How To Grow Bee Balm – The Easy Way

If you want to learn how to grow bee balm, you’re in the right place. I love this herb; it’s hardy, and it makes wonderful tea.

Name(s) of Plant

Monarda didyma, Beebalm, Bee Balm, Bergamot (not to be confused with Bergamot Orange from Italy)

Family

Lamiaceae. This family of plants is also known as the sage, deadnettle, or mint family. The majority of its members are aromatic, flowering plants. Many of these have culinary or medicinal uses. This family includes such everyday kitchen heroes as oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, and even lavender makes the list.

Type of Plant

Flowering Perennial

Variations

  • Monarda didyma * moderate red blossoms * aka Adam
  • Monarda didyma * ivory blossoms * aka Alba
  • Monarda didyma * violet-purple blossoms * aka Blue Stocking
  • Monarda didyma * bright red blossoms * aka Cambridge Scarlet
  • Monarda didyma * clear rosy pink blossoms * aka Croftway Pink
  • Monarda didyma * deep red blossoms * aka Mahogany
  • Monarda didyma * pale pink blossom * aka Melissa
  • Monarda didyma * lavender blossoms * aka Pale Ponticum
  • Monarda didyma * bright red blossoms * aka Pillar Box
  • Monarda didyma * white blossoms * aka Snow Maiden

Close Relatives

  • Monarda citriodora * pink-purple blossoms * strong lemon scent * good in tea
  • Monarda fistulosa * lavender blossoms * strong fragrance

Plant Origin

Bee balm, a.k.a. Beebalm, also known as Bergamot, is Native to North America. However, it has also been exported for growth in Europe and other parts of the world since its discovery. Originally, it was used by Native Americans for a variety of medicinal and culinary purposes.

Flower Color

Pink, Purple, Red, White, Lavender

Blooming

Beebalm is a summer-flowering plant, from late June – September. The flowers are anywhere from white to red to purple, depending on the variation. As you can see in the picture, the flowers are reminiscent of exploding balls of color. They are quite beautiful. The plant has multiple blooms throughout the summer months.

Description

Beebalm is another name for a type of mint called Bergamot. This group of rugged mints has course-edged leaves and large flowerheads. The leaves grow with a pronounced dark and deep green coloration. They are opposite in stem position and have an oval shape with small serrated edging.

The flowers grow in whorls at the end of the stem. These tend to cluster on the top ends of the square stalks of the plant. The flowers range from white to red to purple, depending on the variation.

The plant grows into small bush-like groupings that range from 6-24” in height. However, the wild version of Bergamot found across North America can grow as tall as 3-4 feet tall. And the plant is a perennial, so it returns year after year. However, the plant can also act as an annual or even biennial.  

Basic Information

Growing Bee Balm is a fantastic and rewarding gardening experience. The beautiful flowers are a favorite of bumblebees, birds, and butterflies. This makes your garden come to life with beautiful visitors. Bee balm encourages a good, healthy garden ecosystem that benefits all your plants. Think of bee balm as a support plant for the health of your garden.

Growing Techniques: How To Grow Bee Balm Easily

Soil pH

Slightly acidic to neutral pH.  

Soil Type

Loamy (clay, sand, and humus mix)

Light

Full sun is preferred. Will tolerate a small amount of shade

Watering

Beebalm likes a medium watering schedule.  It does not do too well in either overly wet or overly dry conditions. The plant is relatively hardy, though, and can take a certain amount of over-watering or a dry spell, as long as either doesn’t last for too long.

Pests/Diseases

Bee balm is prone to powdery mildew growth on the foliage. This can occur when the humidity is too high. Should you see this, let the soil dry out for a few days and reduce watering frequency.

History

Beebalm has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans along the east coast of North America. The people who lived in the area that is now Otsego, New York (about halfway between Syracuse, NY, and Albany, NY) were the ones who shared their knowledge of the plants used in tea with early settlers. These settlers started brewing the tea themselves. The tea became quite popular at the time. It was even used as a substitute for black tea during the Boston Tea Party of 1773.  

