If you are looking for a plant that is both edible and ornamental, look no further than the bee balm plant. These plants not only produce beautiful flowers with varying colors but they can be eaten too. This article will tell you how to grow the plant in the garden and things you should know about it.
- 1 Getting to Know about Bee Balm Plant
- 2 Bee Balm Uses
- 3 Growing Bee Balm Plant in the Garden
- 3.1 1. How to Plant
- 3.2 2. How to Grow
- 3.3 3. Propagation
- 4 How to Harvest Bee Balm Plant
- 5 Preserving and Storing Bee Balm
- 6 Cultivars to Grow
- 7 Bee Balm Companion Plants
Getting to Know about Bee Balm Plant
1. Botanical name and family
The botanical name of the bee balm plant is Monarda didyma. It belongs to the mint family.
2. Type of plant
It is an herbaceous perennial, which means it can regrow every spring.
3. Growing zones
Bee balm thrives in Zones 4 to 10.
It is a hardy plant. It can withstand heat and cold. The bee balm is cold hardy to -20 degrees.
5. Growing season
The growing season of this plant is spring and summer. It dies back in winter.
6. Bee balm size and form
It is a bushy plant that grows 3 to 5 feet in height. It has shallow, spreading roots. The plant’s branching stems grow from clumps.
7. Bee balm leaves
Bee balm grows dark green, toothed leaves. Like any other member of the mint family, bee balm plant leaves grow opposite to each other. The surface of the leave has a hint of downy fuzz.
Bee balm produces tubular, two-lipped flowers. The flowers’ color ranges from purple to pink, scarlet to white. They have a rich, citrus-like scent.
9. Bloom time
Bee balm flowers bloom early to late summer. If the first blooms are deadheaded, a second bloom will appear.
Bee Balm Uses
The bee balm plant has many uses. For example, the leaves can be used to flavor meat sausages, pork, duck, and curries. You can also use the leaves to make bee balm tea. You can use the leaves to make tea alone or combined with other herbs.
The flowers, on the other hand, can be added to salads. The petals have a similar taste to oregano, which is why they can be used on salads and pizza.
Growing Bee Balm Plant in the Garden
1. How to Plant
– Best location
The best location to plant a bee balm plant is where the plant can get full sun to partial shade. Try to look for a place where the air circulation is good so your plant will not suffer from powdery mildew in late summer.
– Soil preparation
The plant can tolerate various soil types. That said, it thrives in humus-rich, moist yet well-drained soil. It grows best in soil with a pH between 6.5 and 8.
To prepare the planting beds, add several inches of either organic planting mix or aged compost then turn it under.
– Seed starting indoors
If you start by planting indoors, sow the seeds about 8 weeks before the last expected spring frost. Start seeds in pots or flats under fluorescent light. For best growth, keep the temperature at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
– Transplanting to the garden
Once a bee balm plant is well-rooted, you can transplant it to the garden. Do this about a week before the last expected spring frost. If you are transplanting rooted cuttings or seedlings, do it in late spring.
– Outdoor planting time
If you are growing the plant outdoors, do it after all danger of frost in spring has passed.
– Planting depth
Sow bee balm seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.
The plant needs room to grow. As such, space each plant 12 inches apart from the other.
– How much to plant
Grow 6 plants for tea or preserving.
2. How to Grow
The bee balm plant doesn’t need that much water. Water the plant only when the soil starts to dry out. The plant can grow even in dry soil. If anything, growing in dry soil makes it less invasive. On the flip side, the plant grows lush with ample water.
In each spring, apply about half an inch of compost to the planting bed. In midsummer, feed the plant with all-purpose fertilizer with an even ratio (10-10-10, for example).
The plant can be invasive if left on its own device. So when you see new sprouts, prepare to pull or dig them out. To keep roots from running, surround root clumps with metal barriers. If you want the plants compact, cut them periodically.
Last but not least, if you wanna keep the plants’ spread under control, divide the plants every 3 or 4 years. For fall blooms, prune the plants back to just several inches above the ground after their first flowering.
Although the bee balm plant is hardy, you still need to protect its roots from cold and snow. To do so, mulch the plant in winter.
– Container growing
You can grow the bee balm plant in a container, either individually or as a group. Just make sure that however you plant them, there is enough room for them to grow.
– Winter growing
Although it is a cold-hardy plant, the bee balm is likely to die in cold weather. If you are planting in containers, move them indoors during winter to keep them alive.
Want to propagate your bee balm plant? You can do so in three ways: from seed, from cuttings, and from divisions.
– From seed
To propagate bee balm from seed, you need to stratify the seeds before planting. To do so, fill a plastic bag with sand. Place the seeds inside the bag and place the bag in the fridge for at least a month.
Several weeks before the last frost, take the seeds from the fridge and sow them out in the garden. Add a bit of compost to the soil and wait for 10 to 14 days for the seeds to germinate. Bee balm seeds need light to germinate so you don’t need to cover them.
– From cuttings
To propagate from cuttings, find new spring growth from the stems’ tips and cut them out at least 6 inches, starting just underneath a set of leaves. Place the cuttings in small pots with vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, or combinations of these. Once the stems take root, you can repot them in potting soil.
