How to grow bee balm from seed?

Propagating Bee Balm Plants: How To Propagate Bergamot Seeds, Cuttings And Divisions

Propagating bee balm plants is a great way to keep them in the garden year after year or to share them with others. They can be propagated by division in spring or fall, by softwood cuttings in late spring, or seeds.

Bright flowers and a minty fragrance make bergamot (Monarda) plants ideal for perennial borders. Bergamot is known by several other names, including bee balm, monarda and Oswego tea. The shaggy-looking clusters of flowers begin blooming in midsummer and last for several weeks. These mopheaded flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, making the plant ideal for a wildlife garden. Even better is the fact that bergamot is appropriate for nearly all climate zones.

Propagating Bee Balm Plants through Division

Bergamot needs dividing every two or three years to keep the plants vigorous, and this is a great time to propagate the plants. Begin by loosening the soil around the roots and then sliding the shovel underneath the roots and prying upward.

Once the root ball is out of the soil, shake gently and brush off as much loose soil as possible so you can get to the roots. Cut through thick roots with pruning shears and separate the plant into at least two clumps by pulling apart the remaining roots with your hands. Make sure each plant section has plenty of roots with it.

When you are satisfied with your bee balm divisions, prune the tops to remove damaged stems and clip off any unhealthy, dark-colored or slimy bits of root. Replant the divisions right away to prevent the roots from drying out.

Bee Balm Cuttings

Take cuttings of new bee balm growth from the tips of the stems in late spring. Cut tips no more than 6 inches in length just below a set of leaves. Remove the lower set of leaves and dip the cutting in rooting hormone.

Stick the cuttings 2 inches deep into a small pot filled with perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, or a combination of these materials. Water well and place the cuttings in a plastic bag.

Once the bee balm cuttings root, remove the bag and repot the cuttings in potting soil. Place them in a sunny window and keep the soil lightly moist until you are ready to transplant outdoors.

Collecting Bee Balm Seeds

Bergamot grows readily from seeds. When collecting bergamot seed, time the collection to the maturity of the flowers. The bergamot seeds usually mature one to three weeks after the flowers bloom. You can test for maturity by bending the stem over a bag and tapping it. If brown seeds fall into the bag, they are mature enough and ready for harvesting.

After collecting bee balm seeds, spread them on paper to dry for two to three days and store the dried seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Planting Bergamot Seeds

You can plant bergamot seeds outdoors in early spring while the soil is cool and there is still a chance of a light frost. Cover the seeds with a light dusting of soil. When the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, thin them to 18 to 24 inches apart. If you prefer to start the plants indoors, start them eight to 10 weeks before you plan to transplant them outside.

When propagating bee balm plants from seeds, first make sure the parent plant isn’t a hybrid. Hybrids don’t breed true and you may get unexpected results.

Wild Bergamot

Monarda Seed

DAYS TO GERMINATION: 7-14 days at 60-70°F (16-21°C).
SOWING: Transplant (recommended): Sow the seeds in flats, barely covering them. Transplant to individual containers when the seedlings have their first true leaves. Transplant outside in the spring or summer, 6-8 weeks after starting the seeds, spacing plants 12-18″ apart. Direct seed: Sow from early spring up until 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. Direct seed or sow in a cold frame to be transplanted when they reach a height of 3-4″. Sow about one seed per inch in rows 18″ apart. Thin to 12-18″ apart.
DISEASE: Bee balm is very susceptible to powdery mildew, which is exacerbated by humidity and any kind of plant stress, even drought. To reduce the likelihood of mildew, keep the soil moist, minimizing overhead watering; space the plants far enough apart to allow for good air circulation between plants; remove diseased foliage to prevent the fungus from overwintering; and divide the plant about every 3 years, discarding the old center growth and replanting the new side shoots.
LIGHT PREFERENCE: Sun/Part Shade.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: A moist, rich soil that is slightly acidic.
PLANT HEIGHT: 36-48″.
PLANT SPACING: 12-18″.
HARDINESS ZONES: Zones 4-10.
HARVEST: Starting the first year, leaves may be harvested. More leaves may be harvested each year as plant size increases. Bee Balm does not usually flower until the second year. Mature plants, 3-4 years old, can be divided to make new plants.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Monarda fistulosa

