In our attempts to save the bees, many of us are adding more flowering plants to our gardens.
Monarda is a popular perennial plant used in bee and butterfly gardens. It is commonly known as Bee Balm and its fragrant blossoms attract bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinating insects. Monarda also has a long history of medicinal uses by Native American tribes, American Eclectic physicians, the Shakers, and herbalist.
Bee balm is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). There are over 15 species and over 50 different cultivars of bee balm that grow both wild and in gardens. Colors range from bright red to lilac to shades of pink and white.
Monarda didyma is the variety I grow in my perennial garden bed. It is also known as Scarlet Bee Balm, Oswego Tea, and Crimson Bee Balm. The plant grows in dense clusters with striking red flowers that bloom on 3-foot high stems in mid to late summer.
Monarda didyma is a perennial native to Eastern North America and Canada and grows naturally from Quebec to Georgia and west from Ontario to Minnesota and down to Missouri. It is also native to Washington and Oregon in the west. (Source: USDA)
- History of Bee Balm
- Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Bee Balm
- How to Grow Bee Balm
- How to Harvest and Preserve Bee Balm
- How to Use Bee Balm
- Do you want to learn more about how to use herbs as medicine?
- Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.
- Bee Balm Not Blooming: Why Won’t My Bee Balm Flower
- Reasons Bee Balm Doesn’t Bloom
- Growing Bee Balms in the Home Garden
- When should Bee Balm bloom in Zone 6 (it did not bloom last year)?
- Bee Balms: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
- Get to Know Bee Balm
- How to Plant Bee Balm
- How to Grow Bee Balm
- Troubleshooting Bee Balm
- How to Harvest Bee Balm
- Bee Balm in the Kitchen
- Preserving and Storing Bee Balm
- Propagating Bee Balm
- Varieties to Grow
History of Bee Balm
The genus Monarda was named for Spanish physician and botanist Nocholas Monardes, who published some of the first European books on American native plants in the late 1500s. However, the Native American tribes of Eastern North America and Canada used Monarda didyma medicinally for centuries before Nocholas Monardes studied the plant. (Source: Foster)
Monarda didyma common name of “bee balm” is attributed to the use of the herb for soothing bee stings. North American tribes in the eastern United States used the herb to ease the pain of mild abrasions and bee stings by crushing the leaves of the plant and rubbing them on the skin. The name, “Oswego tea,” is originated from the Native Americans living near the present-day city of Oswego in upstate New York who showed early settlers how to make an herbal tea from the leaves of the plant. Monarda didyma was used as a black tea replacement after the Boston Tea Party. (Source: USDA)
Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Bee Balm
Monarda has a long history of medicinal uses by Native American tribes, American Eclectic physicians, and the Shakers. As a tea, it was used to soothe cold symptoms, including congestion, headache, and sore throats. Inhaling the fumes of steamed leaves was credited to help clear sinuses. Monarda has also been used for stomach issues such as gas, nausea, and vomiting, to reduce muscle spasms, and as a diuretic. (Source: Heatherly)
Monarda contains high concentrations of thymol, which is a strong antiseptic that is common in mouthwashes. The Native Americans used poultices made from the leaves of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds, and as a tea for mouth and throat infections caused by dental issues and gingivitis. (Source: Foster)
Each variety of bee balm has a slightly different flavor. The foliage of Monarda didyma has a minty sage and oregano blended flavor. Not sweet mint like peppermint, but more pungent making it a nice compliment to roasted meats and wild game. The petals are milder in flavor and can be tossed into both leafy and fruit salads to add a bit of spice and a burst of color.
How to Grow Bee Balm
Bee balm grows in a clump with 3-foot tall stalks. Most bee balm varieties are perennials and will grow in average to well-drained soil in full sun. You can grow bee balm from seed, but it establishes quicker when planted from divisions from a friend’s garden or purchased plants from your local garden center.
Like other herbs in the mint family, bee balm is considered to be a bit invasive. It will easily self-sow and also spreads by underground rhizomes. If you give it plenty of room in your garden, you will be rewarded with a beautiful display of bright blooms each year.
