Bee Balm Flowers, otherwise known as Monarda didyma, is a delightful mint family perennial. It emits a delightful, bergamot orange-like feeling, inspiring a feeling of joy and connection. It is also known by its alternative name of Wild Balsam or Oswego tea, named after the Oswego Indians in New York, who enjoyed the leaves of Monarda as a herbal healing tea. Monarda didyma is native to North America and boasts 16 species, often regarded as one of the most lavish and showy summer perennials. These attractive yellow to red-tinged flowers are usually wrapped by bracts in the same color, and gracefully bloom for up to six weeks. In colder months, the tall stems and seed heads provide a beautiful contrast in the winter garden.
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How to Plant
Bee Balm Flowers require bright sun and adequate air circulation for best blooms, and do well in 5-6 hours of direct sunlight. Monarda didyma prefers well-drained, loose soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH level of 6.6 -7.8. When temperatures outside reach 75°F (24°C) or higher, semi-shade is highly recommended to avoid wilting and scorching. Water deeply and regularly, reducing frequency during cooler months. Fertilization is only necessary in soils lacking of essential minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium.
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Meaning and Symbolism
Bee Balm Flowers exude an air of beauty and divinity, and deeply connect us to the phenomena of nature. Its Latin genus name, Monarda, is given in honour of the Spanish doctor and botanist, Nicholas Monardes (1493–1588), known for his passion for plant remedies and herbal medicines.
The species name didyma, “di” meaning “two”, and “dymus” meaning “sets”, speaks to its early medicinal uses of poultice for headaches and tea for sore throats.
History, Mythology, and Religious Significance
The majestic Bee Balm Flower was enjoyed by the Indigenous people of North America long before the Europeans arrived. Although the Native Americans certainly weren’t alone in this appreciation of wildflowers. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans also employed these blooms in various applications, mainly for treatments of ailments. Later, this flower became a symbol of love, enchantment, and beauty, with royalty and other religious figures being presented with bright-colored bouquets and garlands.
Flower Varieties and their Defining Characteristics
Monarda didyma is the most popularly grown flower in the Monarda genus, boasting a variety of cultivars, with blooms in shades of scarlet-red to lavender-pink.
Some of the popular ones are:
- Lambada – Scarlet-red flowers are collared by red-tinged bracts.
- Senorita Rosalita – Deep pink petals
- Gardenview Scarlet – Deep scarlet-red flowers
- Cambridge Scarlet – Abundance of bright red flowers
- Coral Reef – Rich coral flowers
- Lilac Lace – Deep magenta with lavender hues
- Violet Queen – Dense violet-fuchsia tinged petals
How to Pot & Repot
Bee Balm Flowers, or Monarda didyma, prefer a deep, rich potting mix to support their deep roots and general vigorous growth, and should be repotted every two to three years. When repotting, use containers that are slightly larger than the old one and provide at least 2” (5 cm) of room between the roots and the side of the pot. Prune the root ball to a manageable size and start layering small amounts of the prepared medium, gently firming it around the root ball. Once the pot is filled, give the plant a deep watering, ensuring any excess water is drained out of the pot.
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How to Prune
Bee Balm Flowers need regular pruning and grooming to keep their shape and promote healthy new growth. Begin pruning and deadheading whenever old flowers fade and start to spread their seeds around the garden. Cut back flower-filled stems up to the level of the newest growth, about 2-3” (5-7.6 cm) from the ground. Keep in mind that shearing the whole plant back to the ground in late summer will destroy the winter beauty of the bee balm’s stems and will shorten its life span substantially.
How to Propagate
Monarda didyma can be propagated by division and cuttings, however division is the easiest and most popular method. The key to success is to divide the plant after it has bloomed, in early autumn. One clump can be divided into four or five sections, depending on the size of the clump. Once divided, re-pot the sections into individual containers, reduce the height of the stems by around 1/3. Make sure to add fresh potting soil and blend in a slow-release fertilizer at the time of potting. After planting each division, water them deeply and settle the soil around the rooting area.
Common Pests and Diseases
Bee Balm Flowers suffer from some common pests and diseases, but with proper care, it is possible to minimize their occurrence. Monarda didyma can be affected by aphids and powdery mildew, which can be prevented by providing adequate airflow and spacing between plants. Overwatering and keeping the soil too wet can lead to root rot, so be sure to water only when the soil is dry, or just slightly moist.
Three Frequently Asked Questions About Monarda didyma
- Do bee balm flowers attract bees?
Yes! The strong scent of Monarda didyma attracts bees and many other flying insects, creating a perfect home for pollinators.
- How to deadhead bee balm flowers?
Deadheading is a simple process. Cut the stem of the bloom that has faded, just below where the new buds are forming and discard any faded blooms.
- Are Bee Balm flowers deer-resistant?
Yes, Bee Balm Flowers are deer-resistant and do not attract them, however there is no guarantee the deer won’t be tempted by the blooms.
|Mature Size||20 – 26 inches (0.5 – 0.7 m)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun / part shade|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, loam/clay-based|
|Soil pH||6.6 – 7.8 (neutral to slightly alkaline)|
|Bloom Time||June – September|
|Flower Color||Scarlet-red, lavender-pink, yellow|
|Native Area||North America|