Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plant Profile: Monarda aka Bee Balm

Monarda, commonly known as bee balm or wild bergamot, is a native perennial flower that provides pollen and nectar for numerous types of pollinators and seeds for the birds. It is also a dramatic and attractive flower in its own right.

It prefers consistently moist soil that receives full sun to part shade.

Monarda is almost care-free in the garden, except that it is vulnerable to powdery mildew, a fungal infection that can look unsightly and cause a loss of the lower leaves, but will not kill the plant. One way to address this is to plant it at the back of the border to disguise the infected lower foliage. Another way is to select Monarda varieties that are more resistant to the powdery mildew.

Our cover story in the January 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine by George Coombs detailed the Monarda trials held at the Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. They went through three years of evaluations to determine disease-resistance as well as other desirable traits. The top performers include ‘Claire Grace,’ ‘Violet Queen,’ ‘Raspberry Wine,’ ‘Purple Rooster,’ ‘On Parade,’ and ‘Gardenview Scarlet.’

Monarda is also an herbal plant and is a member of the mint family. It releases a pleasant scent when you crush a few of its leaves. But like its mint cousins, it has a spreading habit, so surround it by companion plants that can help keep this rampant grower in check.

Monarda should be divided every 3-5 years. Without division, the center of the plant will start to die out, creating a blank hole in the middle. If that happens, replace the dead interior section with a chunk from the healthy, outside area of the plant. You can also easily dig and share a portion with a fellow gardener as well. The best time for division is in late summer to early fall.

Monarda - You Can Grow That!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.
Visuals by Taylor Calavetinos
Audio by Kathy Jentz

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