What we love about growing monarda
- North American native available in annual and perennial varieties
- Fragrant blooms attract pollinators and beneficial insects
- Drought tolerant and deer resistant
- Excellent in cut flower arrangements and used medicinally
growing monarda cultivars
Bee balm is a perennial variety with daisy-like, purple flowers and dark green, saw-edged foliage. Lemon mint, an annual variety, is famous for its citrus fragrance and edible leaves, which add a lemon-esque zest to salads, teas, and cocktails! Lemon mint will grow one to two feet and happily self-seed, but bee balm grows quite a bit taller, often stretching up to four feet tall. Both cultivars thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 10.
how and when to plant monarda seeds
Direct sow bee balm in the fall, or start the herb indoors in late spring, along with lemon mint. Monarda is a hardy plant and will tolerate poor soil and heat waves with grace. Just be sure to plant monarda in well-draining soil or the plants may succumb to root rot. Bee balm and lemon mint both love sun, so opt for a site that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Monarda seedlings benefit from a process called pinching—when young plants are about six inches tall, go through and remove the inner stem with a clean cut. This will encourage the plants to branch out, and will result in more blooms. Prune back perennial bee balm cultivars every spring for best results. To stagger flowering and extend the bloom season, pinch your monarda plants at different times.
One of the easiest plants to grow, there’s really no excuse to not incorporate monarda in your garden. This North American wildflower provides ample habitat and food for native pollinators and beneficial insects. Tuck bee balm or lemon mint in next to your vegetables and see if you don’t get an amplified harvest this season, as pollinators drawn to your monarda will probably stop by the cucumber row as well.
benefits of monarda
If you have an interest in herbal medicine, you might be interested to know that monarda has several medicinal properties as well. Native American communities cultivated monarda to treat headaches, stomachaches, and fever. Today it has been proven that monarda does have antimicrobial properties, and does in fact work as a fever-reducer. And, to no one’s surprise, monarda leaves do in fact solve a multitude of digestive issues.
Monarda is a versatile plant that is abundantly useful. Whether you intend to use monarda in cut flower bouquets, culinary dishes, or medicinally, you won’t be disappointed in either the Bee Balm or Lemon Mint varieties. For more information about planting, growing, and harvesting monarda seeds, see the Monarda Seeds Planting Guide.