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

The bee balm is a native North American perennial plant that thrives in the woodland areas of the continent. This versatile plant also goes by its botanical name, Monarda, and many other names including wild bergamot.

The Monarda is a delicate plant that has blooms that are found to be very attractive to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. These plants are a great addition to any type of garden. It provides colorful beauty, potent petals, and leaves, and provides a benefit to any habitat.

Its presence in your garden creates a healthy balance to the wildlife that surrounds you. By planting bee balm, you will benefit your local eco-system. In addition, it is a plant full of medicinal properties and that makes any dish more nutritious.

The flowers that grow on the bee balm plant have an open daisy-like shape with gorgeous tubular petals that are sometimes red, white, pink, and purple. These blooms are perfect for any type of home, they enhance any type of setting.

In addition to the beauty of these plants, bee balms provide fragrant foliage that enchants any garden. Its amazing combination of beauty, fragrance, and function, encourages many gardeners to include these plants in their landscape.

The bee balm blooms come back every year to add a cheerful and fragrant touch to flower beds, containers, or simply straight in the ground. You can choose to plant from more than 15 varieties of species and more than 50 different cultivars of bee balm.

They grow well both in gardens and in the wild and are best utilized to their fullest potential. These plants can serve well to enhance the property's curb appeal, to utilize for creative designs in landscape projects, for attracting wildlife and helping the ecosystem, and for harvesting to enjoy its many uses.

This article covers information about how to plant, grow, and care for the bee balm plant, Monarda. We will also discuss some details about how to make it part of your garden year after year. Plus, we'll review the many uses this powerful plant allows you to enjoy when you harvest it.

How to Plant Bee Balm

To successfully grow a bee balm plant, it will require a very sunny location that receives full sunlight. It is ideal to plant in rich nutritious soil and maintains a good level of moisture.

Monarda does tolerate shade, but only in hot-climate areas where it gets plenty of heat. You may plant it in any spot that is protected and provides enough headroom as it can grow to about four feet (one meter) high.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

There are some varieties, however, that are only 10 inches high (25 cm). The species is called the dwarf Monarda or dwarf bee balm.

You may plant the regular variety that comes in the regular larger size in a flower bed that is very deep and wide to accommodate its roots. These types of plants are best planted directly on the ground, but a flower bed is just fine as well.

The dwarf varieties of the plant are perfect for container gardens and just about any type of planter that suits their size. The dwarf bee balms plants do very well decorating spaces.

They are excellent for flower borders where you can appreciate their gorgeous shaggy flowers. Their tubular shape is very unique and fun to admire. The bright colors compliment their aesthetics perfectly.

When planting your bee balm plant, keep the following points in mind. They will help you have a successful run when growing Monarda.

  • Monarda grows very well when planted in the spring or fall seasons. Plan accordingly so that you can plant during the optimal season.
  • The plant needs full sunshine in a hot climate in order for it to thrive. If it receives partial sun, it will grow, but it will not bloom as well as it does when it grows in full sunlight.
  • Because of its size, the bee balm plant is ideal as a background plant in various types of gardens. A pollinator garden is a great place for bee balms plants because they attract pollinator insects.
  • Plant should be spaced approximately 18 to 24 inches away from other plants. The soil must be well-drained and rich in diverse nutrients.
  • Monarda does best in an environment that enjoys excellent air circulation. If the air quality is poor and the plant doesn't receive enough oxygen circulation, it can develop leaves with powdery mildew.
  • Provide enough water during the planting phase.

When to Plant Bee Balm

You may sow Monarda seeds in the springtime and plant transplants during the cooler months of spring or fall.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

How to Care For and Grow Bee Balm

The key to easily growing a bee balm plant is to maintain the soil moist and rich in nutrients. Use a multi-purpose fertilizer and work it into every corner where you'll plant the Monarda.

Follow these tips to provide the best support to your bee balm plant while it grows:

  • Maintain the soil in the best condition possible. Provide rich nutrients with high-quality fertilizers while providing enough water to keep it moist throughout the growing season.
  • To further keep your soil moist and in optimal condition is to use mulch. By adding mulch you will prevent weeds from growing around the plant and will help preserve the moisture in the soil.
  • Deadheading is a great activity for your plant to maintain its fresh appearance and to improve its overall development. In gardening terminology, deadheading refers to the removal of dead or faded flowers from the branches of plants. By deadheading your Monarda plant frequently, you'll guarantee fresh blooms throughout the late season.
  • Watch for your local frost dates. When the fall arrives, be sure to cut the stems at the first sign of frost. They should be cut two inches above the soil.
  • The bee balm plant is best divided every two to three years to keep it vibrant. During the springtime, you can make small divisions of new roots of plants that are well-established. You can then replant those new roots and grow a new plant.
Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Pruning Bee Balm Plants

Pruning bee palm trees make them bushy and encourage them to increase in flower production, it is optimal to pick bee balm flowers often in the late summer season after they flower. Removing spent flowers, or deadheading will promote new blooms to grow.

