Create Your Garden

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Bee Balm, Bergamot, Horsemint

Monarda information, Bee Balm information, Bergamot information, Horsemint information, Fragrant perennials, Mildew resistant perennials, monarda didyma
monarda, bee blam, veronicastrum, culver root, filipendula

One of the showiest summer-blooming perennials, Monarda (Bee Balm) has very distinctive, brightly colored flower heads that create captivating border displays and provide a great impact when used in mass plantings.

What is Bee Balm?

Monarda, also known as Bee Balm or Bergamot, is a spectacular genus in the mint family (Lamiaceae). Native to North America, it is particularly notable for its vibrant, showy flowers and aromatic foliage.

Popular Species: Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) and Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) are the most commonly cultivated. Monarda didyma produces scarlet-red flowers collared by red-tinged bracts, whereas Monarda fistulosa features light lavender to pinkish-white flowers surrounded by bracts often tinted with pink. Both species gave way to many cultivars and hybrids, which come in various colors, including brilliant red, violet, purple, pink, and white.

Habit and Size: Bee Balm is a perennial plant with a robust growth habit. It typically reaches heights between 1 to 4 feet (30-120 cm), depending on the variety. Its square stems carry opposite leaves that are noticeably toothed and aromatic. When crushed, the leaves release a fragrance reminiscent of bergamot orange, used to flavor Earl Grey tea.

Flowers: The striking flowers of Monarda bloom for up to 6 weeks, usually from mid-summer to early fall, presenting a captivating display. Each bloom features a whorl of tubular, two-lipped flowers, usually in shades of pink, red, or purple, sitting atop a bed of decorative bracts. Exuberant, they spice up summer borders, and it is difficult to resist their floral charm.

Foliage: The foliage of aromatic, ovate-lanceolate leaves can be enjoyed in salads or simply by passing by.

Hardiness: Monarda thrives in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9.

Uses: These showy perennials are a striking addition to informal borders, wildflower meadows, and prairies. The boldness of Monarda blooms makes it terrific for massing or as an accent plant. Stiff-stemmed, they provide showy silhouettes in fall and winter, extending their season of interest while all around them collapse to a mush. They also make excellent cut flowers; their seedheads are worth including in dried flower arrangements.

Pollinators: Bee Balm serves as an excellent plant for attracting pollinators. Its nectar-rich flowers are favorites of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Deer and Rabbit: Monarda’s strong scent can deter deer and rabbits.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 9
Heat Zones 1 - 9
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, A2, A3
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Monarda
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Average
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Native Plants Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Midwest, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northeast, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Rocky Mountains, South Carolina, South Dakota, Southeast, Southwest, Tennessee, Texas, United States, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
Monarda ‘Balmy Lilac’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda ‘Leading Lady Orchid’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda ‘Petite Delight’ (Bee Balm)

Why Should I Grow Bee Balm?

There are numerous reasons to consider growing Monarda in your garden:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Monarda’s vibrant, intricate flowers are truly a sight to behold, adding a splash of color to any garden space. The plant’s height and substantial blooms make it a stunning focal point in borders and beds.
  • Pollinator Attraction: Monarda is an excellent plant for attracting a wide variety of pollinators. Its nectar-rich flowers are loved by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, making it a wonderful addition to a pollinator-friendly garden.
  • Fragrance: The leaves of Monarda plants give off a pleasant aroma, especially when crushed. This fragrance can lend an extra layer of sensory delight to your garden.
  • Culinary and Medicinal Uses: Parts of the Monarda plant are edible and have been used for culinary purposes, such as flavoring teas. Additionally, they have a history of medicinal use by Native Americans due to their antiseptic properties.
  • Wildlife Deterrent: The strong fragrance of Monarda can deter deer and rabbits, making it a useful plant for gardens struggling with these common garden pests.
  • Versatility: Monarda can be used in a variety of garden types, including perennial borders, wild gardens, cottage gardens, and more. It can also be grown in large containers.
  • Long Bloom Time: Monarda has a relatively long blooming period, typically from mid to late summer, providing a sustained display of color when many other plants may be past their peak.
  • Native Plant: As a native to North America, Monarda is well-suited to many regional climates and can contribute to the maintenance of local biodiversity.

Given these benefits, Monarda is certainly a plant to consider for adding interest, beauty, and functionality to your garden.

Monarda ‘Beauty of Cobham’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda ‘Blue Moon’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ (Bee Balm)

Garden Design with Bee Balm

Designing a garden with Monarda (Bee Balm) opens up many possibilities due to its striking blooms, vibrant colors, and attraction of various pollinators. Here are some ideas:

  • Perennial Borders: Monarda can be used effectively in perennial borders. The plant’s height makes it suitable for middle or back of border plantings, adding depth and interest. Its bold colors and large blooms are excellent for creating a focal point.
  • Pollinator Gardens: Given Monarda’s ability to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, consider using it as a key feature in a pollinator garden.
  • Cottage Gardens: Monarda’s natural, wild look lends itself well to the relaxed style of cottage gardens. Pair it with other traditional cottage garden plants like Roses, Lavender, and Hollyhocks.
  • Wildflower Meadows: Monarda is native to North America and can work well in a native plant or wildflower meadow design. Mix it with other native plants for a garden that is both beautiful and supportive of local ecosystems.
  • Water Gardens: Monarda likes moist soils and can be an excellent addition near your garden’s pond, stream, or water feature. Complement it with other moisture-loving plants like Iris, Astilbe, and Hostas.
  • Container Gardens: Monarda can be grown in large containers, allowing you to add height and color to patios, decks, or paved areas.
  • Color Themed Gardens: Monarda comes in various colors like red, pink, purple, and white. You can use these to create a color-themed garden or a dramatic contrast in your garden design.

