Family: Lamiaceae

Scientific Name: Monarda didyma

Common Name: ABC's of Monarda


Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is a medium tall, wide spreading perennial for the full sun areas of the garden. Has a mildew problem, but this can be worked around by proper management of the plant and garden.

Plant TypePerennials Hardy, Site author's observations
Hardiness Zone4-9
Moisturein moist sites will expand rapidly, grows in average conditions
Soil & Siteaverage, avoid moist and rich
Flowerstubular flowers in a single or double row whorl around the center, colors: white, rose, red, pink, purple, etc, middle of July lasting through August
Leavesopposite, pointed, scented
Stemsfour angled
DimensionsThey reach 3-4 feet tall and will spread as far as you let them. New shorter cultivars are becoming available.
MaintenanceAfter blooming cut back to the ground. Cutting back eliminates the bare knee stems and the mildew laden leaves. Monarda dies out in the center and needs to be divided every 2-3 years. Dig healthy clumps and replant or dig out center and fill with compost. The plants will rapidly regrow. Should be placed behind a plant that will cover up the space left when Monarda is cut back. All Monarda are prone to get mildew but the newer cultivars are said to be mildew resistant. I doubt if any are totally resistant.
PropagationMixed varieties can be grown from seed. Many of the cultivars need to be increased by division or cuttings. Division is by far the simplest method to use.
Misc FactsThis planted is called Oswego Tea because it was discovered by John Betram near Oswego, New York He used the leaves to make tea. The genus was named after Nicolas Monardes a 16th century botanist. "Common name of bee balm is in reference to a former use of plant resins to soothe bee stings. Common name of Oswego tea is in reference to a former use of plants leaves for tea by the Oswego Indians of New York State. The toothed, aromatic leaves (3-5” long) are still used today for teas and in salads. Common name of wild bergamot is in reference to the purported similarity of the aroma of plant flowers to the bergamot orange." (#144)
Notes & Reference#04-Herbaceous Perennial Plants (Allan Armitage), #40-Herbaceous Ornamental Plants (Steven Stills), #144-Missouri Botanical Gardens web site (
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