Sticking with the flowering natives we’ve been talking about, this week is one of my favorites! Bee Balm, or Monarda, is an excellent plant for many reasons. Few plants can beat it for its striking beauty, its importance to wildlife, its fragrance, and its tall upright form.
Bee Balm is a perennial that has many cultivars, most in shades of red or pink. A member of the mint family, it is edible, though not necessarily agreeable to the palate. Its flavor has been described as a cross between the flavors of mint and oregano. The fragrance is rather pleasant and Monarda is sometimes referred to as wild bergamot.
Bee Balm is a great flower for attracting pollinators, and it has the two requisites for attracting hummingbirds. It is red (hummingbird eyes filter out other colors to see red) and the flowers are tube shaped, perfect for a hummingbird to stick its long beak and tongue into for nectar. Planting Bee Balm and other red and/or tube shaped flowers has been one of our strategies for attracting hummingbirds to our yard, and this year it seems to finally be paying off, although that is another blog post altogether. In addition to attracting pollinators and hummingbirds, birds also eat the seeds, so after several weeks of dead-heading I do usually let the blooms go to seed.
Bee Balm thrives in full sun yet will tolerate partial shade with fewer blooms. It does best in soil that drains well. Once established it is fairly low maintenance, other than deadheading spent blooms and potentially cutting it back in the fall there is not much else to do with it once established. It is fairly drought tolerant and seems to be deer resistant. The local deer have never browsed our Monarda and deer are quite abundant around our house.
Bee Balm, or Monarda, is an excellent native plant addition to any flower, meadow, or pollinator garden. You’ll love the colorful blooms and the wildlife that it attracts. You’ll also love how easy it is to take care of.