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Growing Bee Balm: Planting And Caring For Monarda

Bumble Bee With Wild Bergamot Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Bumble Bee With Wild Bergamot Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)

Bee Balm (Monarda) is a genus of native wildflowers and native hybrids renowned for their large pollinator-attracting flower clusters. These plants have been the focus of breeders and nursery people for many years and a large number of different cultivars are available in the trade. Their flowers come in many colors ranging from light pink, dark pink, rose-red to dark red. Monarda are highly recommended for use in habitat gardens, perennial beds and wildflower meadow plantings. Planting them in groups will enhance their value to insect pollinators and hummingbirds as the pollinators don’t have to waste valuable energy flying between widely spaced plantings.

Monarda are tall growing perennials that do best growing in moisture-retentive, compost-enriched loam or clay-loam soils with full sun. Keep their soil moderately to very moist with supplemental irrigation in drier climates or when summer rains are infrequent and growing conditions become dry.

Red Jacob Cline Bee Balm (Monarda)
Red Jacob Cline Bee Balm (Monarda)

Garden Care Of Bee Balm (Monarda)

Monarda are herbaceous perennials that die back to ground level each winter.  Leave them standing over the winter months and cut back the dead stems to just above ground level in mid-spring. Monarda, when happy in their growing space, form wide clumps that need to be divided every 3 to 4 years to keep the plants vigorous and prevent the centers of the clumps from dying out.  Dividing of the plants should happen in early to mid-spring before the plants begin to wake up.  Be sure to enrich the planting hole with additional compost and Yum Yum Mix to feed the soil and provide ample nutrients for the Monarda plants to utilize.

Raspberry Wine Bee Balm (Monarda)
Raspberry Wine Bee Balm (Monarda)

Dealing With Powdery Mildew On Bee Balm (Monarda)

All of the Monarda cultivars we carry are resistant to powdery mildew, but some Bee Balm cultivars have a sensitivity to powdery mildew on their foliage. Listed below are some preventative measures one can take to help prevent the appearance of powdery mildew or to control it once it has appeared. 

  • Plant Bee Balm (Monarda) in full sun and space mature sized plants such that they don’t touch other plants. This facilitates good air circulation and penetration of sunlight into the foliar canopy to keep the foliage dry. 
  • Avoid overhead watering with sprinklers. Use drip irrigation of soak the ground with a hose.
  • Choose mildew-resistant cultivars, such as the ones we offer.  A lot of breeding effort has gone into reducing susceptibility to powdery mildew.
  • Remove mildew infested foliage after the plants have finished blooming. Cut the plant back to ground and dispose of the infected leaves and stems. Don’t compost them as mildew spores aren’t killed in the composting process.

Organic or all natural fungicides can help to control the white powdery residue that forms on leaves especially during the hot summer months. Neem oil, Safer’s Gro Mildew Cure and Banish Mildew Control are effective and are applied to infected foliage.