Bergamot Panorama – seed

Monarda didyma ‘Panorama’ – bergamot

DESCRIPTION: Bushy perennial with aromatic leaves and catherine-wheel flowers in shades of pink, magenta, maroon and white. Really loved by beneficial pollinators such as honeybees and butterflies. Makes a good cut flower for the home, and an attractive addition to a cottage style garden.Leaves can be used to make tea.
PLANTING: Sow seeds in Spring-Autumn in cooler regions, AutumnWinter in subtropical and tropical regions. Sow directly into final position or in seed trays/pots, and keep moist. Cover seeds with soil to 5mm. Thin plants one they develop 2-4 leaves and are easily handled. Plant in free draining soil with plenty of organic matter in a sunny location for best flowering.
CARE: Water seedlings regularly until established and continue to provide water especially during dry spells. Mulch plants to keep the shallow roots cool in summer. For an extra long flowering season, remove spent blooms and feed with liquid fertiliser

HEIGHT & WIDTH

PLANT SPACING

SOW DEPTH

GERMINATION

FLOWERING

90cm 90cm 5mm 14-28 days 28 weeks

Contains 75 seeds

Bergamot
Botanical Name: Monarda didyma

Bergamot is an aromatic, perennial herb, growing to from 70cm to 1 meter high. When crushed the leaves and stems give off a fragrance reminiscent of the Bergamot Orange. The summer blooms are red and appear on showy flower heads of about 30 flowers. The 3-4 cm blooms take on a tubular and slightly ragged appearance, to good effect. The bracts are also a reddish colour and sit at the top of thick stalks. The dark green, ovate leaves sit opposite on the square stems. They have coarsely toothed margins and are glabrous, with reddish veins. They are quite long at 6-15 cm long and 3-8cm wide.

Bergamot belongs to the mint family and has a pungent citrus like aroma and flavour. It is often called ‘bee-balm’ or ‘scarlet bee-balm’, ‘crimson bee-balm’ or scarlet monarda. It is very attractive to bees and other insects. The colourful flowers are nectar rich and also attract humming birds in its native environment. There are many annual, biennial and perennial bergamot varieties, all sharing some common features. Cultivars are often developed for their different coloured flowers, which may be pink, red, white or purple.

In the United States, bergamot often goes by the name Oswego Tea because it was used as a tea by the Oswego Native Americans. They introduced the plant and its tea to the early Shaker colonies at the time of the Boston Tea Party, when black tea became scarce. Monarda fistulosa, also confusingly called bee-balm, grows in this region as well. However, it is not suitable for making tea. The Oswego tribe also used bergamot as food, a perfume, preservatives and medicinally. If searching for more information, include ‘Oswego Tea’ in your key words.

Bergamot is an ancient herb and was first described in 1569 by Nicholas Monardes, who provided the scientific name and the entry into the Herbal of New World Plants. Its name was acquired due to the similarity in fragrance to the unrelated Bergamot Orange, known as Citrus bergamia. The native habitat of bergamot is the eastern North American regions, from Maine to Ohio. However, it is naturalised further west in the United States and also I parts of Europe and Asia.

Bergamot is grown extensively as an ornamental plant, but there are some interesting medicinal uses and an opportunity to use bergamot in the kitchen.

Growing Conditions

Bergamot does best in cooler climates and thrives in deciduous forests in its native region. This herb thrives in soil that is moist and likes to live near stream banks, thickets or even in ditches where the ground collects water and stays moist even in summer. For the best results, enrich the soil with lots of organic matter and avoid chalky soils. It does best in full sun, but can take part shade.

Bergamot does not like humidity, so tropical and warmer regions may not always produce the best results. It is also vulnerable to frost and in many areas the plant may die down and be semi-dormant in winter. However, it will send up new stems in spring and In areas where the plants leaves dies down the aroma is still present, courtesy of the small surface rootlets.

Bergamot flowers mid to late summer, with the seeds ripening after flowering ceases. However, it can be useful to cut the flower heads off in the first year to allow the plant to become established. The fine seeds are unreliable for propagation because they are easily hybridised and may not be true to the parent type. However, they can be sown in seed raising mix and planted out once seedlings have grown sufficiently. Root division in spring or taking cuttings may yield better results. The plant will send out creeping runners and these can be removed from the outside of the clump, potted up and planted 80 cm apart. This is the most successful way of propagating bergamot. If you would like to contain the plant a metal ring can be used or alternatively, a large container may suit your needs.