Bee balm trees can grow anywhere from two to four feet in height and three feet wide. When the young plants or the new spring plants reach about one foot tall, it is healthy to cut the plant back to six inches in height.

Pinching back the trees regularly to encourage growth from the sides. This keeps the size at a manageable size. By thinning the stems frequently, it helps decrease the chances for the plant to develop powdery mildew.

It is best to always use sterile pruning tools such as scissors. They can be dipped in rubbing alcohol or any type of antiseptic household cleaner. Using products such as Pine-Sol or Lysol between cuts helps to prevent infections.

Prune After Flowering

After the plants finish flowering, the foliage may get mildew. You may cut the infected foliage back to the base of the plant. It is ideal to cut back the infected foliage until you reach the base of the plant until you reach healthy and unaffected soil.

Avoid putting the debris from the pruning in the compost pile, instead put it in the trash.

Prune in Late Fall

When the fall season is close to its end, and you're ready to prepare the plants for winter, cut the entire plant back about one to two inches in height. Clean up old mulch around the plant and replace it with the new one. The mulch is best removed in the springtime as new growth appears.

This type of careful clean-up prevents mildew from growing in the spring. The mildew spores can grow in the winter from infected plant debris. In cold climates, it is better to wait until you experience the first hard freeze of the year.

At that time, it will be appropriate to cover the plant with three to six inches of pine needles or straw.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Preventing Pests and Diseases From Invading Your Bee Balm Plant

One of the most common problems facing bee balm plants is powdery mildew. It frequently manifests in the foliage if the humidity is too high. If this is the case, you may reduce the amount of water and let the plant absorb some of the excess moisture.

This powdery mildew is a fungus that grows and reproduces in wet conditions. It affects the plant more frequently in the late summer months. This is the time of the year when humidity and rain come together to cause problems for the dense plants.

If the plants fall into this condition and show foliage covered in this powdery mildew, you have probably enjoyed the blooms for a long time. If the plant is covered with mildew too early and you want to avoid cutting down the plants, you may try using a spray of a solution of special formulas.

To avoid dealing with powdery mildew in general, place these plants at least two feet apart from each other to promote the circulation of air around them.

Another method to avoid this fungal infection is not to get the leaves wet while watering the plant. You may place your garden hose at the base of the plants and water from below. This will prevent the leaves from unnecessarily getting wet.

Deer Resistance

Since the bee balm plant has a strong pungent fragrance, deer will be more than likely stay away from it. It is rare for deer to experience conditions of a great hunger to graze on these types of plants.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Landscaping Suggestions

There are several ways in which you can include bee balm into your landscape. Here are some ideas:

  • You may use them in a border in combination with other long-blooming perennials that bloom in the summer such as Shasta daisies.
  • To enjoy a close-up view of hummingbirds outside your window, plant a tall red plant near your kitchen, bedroom, or any window.
  • In a container, combine a series of summer-blooming annuals and perennials to provide months of continuous colorful blooms.
  • For months of summer bouquets, create a cutting garden by combining summer blooms such as cosmos, sunflowers, dahlias, and zinnias.
  • To create a focal point, plant bright purple, and red bee balm plants at the entrance of a gate or at the end of a pathway. It serves as a great focal point in the landscape.
  • You may create edged pathways with borders that showcase planted bee balm plants in the dwarf variety. It provides a bright accent to any outdoor space.
  • It is a great idea to provide an area for the plants to serve local wildlife and the property's eco-system. You can dedicate a space that provides food, water, shelter, and nesting areas to the local wildlife. Naturalizing the space may attract other native plants to support the habitat.
  • Finally, the last idea for your landscape is to plant a border of the same type of plant. The same color throughout the border creates uniformity and unifies the space.
Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Different Varieties of Monarda, Bee Balm Plant

There are different beautiful varieties of monarda, bee balm plants. There is even a mildew-resistant variety. Let's explore in detail the different types of varieties you may plant in your garden:

Monarda Didyma

Monarda Didyma also goes by the names of Scarlet or Crimson bee balm, Scarlet Monarda, Oswego tea, or Bergamot. It is an aromatic herb that belongs to the family of Lamiaceae. It is native to eastern North America.

This plant is bright red and grows as tall as three to four feet.

Monarda Fistulosa

Monarda Fistulosa also called the wild bergamot is a wildflower that belongs to the mint family. It is a native plant spread out through North America. This beautiful plant gives late-summer blooms that are pink and lavender. It is frequently used for medicinal purposes. It is also used as a honey plant and a garden ornament.