Select an area towards the back of your garden so it will not shade other plants. Plant bee balm in groups of five or more for a mass of color. The native types of Bee Balm are vulnerable to powdery mildew. Plant in full sun and provide plenty of air circulation or seek out varieties that are more tolerant to powdery mildew.
Bee Balms prefer moist soil that is rich in organic matter. Prepare your garden bed by removing all the weeds and amending with some compost and fertilizer. If the weather has been dry, prepare the bed the day before you plant and water the bed very well. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart and water in very well. Mulch to conserve moisture.
If you are growing bee balm from seed, start seeds indoors under lights 8-10 weeks before your average last frost date. Harden off your seedlings and transplant to your garden after all danger of frost is past. Perennial plants started from seeds will bloom the second year. Try to avoid harvesting foliage for the first year so the plant can use all its energy to become well established. For more information on growing from seed, please see: 10 Steps for Starting Seeds Indoors and How to Harden Off Seedlings.
Once established, bee balm is very trouble free and requires very little maintenance. Blooms begin in July and continue until late summer. Deadheading spent blooms will prevent seeds from self-sowing and encourage the plants to continue to flower longer. Divide the plants every 2 to 3 years if the center dies out or if the plants spread further than you want. Dig up plants in spring when growth first emerges, divide, and replant in another location or share divisions with your friends and neighbors.
How to Harvest and Preserve Bee Balm
Harvest mid-morning after the dew has evaporated for the greatest flavor. Harvest by clipping the base of the stalk. Gather the stalks by their stems, tie the ends, and hang to dry. Or you can pluck the leaves and petals from the stalks, spread them out on a screen and allow them to dry naturally away from dust and sunlight. Depending on the humidity level, drying can take 1-2 weeks.
The quickest way to dry bee balm is by using a dehydrator. Spread the leaves out on the screens and dry at a low temperature. Check every 30-minutes until completely dry. You can tell when the leaves are dry, by crushing a leaf or two. It should crumble easily. Once dry, store leaves lightly packed in a glass jar away from direct sunlight. Try not to crush them to preserve the flavor until you are ready to use.
How to Use Bee Balm
Bee balm tea can be made from both fresh and dried leaves. I find the flavor of tea made from Monarda didyma to be rather strong. To make tea, start with about 1-teaspoon of crushed, dried bee balm leaves per 8-ounce cup of boiling water. Steep for at least 5 minutes and drink like regular tea. If you like the bold flavor of Earl Grey tea, you will find the flavor quite similar. Use fewer leaves for a lighter flavored tea.
Visit the links below for more ways to use bee balm:
- 5 Ways to Use Bee Balm by Homespun Seasonal Living
- 12 Ways to Use Bee Balm by Practical Self Reliance
- Benefits of Bee Balm: Monarda Fistulosa and M. Didyma by The Herbal Academy
- How and Why to Make a Bee Balm Oxymel by Homespun Seasonal Living
Do you want to learn more about how to use herbs as medicine?
Herbal Academy Online Courses: No matter where you are in your herbal studies, the Herbal Academy has a training program for you!
- The Introductory Herbal Course is a good place to start if you are new to herbal medicine.
- The Intermediate Herbal Course begins with an introductory unit as a review, and then quickly advances into more complex topics.
- The Entrepreneur Herbal Course is geared towards herbalists who have already studied at the beginner and intermediate levels, who want to make and sell their own herbal products.
- The Advanced Herbal Course is an in-depth program geared towards students interested in becoming clinical herbalists.
Resources and Further Reading:
Heatherley, Ana Nez. Healing Plants: A Medicinal Guide to Native North American Plants and Herbs. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford, 1998. 22. Print.
“Plant of the Week.” Scarlet Beebalm. USDA. Web. Feb. 07. 2016.
I am not a doctor, and the statements on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. It is recommended that you consult your medical care provider or herbalist prior taking or relying upon any herbal product.
Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.
Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.
Bee Balm Not Blooming: Why Won’t My Bee Balm Flower
Bee balm is a beloved plant in many flower and butterfly gardens. With its beautiful, unique looking flowers, it attracts pollinators and delights gardeners. It can even be brewed into tea. It’s for all these reasons that it can be a real downer when your bee balm doesn’t bloom. Keep reading to learn more about what to do when there are no flowers on bee balm plants in your garden.
