Bee Balm (Monarda)

Bee Balm (Monarda) is an old-fashioned favorite perennial plant. It is a wonderful plant for attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and helpful bees. It is also deer resistant. This prairie native has fascinating-shape flowers in jewel tones of red, pink, purple, and white, surrounded by dark bracts. They grow atop substantial clumps of dark foliage on branched hairy stems and bloom from June to September. The aromatic foliage is sometimes used for making tea, and bee balm is often grown in herb gardens. Monarda plants grow from two to five feet tall depending on the variety, and will fit well into your Hummingbird, Butterfly or Herb Garden. Lower growing varieties of Bee Balm can be used for a perennial border planting.

Plant Bee Balm in an area that receives full sun to partial shade and has rich, well-drained soil. Space plants 8 to 12 inches apart. If you need to enrich the soil, incorporate 2 inches of organic compost into the planting area with a tiller several weeks before planting. Water plants deeply once every seven to 10 days during the growing season, or enough to keep the soil consistently moist. Plants are prone to mildew if grown in dry soil. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches during each watering. Bee Balm can be fertilized once a year in spring with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer as directed on the product label. Avoid overfertilization, however, which can cause rampant growth and increase the chances of powdery mildew. Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of plants to conserve moisture and increase the length of time between waterings. Begin the layer about 3 inches from the stem to allow room for growth. Remove spent flowers as soon as possible to prolong the blooming period. Pinch them off as close to the stem as possible. Cut plants back to several inches above soil level after flowering has ended in fall using pruning shears. Like other members of the Mint Family, Bee Balm can become invasive, but you can keep your clump contained by dividing the clump in either spring or fall. Plants should be divided every 3 years to keep them looking tidy. Dig up the root clump, discard the older, inner portions, divide the remaining parts and re-plant the new divisions 12 to 15 inches apart.

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