The plant can form a mat like growth and will eventually become bare in the centre as the newer outside growth is favoured by the plant. Dividing the plant every 3-4 years keeps it looking attractive and supplies new plants. A good pruning in autumn, close to ground level, will ensure fresh new spring growth. In summer, bergamot can be subject to powdery mildew in dry conditions and affected leaves or branches should be removed. This may be unexpected because we associate mildew with wet weather.

To harvest bergamot for dried floral arrangements, choose a 30cm stem and pick the leaves and blooms in summer, after flowering. Make sure the flowers are completely open and dry them in a warm oven. The drying process needs to be fast to retain the colour.

Culinary Uses

There are many varieties of Monarda and each may have slightly different uses. For example, Lemon Bergamot offers an opportunity to add both the fragrance and taste of lemon to a variety of dishes. The flowers and fresh young leaves may be used sparingly in salads and they are said to improve the flavour of pork dishes. The petals are a colourful garnish for salads and other dishes. The fresh leaves are excellent for adding to fresh summer fruits drinks. It may be used as flavouring in wines, jellies and fruit dishes.

Using the leaves and blossoms creates a tea similar in taste to Earl Grey tea, which is the product of the distilled Bergamot orange oil. You may use 5-6 large fresh leaves or a teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of boiling water to create a refreshing tea.

Medicinal Uses

Bergamot has a long history of medicinal use by Native American tribes, who introduced it to the new settlers. The Shakers found the Oswego Tea to be a useful black tea substitute and also beneficial for treating colds and sore throats. Other settlers used to steam the leaves and inhale the fumes to clear the sinuses. Pregnant women should avoid bergamot because it can stimulate uterine contractions. However, in the 19th century bergamot was given to young brides and young mothers as a tonic.

The Blackfeet tribe recognised the strong antiseptic qualities of the herb. They used it for creating poultices to treat skin infections and minor wounds. A tisane was used to treat mouth infections, dental problems and gingivitis. Bergamot or bee-balm is the natural source of thymol, an antiseptic and today it is the main active ingredient in modern mouth wash products. The Native American Winnebago tribe used bergamot as a natural herbal stimulant, a carmative and digestive herb. Other tribes used it for increasing urine flow, combating fever, for heart disease, for insomnia and to stimulate appetite and regulate menstrual flow.

The flavonoids are higher in the flowers than the leaves, so they are a valuable part of the herb. Apart from the specific uses above, bergamot has been used for nausea, vomiting, digestive complaints, cold and flu, coughing, as a decongestant, to clear sinuses, to help chest complaints, as a diuretic and for treatment of fungal and bacterial infections.

Other Uses

Bergamot is often used in cleansers and lotions used in skin products. The leaves may be used for relaxing baths and steam facials at home. Bergamot can also be used for dried floral arrangements and potpourri where they offer long lasting colour. Lemon bergamot, in particular, offers very long lasting cut flowers.

Companion Plants

Bergamot is a good all round companion for plants that need any form of insect pollination, due to its bee attractant qualities. It is also thought to be a good companion to tomato plants

Bergamot is also known, somewhat confusingly, as Bee Balm, Scarlet Bee-balm, Horsemint, Oswego Tea, and by its genus name, Monarda. All varieties are aromatic and highly attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds.Pick the leaves as desired for fresh use in the kitchen. For drying, harvest leaves before the flowers open. Cut flowers for drying as soon as they’re fully open. Masses of tiered pink-purple blossoms grow from August until frost. Follow along with this handy How to Grow Bergamot herb seeds Guide and attract some pollinators to your garden.

Latin
Lemon Bergamot: Monarda citriodora, Wild Bergamot: M. fistulosa
Family: Lamiaceae

Difficulty
Easy

Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: Hardy from zone 5 to 10

Timing
Sow indoors late February to mid-March, or direct sow in early spring when a light frost is still possible. Seeds can also be direct sown in October. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 15-21°C (60-70°F). Seeds should sprout in 10-40 days. Bottom heat will speed germination.

Starting
Barely cover the tiny seeds with soil. Thin or space transplants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart. These vigorous perennials will grow in, closer together over time.

Growing
Any ordinary garden soil will work. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Where summers are long, plants are prone to mildew, so avoid overhead watering. Deadhead regularly to prolong the blooming period. Plants spread by rhizome growth, and should be dug and divided every three years.

Harvest
Pick the leaves as desired for fresh use in the kitchen. For drying, harvest leaves before the flowers open. Cut flowers for drying as soon as they’re fully open. Masses of tiered pink-purple blossoms grow from August until frost.

