We all want to encourage populations of pollinators in our gardens. We need pollinating insects in order to have flowers or produce. Bee balm is one of many plants that can help attract beneficial insects to your yard.
But what is it, exactly? This plant is in the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a lot of people grow it, does that make it a mint? Does it do anything more than just look pretty?
There is no doubt that bee balm is one of the favorite plants of gardeners. Also called horsemint, Oswego tea, or bergamot, bee balm is a native of North America and belongs to the mint family. Bee balm has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, and is still used today for a variety of purposes. This product has a unique and distinctive look, which will make your flower and herb garden more enticing.
Bee Balm Plants Described
The bee balm is a plant that attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, based on its name. This plant still attracts birds even when it’s not blooming flowers. It has seed heads that birds will eat during the winter.
They have bright and vibrant flowers. The bee balm plants have flower heads filled with tubular flowers and petals in pink, red, white, and purple. The flowers are very similar to sage and may make you think of fireworks.
These flowers form arching tubular petals. The petals are located at the end of the plant in a circular pattern and often have brightly colored leaves.
It is important to know that the bee balm plant is part of the mint family. It is a plant that has a stem that is square and spreads quickly underground. Bee balm is an easy plant to grow and can be planted in the spring or fall.
The bee balm also has aromatic flowers and foliage. This means it can be used to enhance the flavor of herbal teas and medicines or can be consumed on its own. This also makes it a good choice for cooking.
The leaves of this plant can be used to brew a pungent tea or added to salads and other recipes for flavor. You’ll enjoy using the flowers in your recipes as a colorful garnish.
Types of Bee Balm
Monarda is a species that comes in many different varieties, with around 50 commercial cultivars being commonly available. Many bee balm varieties are wildflowers that grow naturally in the United States. Here is a brief overview of some of the various types of data, as well as the key differences between them.
Monarda bradburiana, ‘Eastern beebalm’
This perennial plant has a lower portion of rich green foliage, with leaves that have lightly-toothed edges along their oval shape. The flower stems rise up and are tinted purple, ending in a lavender or light purple flower. The flowers produce large amounts of nectar, which is a type of sugar liquid that attracts a variety of wildlife including bumblebees and hummingbirds. It’s native to the central and southeast United States.
Monarda citriodora, ‘Lemon beebalm’
Lemon bee balm is an annual wildflower that grows in the United States and Mexico. It is also widely cultivated. The monarda doesn’t look anything like Bradbury’s. It has long spear-like or grassy leaves and a much more compact plant base. The stem of the plant rises from the center and has multiple purple or purplish-pink florets stacked on top of it.
The lemon part of its name refers to the lemony scent that new leaves have when crushed, caused by naturally-forming citronellol, and it’s commonly used as an insect repellent in gardens because of that aroma.
Monarda clinopodioides, ‘Basil beebalm’
Basil bee balm, which is native to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, blooms annually. This plant has woody stems, with long, slender leaves on the flower stalks, and slightly oblong leaves at the plant’s base. The flower stalk of the bee balm plant supports multiple florets that are pale purple in color and are stacked in a conical form.
Monarda didyma, ‘Crimson beebalm’
This popular ornamental plant is a perennial. The plant is originally from the eastern United States but can now be found in many other areas of the world. The showy tubular flowers rest at the tip of a vibrant green stem in inflorescences of about 30. They are surrounded by lush green leaves. Different cultivars of roses can produce flowers of many different colors, including medium to dark red, white, purple, and pink. Despite being called bergamot, none of the monarda plants are actually the type of bergamot used to scent teas.
Monarda fistulosa, ‘Wild bergamot’
The wild bergamot is a type of perennial that grows wildly and produces stunning lavender or pink blossoms during the summer months. Each flower cluster on a branch can produce between 20 and 50 flowers, and rests over brilliant green herbaceous foliage. This plant comes in many different varieties, each with a slightly different odor. At least four different variations of the plant were recognized by Native American tribal people, each one having a different use.
Monarda media, ‘Purple bergamot’
This perennial is usually found in wetter environments such as riverbeds. It has lance-shaped leaves and square stalks. The seed head is surrounded by many smaller flowers, which are a reddish-purple hue. The flowers are at the top of the stalk. Although it is not an actual bergamot orange, it gives off a similar smell to the bergamot orange, which is used to scent commercial teas. This plant is found throughout the eastern United States and Canada.
Monarda punctata, ‘Spotted beebalm’
The spotted bee balm’s classification as an annual or a perennial plant depends on its environment. It seems to favor sandy soils with good drainage. The flowers have yellow heads with purple spots, and sometimes the petals are purple at the tips. The foliage is slender-leaved and bright green in hue. Monarda punctata is nectar rich and a favourite of many beneficial bugs, especially predatory wasps. It has a thyme-like aroma.
