22 August 2010

In the Spotlight - Bee Balm

Bee Balm or Bergamot (Monarda didyma), is a perennial and member of the mint family. Bee Balm blossoms from late July to late August in red, purple, white or varying shades of pink.

Native to North America, bee balm is a hardy highly scented plant. Even the leaves are scented. Bee Balm's scientific name is owed to Nicolas Monardes, a Spanish physician and botanist who chronicled American flora in the 16th century. The name Bergamot is derived from the bergamot orange to which it smells similar.

Fast growing, Bee Balm grows in clump form and is best suited to full sun to part shade locations with moist well-drained soil. Its average size at maturity is 2-3 feet high and wide, depending on the variety.

True to its name, Bee Balm attracts bees as well as hummingbirds and butterflies. The clump should be divided every three years to keep its spread under control. Prune back in the fall and feed with an all-purpose fertilizer (if desired) in the spring such as 20-20-20.

Like most plants, under adverse conditions like cool humid days, warm days and cool nights, Bee Balm can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Plant where it gets good air circulation. Treat with a sulphur spray, spraying the foliage well but being careful not to overdo it as the sulphur also kills beneficial bacteria in the soil. Remove badly mildewed leaves and destroy them.

Hardiness Zones: 4,5,6,7,8,9 (zone 3 - may need to mulch in the fall)


Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Hi Shirley. I love Bee Balm but it has been a trial this summer. I have fought mildew all summer on it. I am seriously thinking of moving it to the sunny part of my woodland bed.

Shirley said...

Hello Hocking Hills Gardener. If you have had a wet summer as we have, you will find that a battle. Perhaps a sunnier location would be better. Thanks for visiting.


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