Bee Balm: A Pollinator’s Delight

Bee Balm, also known as Monarda or Bergamot, is an old-fashioned plant that grew in many gardens of the past. This hardy perennial is a year-round source of food providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and providing seeds for other birds in winter months. It is deer- and rabbit-resistant and is a vigorous growing perennial that is native to many areas.

Explosions of Color

Bee Balm grows best in zones 3-9 reaching varying heights of 1-4’. It is best grown in sunny locations with a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day and spaced out at least 18-24” from other plants to allow for adequate air circulation. Bee Balm will burst into bloom in early summer and most varieties continue through fall with firework-looking blooms atop long strong stems. It is a fragrant flower that is excellent for cutting. 

Planting and Care

Plant Bee Balm in a sunny location in the early spring or late fall. To plant, dig a hole slightly wider than the nursery pot and just as deep. Add a layer of compost to the bottom of the hole and mix with the original soil. Remove the Bee Balm from its pot and loosen the roots if bound tightly. Add the plant to the new hole, cover with soil, press down to remove any air pockets, and water thoroughly. It is important to space Bee Balm plants at least 18-24” apart to allow for the plant to naturally spread.

This perennial plant loves moist soil, so water consistently. During times of drought or extreme heat, offer a full soak once or twice per week. Water at the base of the plant to decrease the risk of fungal disease.

Bee Balm appreciates a liquid fertilizer such as Founders Fish Fertilizer early in the growing season. Do not over fertilize, as this will encourage the plant to push out more foliage and less flowers. 

Help your plant stay healthy with pinching and pruning. As your plant breaks dormancy, pinch back the initial new growth to encourage branching and a bushier plant. Deadheading often will also increase the bushiness of the plant and encourage a rebloom of flowers. At the end of fall, prune the entire plant down to just a few inches above the soil line. It will rebloom the following spring.

As a member of the mint family, Bee Balm likes to spread. To keep the plant at a manageable size, dig the plant up every 2-3 years, remove the woody stems, and divide the roots into clumps. Replant in a new location and keep the soil moist.

Favorites for us this season are:  Balmy Pink, Sugar Buzz Cherry Pop, Sugar Buzz Grape Gumball, Balmy Rose, and Balmy Purple.