Choosing the Right Bee Balm Flowers to Grow in Your Garden
You may find it confusing to select which size and type of bee balm you should grow in your garden. To help you, here are a few tips you have to consider during the selection process:
Beds and Borders
Would you like to include bee balm in your garden beds and borders? Choose larger varieties if you want to plant them in the middle of a mixed border. This plant can be combined with other trees, shrubs, and perennials to create an attractive garden. If you want smaller forms and varieties, put them in the front part of the border or garden bed.
Cutting and Edible Gardens
Do you have a cutting garden? You may grow these flowers in garden beds that are elevated off the ground, as well as in other flowers that naturally bloom during the summertime. You can also plant bee balm flowers in pots.
It’s a good idea to grow bee balm near your kitchen garden if you want to include it in your edible garden. If you plant bee balm, you will attract insects that will help pollinate your other plants, and thus increase your overall food production.
How about container gardening? Can the bee balm grow in containers? The answer is yes. The best option would be to choose smaller plant varieties and pot them individually. You can also grow these plants alongside other plants that have similar watering needs and require little maintenance.
In addition to cultivated plants, you can also grow bee balm in your wildlife garden. To create a wildflower meadow, all you have to do is naturalize native varieties to your region in dedicated areas or meadows. If you want to help support local wildlife, you can do so by working with other people who are native to the area.
How to Propagate Bee Balm?
There are two ways you can propagate bee balm plants: through cuttings or division. Bee balms are very easy to propagate by division. It helps to keep the plant looking full and healthy.
You have to propagate the plants every few years as well. You will need a shovel, fertilizer or compost, and a pair of gloves and garden snips to do that.
Propagate bee balm through division using the following steps:
- Dig up the whole root system with the aid of your shovel. Lift the plant gently from the soil or ground.
- After removing, divide plants into several sections using the snips and shovel. Remove and discard the scraggly and woody center, if there is any.
- Use a well-balanced fertilizer or compost to amend the soil. This is where you should be replanting the divisions.
You need a small pot, rich soil, rubber band, plastic bag, rooting hormone and snips to propagate bee balm through cuttings. Start the propagation through these steps:
- During the spring, find a new growth from which you can trim a cutting. The cutting should be around six inches. It is also crucial to do the trimming beneath a node.
- Get rid of the lower leaves. After that, prepare the rooting hormone and dip the end where the cut is made into it. Plant it gently into the rich soil you have already prepared.
- The next thing to do is to water the plant cuttings. Get the plastic bag then put it over the plant cutting as it helps to retain moisture. Use the rubber band in securing the bag into the pot.
Be sure to check the soil regularly to make sure it stays moist. The roots should be coming out in two to three weeks. After the ice has melted, you can remove the plastic bag.
Bee Balm Care
This plant is easy to grow because it is very forgiving. What are the best conditions to grow bee balm?
This plant does best in full sunlight, so in most of the United States, you should place it in an area with full sun exposure to encourage blooming. If you live in a hot area of the south or southwestern US, a little afternoon shade will help the flowers last longer and protect the perennial varieties from the afternoon heat.
While most varieties of this plant can tolerate some drought, they will do much better if they are watered regularly. The soil should be kept damp, but not wet. Pick an area to plant that doesn’t get waterlogged in the winter, and make sure it drains well so you don’t kill your perennials with too much water.
There are two common fertilization techniques.
Adding a layer of compost and mulch to your garden in the spring will help prevent weeds and provide nutrients for your plants.
You can either use a slow-release granular form of organic fertilizer or a liquid formula. Either of these options should keep it well-fed.
Bee balm is an incredibly forgiving plant that will tolerate a wide variety of situations, soil conditions, sunlight conditions, and weather. The plant is prone to a few pests and diseases.
The plant can be easily damaged by stalk borers, spider mites, and thrips.
Stalk borers bore holes through plant stalks. If you see a yellowish hole in the stem, cut the stalk and check for larva an inch below the hole. Destroy that stalk. If the plant doesn’t get the stalk borer removed in time, it will die from wilting.
Spider mites are small creatures that damage plants by drinking their juices. This causes yellow patches to appear on the leaves. Spider mites can be eliminated with insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils like neem oil.
The damage caused by thrips is similar to that of spider mites, although they don’t spin webs on plants. Spinosad and Neem oil can reduce population.
Bee balms are susceptible to powdery mildew. If powdery mildew is a problem, neem oil can be applied regularly to get rid of it.
If you’re growing bee balm in the winter, make sure the soil is well-drained to avoid root rot.
There is nothing more satisfying for a plant lover than growing bee balm flowers. Growing this plant is easy and quick, and it has many uses. The dark green leaves of bee balm can be used as an antiseptic or a herbal tea.
It also has several other medicinal and culinary uses. By growing bee balm in your garden, you will be rewarded with many benefits.