Reasons Bee Balm Doesn’t Bloom
Why won’t my bee balm flower? It may be due to one of a number of reasons. The most common problem is a lack of sun. Bee balm thrives in full sun, and most varieties need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day in order to bloom well. Bee balm that doesn’t get enough sunlight is also often leggy looking. If your bee balm is showing both of these symptoms, try relocating it to a sunnier spot. Alternatively, look for special cultivars that are designed to thrive in the shade.
Another common problem is over fertilization. Bee balm plants are light feeders, and too much fertilizer (especially if it’s rich in nitrogen) can result in lots of leafy growth and very few flowers.
Another common problem with bee balm is improper water or humidity. The plants like moderate irrigation – during periods of drought, water deeply once per week. If you live in a particularly humid climate, your bee balm may have trouble blooming to its fullest potential.
Your problem could also be age. Every three years or so, bee balm plants naturally start to bloom less because they get overcrowded. Try digging up and dividing your plant to rejuvenate it. You can also achieve rejuvenation within a single growing season.
If your plant has bloomed a little and faded, remove all the spent blooms. Deadheading bee balm should bring about a second round of flowering later in the summer.
Growing Bee Balms in the Home Garden
In July and August, the attractive flowers of bee balm (Monarda) are a common sight in gardens, along roadsides, and in prairies. The flowers are produced atop 2- to 4-foot-tall plants. The 1 1/2- to 3-inch-wide flower heads are composed of slender, tubular flowers. Flower colors include white, pink, red, lavender, and purple.
Bee balm is a member of the mint family. Like most other plants in the mint family, bee balm has square stems, opposite leaves, and is aromatic. Bee balm foliage has a mint-like aroma and is used in herbal teas, salads, and as garnishes. The flowers are also edible.
Bee balm attracts bees (hence the common name), butterflies, and hummingbirds. Other common names include bergamont, horsemint, and Oswego tea.
Bee balms are relatively easy to grow when given the proper site and care.
Bee balms perform best in full sun. While plants tolerate partial shade, they won’t flower as heavily and are more susceptible to powdery mildew. They also prefer moist, well-drained soils.
Bee balms like an even supply of moisture during the growing season. For best performance, water bee balms every 7 to 10 days during dry periods. When watering, soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Applying a mulch around the plants will help to conserve soil moisture and reduce the frequency of watering.
Bee balms don’t require frequent or heavy fertilizer applications. Sprinkling a small amount of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, around each plant in early spring is usually sufficient. Avoid over fertilization. Frequent or heavy applications of fertilizer will encourage rampant, succulent growth and may increase the severity of powdery mildew.
Prompt removal of the spent flower heads will prolong the bloom period.
Bee balms spread rapidly via underground stems or stolons. In addition, the centers of the clumps often die out within a few years. To control their spread and rejuvenate the plants, it’s usually necessary to dig and divide bee balms every 2 to 3 years. Early spring is the best time to dig and divide bee balms. Dig up the plants as soon as they emerge from the ground. Divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should have at least 2 or 3 shoots and a good root system. Replant immediately.
Insect and Disease Problems
Bee balms may occasionally suffer some minor insect damage. However, powdery mildew is a more serious problem. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease. It appears as a grayish white “powder” on the upper leaf surfaces. Severely infected leaves drop prematurely. Disease symptoms are most severe on overcrowded plants, those growing in partial to heavy shade, and drought stressed plants.
Cultural practices can reduce the severity of powdery mildew. When planting bee balms, select a site in full sun and space plants 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Divide plants every 2 to 3 years and water during dry periods. Remove and destroy disease-infested plant debris in the fall. The fungal spores of powdery mildew survive the winter on disease-infested plant debris. The removal and destruction of this material removes the source of next year’s infection.
The best way for home gardeners to avoid the annoying problem of powdery mildew is to select mildew resistant varieties. Varieties that possess good mildew resistance include ‘Marshall’s Delight’ (bright pink flowers), ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ (scarlet-red flowers), ‘Violet Queen’ (violet-blue flowers), ‘Raspberry Wine'(wine-red flowers), and ‘Colrain Red’ (purplish red flowers).
