Monarda Bee Balm

Monarda Bee Balm has many other names including Oswego Tea, Bergamot and simply Monarda or Bee Balm.

From the Lamiaceae family, Monarda has 15 species of annuals and clump forming herbaceous rhizomaous.  Available in pinks, white, blues, purples, violets, reds and deep scarlets, these plants grow anywhere from ten inches to three feet. 

Flower heads look like a raggedy mop and are great flowers to attract butterflies but they are also terrific hummingbird plants as well.

  • Long blooming season - summer through late fall. 

  • Plants grow in part shade but make sure it is more sun that is available for them. 

  • All these beautiful colors also make excellent deer repellent plants in your butterfly garden.

  • Grows in moist soils, moderately fertile but well drained.

  • Protect from excessive winter moisture.

Why so many names?

  • Oswego Tea because originally the plant was named after the Oswego Indians by the Oswego River in upstate New York.  The Oswego Indians drank team made from Monarda leaves, which tastes similar to Earl Gray tea.  The name was passed as the Indians began to teach European settlers the plants other uses for tea, food and medicine.

  • Bee Balm because it attracts bees along with many other types of pollinators.

  • Monarda named after Spanish physician and plant collector Nicholas Monardes about 1569 who liked the plants for medicinal uses. 

Monarda fistulosa - 'Fistulosa' is Latin which translates to 'hollow'.  This is horsemint, also known as Wild Bergamot and Wild Bee Balm.  Found in planting zones 3-9, plants grow two to three feet high and seeds in spring and summer.  When planting space them 12 - 18 inches apart.  Germinate in about fifteen days.  Cut back after flowering and plants bloom again.  Examples are:

  • Monarda loddon crown - Dark red-purple flowers
  • Monarda mahogany - Wine red flowers

Monarda didyma - Also known as Bee Balm, Bergamot, Oswego Tea grows in wet soils like ditches.  Monarda didyma is prone to rust, leaf spot and especially powdery mildew.  Examples are:

  • Monarda aquarius - Bronze green foliage, light pink flowers
  • Monarda bowman - Purple flowers, also mildew resistant
  • Monarda capricornus - Purple green foliage, pink flowers
  • Monarda fishes - Pale pink flowers
  • Monarda purple crown - Purple flowers
  • Monarda squaw - Red flowers
  • Monarda twins - dark pink flowers

Hybrids are the cross between Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma.  The wild 'fistulosa' offers resistance to powdery mildew while the bee balm 'didyma' offers the great variety of colors.

Examples include:

  • Marshalls Delight - Shiny green leaves, pink flowers
  • Gardenview Scarlet and Jacob Kline (also Jacob Cline) - Blue 
  • Blue Stocking - Violet blooms
  • Beauty of Cobham - Pale pink flowers

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