Remember to give Monarda room to spread; it can become quite bushy. Its leaves and flowers are aromatic, so plant it somewhere where you can enjoy its scent.

Monarda ‘Fireball’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’ (Bee Balm)
Monarda didyma x fistulosa ‘Oneida’ (Bee Balm)

Companion Plants for Bee Balm

Companion planting is a fantastic way to enhance your garden’s beauty and balance, and Monarda (Bee Balm) lends itself well to this practice. Here are some companion plants for Bee Balm:

  • Echinacea (Coneflower): Echinacea is a tall perennial with bright, daisy-like flowers that complement the tubular blooms of Monarda. Both plants are native to North America and thrive under similar conditions. They also both attract pollinators, making them great for a wildlife garden.
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan): The yellow flowers of Rudbeckia contrast beautifully with the red or purple blooms of Monarda. They bloom around the same time, making a striking midsummer display.
  • Helenium (Sneezeweed): A stunning perennial plant showcasing a profusion of daisy-like flowers in warm yellow, orange, and red hues. With its vibrant blooms and attractive foliage, Helenium adds a pop of color to garden borders and attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • Salvia (Sage): Salvia and Monarda are both loved by bees and hummingbirds. They have similar cultural needs and can bloom simultaneously, depending on the varieties.
  • Grasses like Panicum (Switchgrass) or Miscanthus (Maiden Grass): These can provide a wonderful contrast in form and texture. The movement of the grasses also adds an extra dimension to the garden.
  • Nepeta (Catmint): With its soft, billowing mounds of lavender-blue flowers, Nepeta can help soften the bold impact of Monarda and provide a lovely color contrast.

When selecting companion plants for Monarda, consider the needs of each plant, ensuring they have similar requirements in terms of light, water, and soil conditions.

 

Monarda citriodora (Lemon Bee Balm)
Monarda didyma (Scarlet Bee Balm)
Monarda bradburiana (Eastern Bee Balm)

Growing Tips

Growing Bee Balm, can be a rewarding experience, especially for those interested in attracting pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to their gardens. Here are some tips to help your Monarda thrive:

  • Soil: Monarda prefers rich, well-draining soil. It can tolerate a range of pH levels, but neutral to slightly acidic is best (pH level of 6.0 to 7.0.). Before planting, enrich the soil with compost or well-rotted manure.
  • Sunlight: Plant your Monarda in a location where it can receive full sun to partial shade. However, more sun will lead to better blooming.
  • Watering: While Monarda likes moist soil, it is crucial to avoid waterlogged conditions as this can lead to root rot. Water deeply but less frequently, ensuring the soil has time to dry between waterings. Mulching can help retain soil moisture.
  • Spacing: Proper plant spacing is essential for good air circulation, which can help prevent powdery mildew, a common issue with Monarda.
  • Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers to encourage a second bloom. In late autumn, reduce the risk of disease by cutting back plants to just above ground level and removing any dead foliage.
  • Fertilizing: Monarda benefits from a balanced fertilizer in early spring when new growth appears. Don’t over-fertilize; too much can lead to lush foliage but fewer flowers.
  • Dividing: Monarda spreads through underground rhizomes and can become crowded over time. Divide plants every 2-3 years in early spring or fall to control their spread and keep them healthy.
  • Pests and Diseases: Watch out for powdery mildew, rust, and other fungal diseases. Ensuring good air circulation, proper watering, and regular cleanup can help prevent these issues. Monarda can also attract pests like aphids and spider mites, so keep an eye out for these.

Garden Examples

A Fabulous Garden Retreat where to Relax!
A Fabulous Perennial Meadow Planting Idea
A Soft Border Idea with Grasses, Echinacea and Monarda
A Cheerful Border Idea with Monarda, Achillea and Digitalis
A Cheerful Border Idea with Monarda, Agastache and Echinacea
A Sparkling Summer Border Idea with Helenium, Monarda and Veronica
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 9
Heat Zones 1 - 9
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, A2, A3
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Monarda
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Average
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Native Plants Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Midwest, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northeast, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Rocky Mountains, South Carolina, South Dakota, Southeast, Southwest, Tennessee, Texas, United States, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
Compare All Monarda (Bee Balm)
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Guides with
Monarda (Bee Balm)

Related Items

Please Login to Proceed

You Have Reached The Free Limit, Please Subscribe to Proceed

Subscribe to Gardenia

To create additional collections, you must be a paid member of Gardenia
  • Add as many plants as you wish
  • Create and save up to 25 garden collections
Become a Member

Plant Added Successfully

You have Reached Your Limit

To add more plants, you must be a paid member of our site Become a Member

Update Your Credit
Card Information

Cancel

Create a New Collection

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

    You have been subscribed successfully

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Find your Hardiness Zone

    Find your Heat Zone

    Find your Climate Zone