Pronounced: mo-nar' dah; Common name: Beebalm, Oswego Tea, Bergamot, Horsemint. |
Family: Lamiaceae, Mint
Hardiness: zones 3 to 9, sometimes 4 or 8.
Full sun to part shade, it will spread faster with afternoon shade;
Growth rate: moderate to fast and perhaps aggressive in southern zones.
An eastern North America native in bottomlands, thickets, moist woods and especially along stream banks, monarda is easy to grow and multiplies quickly. The flowers' sweet nectar attracts scores of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to the garden. The aromatic foliage smells like mint when crushed and is often used to flavor teas.
A clump-forming member of the mint family member, monardas have tubular flowers borne in dense, spherical, mop-heads atop 2 to 4 foot tall stems. Attractive to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, particularly in mass plantings, monarda has a long summer bloom season. Removing spent blooms will prolong bloom cycle. The serrated, aromatic 3 to 6 inch long leaves are still used today for teas and in salads.
Monarda tolerates most soil conditions, but will grow best in organic, medium-to-wet, moisture-retentive soils in full sun to part shade. Soil should not be allowed to dry out, beebalm is not drought tolerant. Beebalm does well in full sun or partial shade. Plants multiple faster with shade, but will flower more in the sun.
Most monardas multiply rapidly either by underground stems or self-sowing. To keep plants healthy and vigorous, they should be divided every three to four years in the spring.
Landscape habit, uses: borders, naturalized, bee, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, wild or native plant garden, meadow, herb garden, naturalized planting or along ponds or streams.
- didyma (di-di-mah')--usual species of commerce and cultivars, species has red flowers, the true "Oswego Tea";
fistulosa (fis-tuu-lo' sah)--Wild Bergamot, to 5 foot tall, rose to purple flowers in late summer, leaves are more hairy and less toothed than didyma, stems grow out of the previous flower head, tolerance to dry conditions and mildew; herbal use in the treatment of headaches and fevers.
Most cultivars are crosses between didyma and fistulosa, or among various cultivars. Propagation: Monarda can be started from seeds, but if you want to propagate the cultivars, start new plants by dividing the root clumps in early spring before new growth begins.
PLANTING: Set plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Though monarda will tolerate any soil, best results will be obtained in a moisture-retentive, highly organic soil.
MAINTENANCE: Removing faded flowers will prolong the blooming period. Divide every 3 to 4 years as necessary, discarding the central portion and replanting the vigorous outer segments of the clump. If mildew becomes a problem, regular spraying is advised. Plants may be cut to the ground after blooming for appearances' sake.