Monarda Pringlei

Also called by the names of Pringle's Beebalm, Pringle's Bergamot, and Bee Balm. It grows to approximately 18 inches in height and is a species that is immune to powdery mildew. Some varieties include:

  • Petite Wonder
  • Petite Delight
  • Pink varieties

Other Powdery Mildew Resistant Varieties

There are other species of Monardas that are resistant to powdery mildew. They include:

  • Marshall’s Delight are bright pink
  • Jacob Cline is a deep red
  • Raspberry Wine is a dark red
Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Harvesting Your Bee Balm Plants

Besides being beautiful bird feeders for hummingbirds and other types of species and providing long hours of entertainment in the summertime, bee balm plants have many uses.

Harvest is best done in the mid-morning after the dew evaporates. This is what sets in the best flavor. You can harvest the plant by clipping the base of each stalk. Next, you'll gather the stalks, holding them by the stems and tying the ends to hang them until dry.

To harvest the most out of your plant, pluck the petals and the leaves one by one from the stalks. Use a screen where you can spread them out and let them dry naturally free from sunlight and dust. According to how humid the environment is, the drying process can last approximately one to two weeks.

If you would like to dry your Monarda plant faster, you may use a dehydrator. Spread out on trays, the leaves will dry at a very low temperature, as the dehydrator goes to work on them. You can continue to check them every 30 minutes until they are entirely dry.

You can confirm that the leaves are dry by crushing them to see if they crumble easily. Once dried, you may store the leaves in a glass jar making sure they are lightly packed and not tight. Keep them away from direct sunlight and crush them only when you are ready to use them.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

How to Use Harvested Bee Balm


Bee balm has a variety of uses. Tea is one of its most common uses. This potent tea can be made both from dried and fresh leaves. People find the flavor of Monarda Didyma tea to be very strong.

The tea is made with one teaspoon of crushed leaves at approximately eight ounces per one cup of boiling water. Let it steep for at least seven minutes and consume it as you would a regular tea.

The flavor may remind you of the bold taste of Earl Grey tea. You may use fewer leaves to lighten the flavor of the tea.

Bee Balm Jelly

Bee balm jelly is a great addition to your pantry, plus you can give it as a gift. The jelly is made by combining sugar, pectin, and bee balm petal tea until it turns into a jelly.

Resting a glass jar, the jelly continues to develop its honey flavor and minty undertones. It is a great accent to many foods or simply spread on a bread toast.

Remedy For Cold Relief

Bee balm acts as an antimicrobial. It is great for healing from colds, sore throats, and congestion.

To make oxymel, the herb is infused into a formula that contains honey and vinegar. It is easy to make and it tastes great.

Make Healing Salve

Bee balm has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It makes a perfect healing salve that can be used for various skin conditions including rashes and insect bites.

Make a Bee Balm Tincture

For those dealing with depression and anxiety, bee balm acts as a nervine to calm your nervous system. Its gentle and calming effects similar to lemon balm are ideal for treating stress disorders. The mild effects are ideal for individuals that may have a sensitive system such as children.

The formula is made possible by extracting the bee balm using alcohol. To make the mixture, pick fresh bee balm and cover it with vodka in a jar, about 3/4 full. Let the plant and alcohol steep for one month. Then, strain and store.

To consume the tincture, you may take approximately one teaspoon mixed in eight ounces of water up to a few times per day. Each individual is different, to find out your unique needs, a bit of experimenting will be a good indicator of the potency you prefer.

Bee Balm: How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Monarda

Medicinal Properties of Bee Balm

Native Americans were known to use the leaves of bee balm plants for different medical drinks and salves. Ancient knowledge from Hippocrates, the grandfather of medicine says "let food be thy medicine".

Bee balm belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae. The foliage has a potent aroma and can also be consumed in salads or used as a garnish. You can also enjoy the nutrition of its edible flowers.

Bee balm is a great addition to your medicine cabinet. It has amazing health properties as an antimicrobial that is frequently used to treat the flu and colds. In addition, it soothes the digestive tract and aids in treating nausea, indigestion, bloating, and other digestive issues.

Besides being a soothing and relaxing substance for the digestive system, it has antispasmodic qualities that help treat coughs as well as menstrual cramps.

Start Your Bee Balm Experience

Bee balm is an old-fashioned favorite that pleases all types of gardens. You may plant them on your beds or borders. Create a cutting garden with late summer blooms that provide fresh bouquets.

You may plant them in your edible gardens to increase attract pollinators and increase the production of edible crops. You can easily plant them in containers and grow the smaller variety. They are a great addition to plant in a place of the property that is dedicated to supporting wildlife.

This amazing plant has great properties that are used in a variety of ways including medicinal, and culinary. Bee Balm is easy to plant, grow, and care for as long as you provide the optimal growing conditions.