Most of the commonly grown bee balm cultivars grow 2 1/2 to 4 feet tall. However, there are a few dwarf cultivars. ‘Petite Wonder’ (pink flowers) and Petite ‘Delight’ (rose pink flowers) grow 10 and 15 inches tall, respectively. Powdery mildew resistance for both varieties is fair to good.
When sited properly and given good care, bee balm is a wonderful, easy-to-grow perennial for the home landscape.
When should Bee Balm bloom in Zone 6 (it did not bloom last year)?
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more hot questionsHummingbird bees look a lot like hummingbirds. (Julia Freeman-Woolpert/FreeImages.com)
Light up your summer garden and keep the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds happy by planting bee balm. This aptly named perennial comes in pink, red and white flower colors. The plant blooms throughout the warm season, offering its nectar up to winged visitors all summer long.
Depending on the variety, bee balm grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Some varieties thrive in wet soil, while others do well in average garden soil.
Also known as horsemint, wild bergamot and Oswego tea, bee balm makes a refreshing minty beverage. Add the fresh flowers to fruit or green salads or use as a garnish on cakes. Dried leaves and flowers can also be used in potpourri and sachets.
To have luck growing bee balm in your summer garden, keep the following growing tips in mind.
Plant in full sun. Bee balm flowers the most profusely if the plant gets a lot of bright light. To preserve flowers in the south, southwest or west, plant in an area that gets some afternoon shade. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Amend the soil. Prior to planting, add compost and a well-balanced organic fertilizer designed for blooming plants to the soil. Bee balm requires soil conditions on the acidic side, with a pH of 6-6.7, so if you live in an area with alkaline soil, such as the west, amend with soil sulfur to lower the pH.
Water regularly. Bee balm will tolerate drought, but does best if you keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Water when the top one to two inches of soil has dried out. For varieties that thrive in wet soil, make sure to keep the plant constantly moist. Conserve moisture and discourage weeds by mulching with a 2-inch layer of shredded bark.
A bumblebee on a bee balm blossom. (Julia Freeman-Woolpert/FreeImages.com)
Prune plants two or three times during the growing season to keep them growing bushy and full. In the late fall, cut bee balm back to within 5 to 6 inches from the ground. New growth will appear the following spring. Every three to four years, dig up the plants and divide them in the late winter or early spring.
Harvest and Storage. Cut bee balm flowers in the morning after the dew has dried and before the sun heats them up. The blooms last several days in water, or dry the flowers by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Pick flowers for drying before they open.
Watch for powdery mildew. To avoid this fungal disease, plant in an area that receives good air circulation and don’t overhead water. Help prevent the condition from continuing from year to year by cleaning up the planting bed in the fall. Remove any fallen foliage, stems or old mulch.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden writer and master gardener, who since 1985 has written for publications such as Organic Gardening, The American Gardener, Wildflower, Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times. She is the author of seven books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening, Fairy Gardening, The Strawberry Story Series, and Indoor Gardening the Organic Way, and is the founder of HealthyHouseplants.com.
Bee Balms: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
Bee balm flowers are brilliant additions to late-summer herb gardens and flower borders. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other nectar-seeking creatures covet the tubular flowers on the plant’s rounded flower heads, and the leaves and flowers can also be made into tea. Other common names include horsemint, wild bergamot, and Oswego tea.
About bee balms
Bee balm flower colors include pink, red, and white; new double-flowered forms are also available. The plant blooms from early to late summer and grows 2 to 4 feet tall, depending on the variety. Some bee balm species tolerate wet soil and will thrive along a waterway or in a bog garden. Bee balm is susceptible to powdery mildew disease, so select resistant varieties. Under favorable growing conditions the plant can become invasive.
Special features of bee balms
Easy care/low maintenance
Tolerates wet soil
Choosing a site to grow bee balms
Select a site with full sun to light shade and rich, well-drained soil. Some species tolerate wet soils, while others are adaptable to a wide range of soil moisture levels.
Plant in spring or fall, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart. Prepare garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant’s container. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and place it in the hole so the top of the rootball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the rootball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.
Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Remove spent flowers to keep plants looking tidy. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. Divide plants in spring every few years or when you notice the center of the plant dying out.