Wild Bergamot Herb Seeds (500mg)

For single seed packets of Wild Bergamot Herb, please visit PatriotSeeds.com to purchase.

Wild Bergamot Seeds (500mg):
Wild Bergamot is treasured for its unique, refreshing flavor. Grow bergamot at home to use in your favorite teas. Patriot Seeds offers 100% heirloom herb seeds such as Wild Bergamot. Our seeds are also non-GMO and sourced in the USA. They come in resealable heavy-duty packages that can be used for storage for 5+ years. Bergamot is a perennial that will thrive and self-seed if cared for, giving you more return on your investment in high-quality seeds. When you’re ready to declare your food independence, buy Patriot Seeds!
Wild Bergamot Planting Instructions:
Start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost or direct sow outdoors 1 to 2 weeks before the last frost. You may also direct-sow in October. The optimal soil temperature for seed germination is 60-70 F. Wild Bergamot does best in full sun, but can also thrive in partial shade. Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and barely cover with topsoil. Thin or space the plants to 18 to 24″ apart. Bergamot is a hardy perennial that will grow closer together over time.
Wild Bergamot Harvesting Instructions:
As desired, harvest leaves for fresh use in the kitchen. To dry leaves, harvest them before the flowers open. Both fresh and dried leaves can be used in tea. As soon as the flowers are fully open, cut them for drying. Masses of tiered pink-purple blossoms will grow between August and the first frost.
Did You Know This About Wild Bergamot?
Around the time of the infamous Boston Tea Party, the Oswego Indians introduced wild bergamot to the American colonists. Bergamot provides its distinctive flavor to teas such as Earl Grey.

Monarda Fistulosa Seeds – Wild Bergamot Flower Seed

Flower Specifications

Approximate seeds per pound: 21,120,000

Season: Perennial

USDA Zones: 3 – 10

Height: 30 – 60 inches

Bloom Season: Summer

Bloom Color: Lavender

Environment: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Well-drained, pH 6.6 – 7.8

Deer Resistant: Yes

Planting Directions

Temperature: 68F

Average Germ Time: 14 – 28 days

Light Required: Yes

Depth: Seeds must be covered thinly, no more than the thickness of the seed

Sowing Rate: 4 seeds per plant or 1 pound per acre

Moisture: Keep seed moist until germination

Plant Spacing: 20 – 30 inches

Mintleaf Bee Balm (Monarda Fistulosa) – Grow Monarda Fistulosa seeds for this attractive and useful perennial herb plant. Also known as Wild Bergamot this perennial is an upright growing plant which spreads out. It has a lovely lavender blossom and distinctively aromatic foliage. Its sweet nectar is a favorite of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Mint Leaf Bee Balm is native to eastern North America and the plains, and it is easy to grow from flower seeds and it multiplies quickly.

Monarda Fistulosa Bergamot can be found naturally along riverbanks and enjoys this rich, organic, moist soil. However, it will grow in average soil as well. Full sun is best, but light shade is tolerated. Mintleaf Bee Balm plants tend to spread more quickly in the shade. Most Monarda herbs multiply rapidly either by underground stems or freely sowing their own flower seed. In order to keep plants healthy and vigorous, they should be divided at least every three years in the spring. Deadheading spent blooms will prolong the bloom time. Powdery mildew is a common fungal problem with Wild Bergamot herb plants. To prevent this fungus from appearing, large clumps should be thinned out so that the air circulates freely around them. The soil should also be kept consistently moist; dry soil promotes powdery mildew.

How To Grow Wild Bergamot: Sow Mintleaf Bee Balm seeds in small pots in late winter. Apply a starter fertilizer solution for the seedlings. Water when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Pinch off the tops of the plants several times during the growing season to encourage branching and a bushier grow habit. When the roots fill the container (about 2 months) they are ready for planting in the garden. Plant the Wild Bergamot seedlings in a sunny, weed-free, well-drained soil, 20 – 30 inches a part. Water, if there are no rains. Wild Bergamot seeds can also be broadcast on a weed-free surface from January to mid-May in sunny locations. Irrigate regularly to keep herb seeds moist until germination, and continue to water Monarda seedlings during pro-longed dry periods.

How to plant:

Propagate by seed, cuttings, division or separation – Plant seeds in containers in cold frame. Seeds germinate in 10 to 40 days.

