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Monarda didyma

Phonetic Spelling
mo-NAR-da DID-ee-mah
Description

Monarda didyma, known by a number of different common names including Bee Balm, Oswego Tea, and Bergamot, is native to eastern North America where it typically occurs in bottomlands, thickets, moist woods and along streambanks from Maine to Minnesota south to Missouri and Georgia. This plant is an erect perennial herb that grows between 2-3' tall. It is clump forming and up to 3' wide. 

The common name of Bee Balm is in reference to a former use of plant resins to soothe bee stings. The common name of Oswego Tea is in reference to a former use of plants leaves for tea by the Oswego Indians of New York State. The toothed, aromatic leaves (3-5” long) are still used today for teas and in salads. The common name of Wild Bergamot is in reference to the purported similarity of the aroma of plant flowers to the bergamot orange. Flowers have a minty, citrus, sweet, hot flavor and bloom in the summer, although deadheading prolongs the blooming period. This plant prefers full sun and soil with good moisture. It is intolerant of drought. Powdery mildew and rust are main disease problems.

Bee Balm is native to the North Carolina mountains and may be seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway flowering in summer. 

Bee Balm is a butterfly, bee, and hummingbird magnet for border fronts.  It provides color and contrast for the perennial border, cottage garden, wild garden, specimen planting, native plant garden, meadow, herb garden, naturalized planting or along ponds or streams. Good plant for butterfly gardens and bird gardens. This plant spreads rapidly in shaded sites, and can become invasive in beds. Cultivar selections with pink to purple flower hues. 

Fire Risk: This plant has a medium flammability rating. 

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Late summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Plants are susceptible to powdery mildew, especially in crowded gardens, but it is usually in the late season after flowering.  Prune stems to increase airflow.  Severe cases may require fungicidal sprays. In addition, if the soil is allowed to dry out, the stressed plants become increasingly susceptible to disease. Rust can also be a problem.

Monarda spreads rapidly through underground runners which must be cut back to keep it in place.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Erect herbs with square stems, opposite leaves
  • Leaves are coarse, pubescent, minute axillary leafy shoots
  • Inflorescence of leafy-bracteated, dense glomerules
  • Flowers are 2-lipped, elongated thin corolla tubes
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#purple#fragrant#hummingbirds#red#white#butterflies#pink#sun#birds#partial shade#summer#perennial#white flowers#herbs#wildlife plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#wildflowers#showy#red flowers#yellow flowers#native perennial#nectar plant#fall interest#rabbit resistant#clay soil#playground#black walnut#wet sites#specialized bees#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#summer flowers#deer resistant#native garden#perennials#pollinator plant#native wildflower#fantz#late spring flowers#hummingbird#NC Native Pollinator Plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#purple#fragrant#hummingbirds#red#white#butterflies#pink#sun#birds#partial shade#summer#perennial#white flowers#herbs#wildlife plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#wildflowers#showy#red flowers#yellow flowers#native perennial#nectar plant#fall interest#rabbit resistant#clay soil#playground#black walnut#wet sites#specialized bees#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#summer flowers#deer resistant#native garden#perennials#pollinator plant#native wildflower#fantz#late spring flowers#hummingbird#NC Native Pollinator Plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Monarda
    Species:
    didyma
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used in teas, flavor jellies, soups, stews, and fruit salads; edible flowers. The plant resins have been used to sooth bee stings. The Oswego Indians of New York state also used the leaves for tea.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Leaf Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts bumblebees, swallowtail butterflies, and Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Members of the genus Monarda support the following specialized bees: Dufourea monardae, Perdita (Perdita) gerhardi, and Protandrena abdominalis. The leaves are fragrant with a mint/basil scent. The leaves provide food source for caterpillars of several moth species.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This plant is resistant to damage by deer and rabbits.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Herb
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Wildflower
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3b, 3a, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Bee Balm is a somewhat coarse, clump-forming, mint family member that features tubular, two-lipped, bright scarlet-red flowers crowded into dense, globular, terminal flowerheads (to 3-4” across) somewhat resembling unkempt mop-heads. The flowers are in a compact rounded head, usually single and terminal. Each flowerhead is subtended by a whorl of showy, red-tinged, leafy bracts. Flowers are zygomorphic and are borne in 1-2 whorls. Flowers are 13-15 veined, have 5 teeth, and the corolla is narrowly tubular. Lobes of flowers are 2-lipped, erect and spreading. The upper lobe is longer than the lower lobe. Long summer bloom extends for about 8 weeks from early/mid-summer to late summer. Plant foliage declines after bloom, particularly if infected with mildew. Flowers are 1-2" in size.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Deltoid
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Bee Balm features 2-4’ tall square stems clad with opposite, simple, ovate to ovate-lanceolate to deltoid, acute, rotund, serrate-dentate, hirsute, medium to deep green leaves (3-6” long) with serrate margins. The leaves emit a minty fragrance when bruised or crushed. They become glabrate with age.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Stems are square and thinly pilose.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Rabbits
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Weedy