By Michelle Ullman
The bee balm plant is a North American native, thriving in woodland areas. Also known by its botanical name of Monarda, bee balm is very attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The bee balm flower has an open, daisy-like shape, with tubular petals in shades of red, pink, purple and white. Bee balm plants are perennial, coming back year after year to add cheerful color to your garden.
How to Plant Bee Balm
Bee balm plants prefer moist, rich soil, and a sunny location. Bee balm will tolerate shade, particularly in hot-summer areas. Plant it in any protected spot that would benefit from a bright shot of color.
Most varieties of the bee balm plant are between 2-1/2 feet to 4 feet tall, but there are also dwarf varieties less than 10 inches high. Dwarf varieties are excellent for container gardens, or up front in your flower border where you can appreciate the shaggy, tubular blooms of the bee balm flower.
Pick bee balm flowers frequently to encourage flower production. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, will also promote a new flush of blooms.
Bee Balm Care
Growing bee balms is fairly easy, as long as you keep the soil moist. Provide a good, multi-purpose fertilizer, and work it into the soil around the bee balm plant.
If you want a bushier plant, pinch off the stem tips as new growth appears in the early spring. In late fall, cut the bee balms down to just a few inches tall. In cold areas, it may die completely to the ground during the winter, but will reappear in the spring.
The bee balm plant is susceptible to powdery mildew, appearing as a gray, powdery dust on the buds and leaves in moist, cool weather. If your bee balm plant develops mildew, you can treat it with a fungicide spray from the local garden center. Mildew may also be prevented by planting bee balm where it will have good air circulation, and avoiding watering from overhead.
If you have never enjoyed the bee balm flower, growing bee balms will add not only a touch of old-fashioned beauty to your flower garden, it will also attract butterflies and bees for your enjoyment.