Take basal softwood cuttings with plenty of underground stem in spring. Pot individually and keep in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until well rooted, then plant out.

Divide clumps of the spreading root system every 2 or 3 years in early spring before growth begins. Plant the large clumps directly into a sunny moist location. Pot small divisions and grow in light shade in a cold frame until well established before planting out.

Maintenance and care: Deadhead to prolong flowering.

If foliage develops mildew after flowering, cut back to uninfected leaves at the base of the plant. Thinning stems early in the season can also reduce mildew.

Cut back by half when about a foot tall to delay flowering, reduce height and delay mildew.

Divide every 2 to 3 years as clumps die out in the center.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials

Pests: Stalk borer. Diseases: Mildew is common after flowering. Look for resistant varieties, thin plants, provide good air circulation.

Crown rot

Monarda, Jacob Cline

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Careful watering is essential in getting perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Once established monarda prefers drier soils.
  • Good air movement is also important as monarda is susceptible to powdery mildew.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • “Deadhead”, remove spent flower heads to encourage continuous flowering and prevent seed development.
  • Remove and discard foliage after a hard frost in fall.
  • In colder regions, apply another layer of mulch (1-2 inches) after the ground freezes in fall. Evergreen boughs (from Christmas trees) provide additional protection. Remove this mulch in the spring.
  • Divide when plants become overcrowded, bloom size begins to diminish or plants lose their vigor, every 3-5 years. Divide monarda in spring when plants are dormant. Monarda has a spreading root system. Spreading root systems have many slender matted roots that originate from many locations with no distinct pattern. These can crowd out their own centers. They can usually can be pulled apart by hand, or cut apart with shears or knife. Replant one division where the plant was originally and plant the extra divisions elsewhere in your garden or give them away to gardening friends. Plant the divisions immediately, or as soon as possible, and water well. Pull out wandering plants that show up where you do not want them.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ is a sturdy perennial wildflower that expands to form upright clumps. Plants bear deep green aromatic leaves on strong square stems. In summer, they are topped by large rounded clusters of red tubular flowers. Pollinators flock to the blooms in sunny or partially shaded settings with average or moist well drained soils.

HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Monarda didyma occurs from Quebec, New Brunswick and Maine to north Georgia and west to Ontario, Minnesota and Missouri. This is mainly a Northeastern species with the greatest distribution in montane habitats from Maine to Pennsylvania and south into the Appalachians.

This species is indigenous to wet meadows, moist open woods, woodland borders, thickets and disturbed sites.

The cultivar ‘Jacob Cline’ is a tall vigorous mildew resistant selection with large flowers and a long bloom period. ‘Jacob Cline’ was discovered in Georgia. The variety was named for the son of Jean Cline, a Georgia plantsman and garden designer and introduced by Saul Nursery of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION: Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ is an upright perennial that expands into colonies from vigorous rhizomes.

Stems are pubescent, green and square with occasional branching. The aromatic leaves are arranged opposite from each other on 1” petioles.

Leaf blades are deep green and ovate or heart shaped. They are 5” long and 2” wide with toothed edges and pointed tips.

The stems terminate in rounded 3-4” flower clusters with several red or purple tinted leaf-like bracts beneath.

The flowers are tubular and over 1” long. Each corolla tube is actually a ring of united petals with a scarlet red color. The tubes are lightly pubescent with lobes toward the tip and exserted stamens.

The flowers are born in a ring on each dense head-like cyme. The lobes and stamens of individual flowers give the flower clusters a ragged appearance.

Blooming begins in summer and lasts for about 6 weeks followed by a crop of ovoid nutlets.

Plants grow 3-5’ tall with a 2-3’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ thrives in sun or part sun and moist acid humus rich soil. Plants tolerate clay, sand and wet soils.

Plants bloom more vigorously if they are divided in spring or fall every 3-4 years.

This cultivar is resistant to powdery mildew and the aromatic foliage is unpalatable to deer, rabbits and other herbivores.

LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Cut Flower Garden, or Meadow. Plants are also used to attract Hummingbirds, as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ with Coreopsis tripteris, Heliopsis helianthiodes ‘Summer Nights’, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and Liatris spicata.

Monarda didyma has similar appearance and culture but is generally a taller plant more prone to mildew.

TRIVIA: Bumblebees, swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds sip nectar from the flowers. Caterpillars of several moth species feed on the foliage. The aromatic leaves and stems are unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.

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