– From divisions
You can also propagate the plant divisions. All you need to do is to divide a plant and make sure each division has enough roots attached for it to regrow. Then, replant them in pots or the garden.
Speaking of growing beneficial plants in the garden, marigold is another welcome plant to grow in the garden. The plant attracts beneficial insects that not only help in pollination but also controlling bad bugs. Our growing marigolds guide here can help you grow the plant in your garden.
How to Harvest Bee Balm Plant
1. When to harvest
You can harvest bee balm leaves as needed. If you want the best flavor a bee balm plant has to offer, harvest leaves before its flower buds open.
2. How to harvest
For drying in quantity, use a garden scissor and cut the stems about 1 inch above the ground before the flowers bloom in early summer. Do this again in late summer.
If you want to harvest the flowers for drying, cut them when they bloom and almost fully open. To encourage a second flowering and new growth, cut the bee balm plant down to about 1 inch above the ground after it flowers.
Preserving and Storing Bee Balm
To preserve, remove leaves from stems then dry them on drying trays or screens for 2 to 3 days in a warm, shady spot. Alternatively, you can use a dehydrator to dry leaves or put leaves in a fine mesh bag and leave them to dry for 2 to 7 days.
To store, prepare a baking sheet that is lined up with paper towels and spread the leaves evenly on the sheet. Place the sheet in the refrigerator.
Cultivars to Grow
Bee balm plant has plenty of cultivars (there are over 50 of them that are commercially available) it can be confusing to decide which one to grow. Below, we listed 10 cultivars and describe each briefly so you can an idea or two on which cultivar to grow.
1. Scarlet Bee Balm/Red Bee Balm
The scarlet/red bee balm or the “Jacob Cline” is the cultivar that has large vibrant red flowers. The Jacob Cline adapts to just about any soil conditions and spreads rapidly.
This cultivar flowers from midsummer through early fall. If you are planting bee balm to attract hummingbirds, this cultivar is your best option. This cultivar makes a great border, too.
2. Purple Bee Balm
Purple bee balm or Monarda “Balmy Purple” is your go-to if you want gorgeous purple flowers blooming in your garden. This cultivar grows best under partial shade or full sun. It likes moist yet well-drained oil.
Purple bee balm flowers bloom from late spring through the end of summer. This cultivar is great for small gardens, planting beds, as well as borders.
3. Dwarf Bee Balm
This plant also known as “Petite Delight”, is a bee balm cultivar that produces amazing lavender rose flowers that have an alluring scent. Dwarf bee balm flowers bloom from mid through late summer. This cultivar is good for just about any garden.
4. Easter Bee Balm
The Easter bee balm or Monarda bradburiana is a bee balm plant cultivar that boasts very beautiful soft pink-lavender flowers, which bloom from late spring through early summer
Like other cultivars, the Easter bee balm grows best in full sun to partial shade. As for soil, the Easter bee balm prefers well-drained soil with dry to medium moisture.
Compared to other cultivars, the Easter bee balm is relatively small, growing only 1 to 2 feet tall. This makes the cultivar great for small garden beds and borders.
5. Spotted Bee Balm
The Monarda punctate, more popularly known as the Spotted Bee Balm plant, is a cultivar that produces clusters of light purple flowers. The Spotted Bee Balm can grow to be about 2 feet tall. It thrives under full sun to partial shade.
This cultivar attracts not just hummingbirds but also butterflies. The cultivar looks great when grown in small flower beds or as borders.
6. Beauty of Cobham
The Monarda “Beauty of Cobham”, like its name, is a beautiful plant. It produces very beautiful purple flowers. This variety attracts hummingbirds and pollinators to the garden. It looks great planted in a small garden, borders, and in a container patio.
This is another cultivar that produces beautiful purple flowers, which bloom from summer through early fall. The bee balm Prarienacht cultivar can grow to 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. This bee balm plant offers not only beautiful looks, however. It also attracts pollinators.
8. Balmy Pink
Pink is always a delightful color to see in the garden. If you want it in your garden, consider planting the Monarda “Balmy Pink”. This cultivar produces gorgeous pink flowers which bloom from late spring through the end of summer.
9. Raspberry Wine
Like the raspberry red color and want to introduce it in your garden? Consider planting Bee Balm Raspberry Wine. This cultivar produces very beautiful deep raspberry-red flowers. Do you know what’s better? The gorgeous flowers are produced all summer long.
The Monarda “Squaw” is your go-to bee balm cultivar if you are looking for one that looks terrific in just about any place. It can grow 3 to 4 feet tall, so you may want to consider the space so it has enough room to grow. Like other cultivars, the Squaw also thrives in full sun or partial shade.
Bee Balm Companion Plants
The bee balm plant gets along well with lots of companion plants. For a sunny garden setting, the bee balm can work well with plants like garden phlox or Shasta daisy. You can also plant dwarf amsonia alongside bee balm, which will hide its rather scruffy lower legs.
Daylilies or variegated phlox and bee balm make a lovely combination, too. When you plant bee balm with companion plants, make sure that the companion plants have similar demand when it comes to soil and sun conditions. Also, don’t crowd the plants too fiercely.
That’s how to grow and things you should know about the bee balm plant. What do you think? Are you interested in planting this wonderful and gorgeous plant in your garden?