Quick Guide to Growing Bee Balm
- Plant bee balm in spring or fall, once all chances of frost have passed.
- Space bee balm plants 18 to 24 inches apart in an area with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
- Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- Bee balm can withstand a dry spell, but for best results, water whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Encourage big, beautiful blooms by feeding bee balm with a water-soluble plant food.
- Flowers can be enjoyed as decorations or as a gorgeous garnish in salads and desserts.
Soil, Planting, and Care
For prolific blooms, plant in full sun; in the South and Southwest, a little afternoon shade helps flowers last longer. Picking the flowers encourages a second round of blooms. For best results, start with strong, vigorous young bee balm plants from Bonnie Plants®, the company that has been helping home gardeners find success for over a century.
Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in rich, well-drained soil with a pH from 6.0 to 6.7. Improve your native soil by mixing in a few inches of compost or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil before planting. In addition to starting with great soil, you’ll want to feed your bee balm to produce excellent growth. Apply a liquid fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition, every week or two throughout the growing season to feed the soil as well as your plants.
Although it will tolerate drought, bee balm will do much better if it gets adequate moisture; however, protect it from poor drainage, especially in winter. Water when leaves wilt in dry weather. Mulch in the spring.
In the late fall, cut plants back to within several inches of the ground. For a bushier shrub, pinch the tips of the stems when new growth appears each spring.
Bee balm spreads but not as aggressively as other members of the mint family. Every 3 or 4 years, dig up and divide the plants. Discard the old center section and replant the outer roots and shoots.
Bee balm is a tall perennial herb native to North America. Bee balm is also called by its botanical name—Monarda, and is also called bergamot (because the scent is similar to the citrus fruit bergamot, an orange), and is also referred to as Oswego tea (the Oswego Indians made tea from the leaves). It has a minty fragrance and the leaves are used for making tea and are added to salads and jellies. The blooms have a colorful, shaggy appearance and can be planted in both the herb garden and perennial border.
Get to Know Bee Balm
- Botanical name and family: Monarda didyma, a member of the Lamiaceae—mint family.
- Type of plant: Bee balm is a herbaceous perennial.
- Growing season: Spring and summer; plants die back in winter.
- Growing zones: Bee balm grows best in Zones 4 to 10.
- Hardiness: Bee balm is resistant to cold and heat; it’s cold hardy to -20°
- Plant form and size: Bee balm is a bushy plant that grows 3 to 5 feet tall; the leafy, branching stems grow from clumps; bee balm has shallow, spreading roots.
- Flowers: Bee balm has tubular, two-lipped flowers that bloom in showy tiered whorls at stem tips; flower colors range from white to pink, purple, and scarlet. Bee balm flowers have a rich citrus-like scent.
- Bloom time: Bee balm blooms early to late summer; a second bloom will appear if the first blooms are deadheaded.
- Leaves: Bee balm has dark green, toothed leaves that grow opposite one another; leaves grow on square stalks similar to mint. The leaf surface has a hint of downy fuzz.
How to Plant Bee Balm
- Best location: Bee balm prefers partial shade but tolerates full sun. Plant where there is good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew which can hit leaves in late summer.
- Soil preparation: Plant bee balm in moist but well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Bee balm prefers a soil pH of 6.5 to 8. Prepare planting beds by adding a couple of inches of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to the planting bed and turning it under.
- Seed starting indoors: Start bee balm seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Start seeds in flats or pots under fluorescent lights. Keep the seed starting mix at 55°F or thereabouts.
- Transplanting to the garden: Transplant well-rooted bee balm plants to the garden one week before the last spring frost. Transplant seedlings or rooted cuttings outdoors in late spring.
- Outdoor planting time: Start bee balm seed outdoors in mid-spring after all danger of frost has passed.
- Planting depth: Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep.
- Spacing: Space plants 12 inches apart. Bee balm grows in clumps and spreads rapidly. A clump may need two square feet or more.
- How much to plant: Grow 6 bee balm plants for tea or preserving.
- Companion planting: Bee balm is said to enhance the growth of tomatoes and peppers. It attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Plant bee balm with sweet woodruff.
