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How to Grow and Use Bee Balm

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If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow perennial that will attract bees and butterflies to your garden, bee balm is a great choice. Bee balm (Monarda) is a member of the mint family, and it grows well in both full sun and partial shade. Let’s discuss how to grow bee balm at home, and take a look at some of the benefits of this lovely plant.

bee balm monarda growing
Wild Bergamot Bee Balm in our flower bed

Why Grow Bee Balm

There are several reasons why you might want to grow bee balm in your garden. First of all, it’s a beautiful plant that produces colorful flowers in shades of pink, lavender, and white.

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Bee balm is also relatively easy to grow and care for. Additionally, this plant is known for its ability to attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. If you’re looking to create a bee-friendly garden, bee balm is a great plant to add to your space.

On top of it’s beauty and ability to draw in pollinators, bee balm also works well to fill spaces in flower beds, which helps cut down on weeds. I’m always looking for ways to avoid weeding!

There are many different varieties of bee balm available on the market, so it can be hard to choose which one is right for your garden.

Some popular varieties include:

Monarda didyma ( Scarlet Bee Balm)

Monarda fistulosa ( Wild Bergamot)

Monarda citriodora ( Lemon Bee Balm)

Monarda punctata (Spotted Bee Balm)

Scarlet Bee Balm

When choosing a bee balm plant for your garden, take into consideration the size of the plant and the color of the flowers. Some varieties can grow quite large, so be sure to choose one that will fit well into your space.

I have the wild bergamot in my own garden, and it stays relatively low and easy to maintain. Take a peek at the different varieties above to get a good idea of the bee balm that would work best in your space.

How to Plant Bee Balm

Now that we know a few reasons to grow bee balm, let’s focus on how to plant it. Bee balm is best planted in the spring, after all danger of frost has passed.

When you’re ready to plant, choose a spot in your garden that gets full sun or partial shade. Then, prepare the area by loosening the soil and amending with compost if necessary.

As with all plantings, I strongly encourage a soil test to know exactly what you’re working with in your yard and garden. With that information in hand, you can amend your soil as needed to create the best environment for your plants. (Why you should have your soil tested.)

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s twice the width of the pot your bee balm is currently growing in. Gently remove the plant from its pot and loosen any roots that are circling the outside.

Breaking up the soil from the original pot will help your plant to better establish, and it gives you a peek at the roots to check that there is no root rot present. If you see any black or brown roots, cut them away.

After planting, water your bee balm well and add a layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. I like to use pine straw as mulch in my garden beds because it helps improve the quality of my soil over time, but you can see my post here on the best mulches for the yard and garden.

bee balm attracting pollinators

Watering and Fertilizing Bee Balm

Once your bee balm is planted, you’ll need to water it regularly during the first growing season. A soaker hose or reminder on your phone can help take away the tendency to forget watering. (See my post on the best watering systems for gardens.)

To encourage strong growth, you can also fertilize your bee balm once or twice during the growing season. A balanced fertilizer or compost tea are both great options. (You can learn how to make your own compost tea here.)

Pruning Bee Balm

Bee balm blooms on new growth, so it’s best to prune it in late winter or early spring. This will also help keep the plant from becoming too leggy. The variety of bee balm that I am growing doesn’t get too tall, so pruning back is an easy snipping away of the dead stems from last year.

Consider what type of bee balm you have growing and prune accordingly.

Uses for Bee Balm

Besides being a beautiful addition to the garden, bee balm has many uses. The leaves and flowers can be used to make tea, and the leaves can also be added to salads or other dishes. As a member of the mint family, bee balm can have a minty or oregano-type flavor, and different varieties will vary in flavor.

The plant is also known for its medicinal properties and can be used to make a salve for cuts or bruises. Bee balm essential oil is also used in many different ways.

I hope you enjoyed learning about bee balm and how to grow it in your garden. Do you have any tips for growing this plant? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Happy gardening!