During the 1700s, settlers sent Beebalm seeds back to Europe to be cultivated there as well. The plant made its way around the European continent and was also known in Europe as Indian Nettle and Golden Melissa.  

Bee Balm Plant Uses:

Aesthetic

As a flower added to the garden, beebalm is a supportive flowering garden plant, as mentioned earlier. The beautiful flowers attract many creatures to the garden, giving the feel of a healthy and thriving garden ecosystem. The plant does exceptionally well at attracting bees, which help pollinate your garden. This makes this beautiful plant not only a gem to look at during the summer months blooms but also a helpful addition to the overall health of any garden.

Culinary

Bergamot tea is a wonderfully fragrant and elegant herbal tea. The plant can be used to flavor cold drinks like lemonade and punches as well. The tea is its best-known use, though.  

Beebalm has a delicate taste that is reminiscent of citrus. The flavor has subtle hints of orange and lemon. Besides using it for drinks, there are multiple other uses for Beebalm. The leaves can be used to season salads, chilis, and salsas. The flowers can be used to decorate any dish where a fragrant citrus-like scent will work, and they are completely edible, so using the flowers as a garnish is fine.

Medicinal

Bergamot was traditionally used as a treatment by the Native Americans for a variety of ailments. The most common is a tea made of leaves to treat indigestion, flatulence, intestinal infections, mouth and gum infections, and also as a poultice to treat wounds. Bee balm has thymol in it, which is a great anti-bacterial. It is even the active ingredient in many commercially prepared mouthwash.  

Beebalm has also been used to treat coughs, nausea, sore throats, flatulence, and menstrual cramps. Although there do not appear to be any medical trials or studies that provide evidence of the effectiveness, the tea is delicious, so it really can’t hurt.

Did You Know That? 

Learn how to grow bee balm like I do. Here's bee balm beside my garage.

When the Boston Tea Party occurred, instead of drinking black tea that wound up being tossed in the water, the locals drank Bergamot tea, aka Oswego tea.

My Experience With Beebalm

Last year, my wife and I bought a house, and we picked up 4 small beebalm plants from a local gardening store. The plants were not flowering yet, as I believe it was early June.  I planted 2 plants in my front yard, which gets sun all morning and until about 2 pm in the afternoon. After that, the garden out front is in the shade.  

I planted the other 2 Beebalm in my backyard. You can see these in my video, Farmer Jer’s Backyard Gardens. The back flower bed gets sun from about 10 AM until about an hour or so before sundown.

All four Beebalms were planted in generic flower garden potting soil. Nothing fancy. I added about 10% peat moss to the mix as well. I dug up about 5-6” of the existing soil and mixed it 50/50 with the potting/peat mix I made. The soil around my house is very heavy with clay. Dig down about 2’, and you need a pickaxe. That’s how much clay is in this soil. A lot of clay.

The Beebalm grew about double in size the first summer. All four plants survived an overly nasty winter, with snow 3’ deep at times. This spring, all 4 plants emerged and drew very well all summer long. They produced bloom after bloom until late September. This was when one of the plants in the front yard died seemingly overnight. The other 4 are still very much alive and appear to be quite healthy.  

I do not yet know why one of the plants died. I examined the plant, and it just looked like it had dried out and withered away. The strange thing is that there has been a lot of rain, and I water the garden whenever the soil gets really dry. Not only that, but all my other plants in the same bed are doing great. It’s a garden mystery, I suppose.  

Article Sources

  1. The Old Farmer’s Almanac – https://almanac.com/plant/bee-balm
  2. The Medicinal Herb Gardens at ONU – https://webstu.onu.edu/garden/node/309
  3. Rodale’s Illustrated Encylopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press Inc., 1987
  4. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarda
  5. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamiaceae
  6. History.com – https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/boston-tea-party

More from Jer's Garden

Scroll to Top
Skip to content