How to Grow Bee Balm
- Watering: Bee balm needs moderate water; water plants just when the soil starts to dry out. Bee balm can grow in dry soil and is less likely to be invasive in dry soil. Bee balm will grow lush with ample water.
- Feeding: Apply ½ inch of compost to the planting bed each spring. Feed plants with all-purpose even fertilizer such as 10-10-10.in midsummer.
- Mulching: Mulch bee balm in winter to protect roots from cold and snow.
- Care: Be prepared to pull or dig out new sprouts. Mats of shallow roots can be invasive in moist soil; you may want to place metal barriers around root clumps to keep roots from running. Cut back plants periodically to keep them compact. Divide plants every 3 or 4 years; this will help control the rapid spread. For fall blooms, prune the back by to just a few inches above the ground after the first flowering.
- Container growing: Bee balm can be grown as an individual plant in its own container or in a group in a large container or tub. Plants lose their bottom leaves at the end of summer and look leggy.
- Winter growing: Bee balm is cold hardy but will likely die back in cold weather. Container grown plants can be moved indoors in winter but they are unlikely to flower.
Troubleshooting Bee Balm
- Pests: Bee balm is usually pest-free.
- Diseases: Rust and powdery mildew can attack bee balm in late summer. Control powdery mildew and rust with good air circulation, spacing plants and cutting plants back to the ground after flowering.
How to Harvest Bee Balm
- When to harvest: Harvest leaves as needed. For best flavor, harvest leaves before flower buds open.
- How to harvest: For drying in quantity, cut stems about one inch above the ground before bloom in early summer and again in late summer. Cut flowers for drying when blooms are almost fully open. Cut plants down to with 1 inch of the ground after flowering; this will promote new growth and a second flowering.
Bee Balm in the Kitchen
- Flavor and aroma: Bee balm tastes and smells like mint with citrusy undertones of orange and lemon. Some say it smells like Earl Grey tea.
- Use fresh flowers and leaves in fruit, salads, teas, lemonade, pork, poultry, and jellies.
- Leaves: Sprinkle fresh flowers in salads. Use fresh whole or chopped leaves to flavor duck, pork, meat sausages, and curries
- Flowers: Add flowers to salads. Petals taste like oregano; sprinkle petals on salads or on pizza just out of the oven.
- Teas: Fresh and bee balm leaves make good teas, alone, or in combination with other herbs. Inhaling the steam produced by combining leaves with boiling water will relieve a sore throat
- Culinary complements: Bee balms citrusy flavor complements fruits, strawberries, apples, oranges, tangerines, and melons. Ground dried leaves and flowers can be used as a substitute for oregano and marjoram.
Preserving and Storing Bee Balm
- Drying: Strip bee balm leaves from stems and dry them on screens or drying trays for two or three days in a warm, shady place or dry leaves in a dehydrator. In a fine mesh bag, leaves and flowers will dry in 2 to 7 days
- Dry leaves in the refrigerator by spreading the leaves evenly on a baking sheet covered with paper towels.
Propagating Bee Balm
- Grow bee balm can be grown from seed, cuttings, and divisions.
- Seed: Seeds are best stratified (placed in the refrigerator) for three months before sowing; germination occurs in 14 to 21 days. Sow seeds indoors then set out transplants.
- Division: Divide plants fall or spring. Divide plants as soon as clumps grow larger, at least every three years. Replant divisions in soil amended with aged compost. The center of plants tends to die so take divisions from the outer edges of clumps.
- Cuttings: Root tender tip cuttings in early summer. Dip tip cuttings in a rooting hormone and plant in organic potting mix.
- Layering: Bee balm can be propagated by layering. Stems that touch the ground will grow roots and can be divided to form new plants.
Varieties to Grow
Bee balm cultivars include:
- ‘Cambridge Scarlet’: Red blooms on leafy spikes.
- ‘Croftway Pink’: pink blossoms.
- Lemon mint: pink-purple blooms.
- ‘Marshall’s Delight’: pink blooms, resistant to powdery mildew.
- ‘Raspberry Wine’ scarlet with lilac undertones.
- Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa): Lavender flowers and a very strong fragrance.
Also of interest:
Growing Herbs for Cooking
How to Grow Mint
How to Grow Thyme
How to Grow Oregano