How to Grow and Care for Bee Balm: Tips From a Master Gardener

How to Grow and Care for Bee Balm: Tips From a Master Gardener

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow perennial that will reward you with beautiful blooms all summer long, Bee Balm is the plant for you! This lovely flower is a member of the mint family, and it grows well in both full sun and partial shade. In this blog post, we will discuss how to grow and care for Bee Balm, as well as some tips from a master gardener.

Common Name Bee balm, monarda, wild bergamot
Botanical Name Monarda spp.
Family Lamiaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 2–4 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Rich, moist
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Red, purple, pink
Hardiness Zones 4–9 (USDA)
Native Area North America


The plant is native to North America, the bee balm plant thrives in forest areas. Bees as well as butterflies and hummingbirds are all able to discover bee balm, sometimes referred to as Monarda in the United States, to be especially appealing. The daisy-like open-air bee balm bloom has tubular petals with colors of purple, red, pink, and white. Bee balms are perennial and come back year after year to fill your garden with vibrant colors.

How To Grow Bee Balm

To plant bee balm, choose a location in your garden that receives full sun to partial shade. Bee balm grows best in rich, well-drained soil. You can either start your plants from seed or purchase them as transplants from your local nursery. If you are starting from seed, sow the seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost date in your area. Transplant the seedlings into your garden after the last frost date has passed.

Water your bee balm plants regularly, especially during periods of drought. When watering, be sure to avoid getting water on the leaves of the plant, as this can promote powdery mildew growth. Fertilize your plants once per month using a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20.

Pruning Bee Balm

To encourage bushier growth, pinch the tips of the bee balm plants when they are about six inches tall. You can also deadhead the spent blooms to promote additional flowering. Cut the plant back to about six inches above ground level in late fall or early winter to tidy up the plant and help prevent disease problems.

Diseases and Pests

Bee balm is relatively resistant to disease and pests, but there are a few issues you may encounter. Powdery mildew is a common problem, especially if your plants are grown in too much shade or if they are not getting enough air circulation. To prevent powdery mildew, water your plants on ground level and avoid getting water on the leaves. If powdery mildew does appear, treat it with a fungicide.

Aphids are also common pests of bee balm. These small, pear-shaped insects can cause damage to the plant by sucking the sap from the leaves. To control aphids, blast them off of your plants with a strong stream of water or treat them with insecticidal soap.

Japanese beetles are another potential pest. These shiny, black and red insects can skeletonize the leaves of your bee balm plants. To control Japanese beetles, handpick them off of your plants and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. You can also treat your plants with an insecticide containing neem oil or pyrethrin.

Does bee balm keep blooming?

Bee balm grows as a perennial herb within the herb family. The blooming season begins in July. It will remain in bloom until the end of summer if it’s regularly deadheaded.

If you want your bee balm to keep blooming into the fall, it’s important to give it the right care.

To make sure your bee balm keeps blooming, start by planting it in a sunny spot. It also needs well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. Water regularly during the growing season, but don’t allow the plant to get too soggy. Fertilize every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer to encourage continuing blooms. Finally, deadhead spent flowers promptly to prevent seed formation and encourage more blooms. With proper care, your bee balm should continue blooming until frost kills the plants in late autumn.

Does bee balm prefer sun or shade?

Plant monarda in the spring or autumn in a location that receives full sun. Bee balm can tolerate partial sun, but you’ll see smaller flowers. Place monarda plants 18-24 inches apart in soil that is organically rich with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.7 which drains quickly. If your summers are hot and humid, choose a shady spot for afternoon respite.

Add compost to planting areas to help improve drainage. You can also add some mulch around the base of each plant to help with moisture retention during hot, dry spells. Bee balm doesn’t like soggy feet so make sure the area you choose has good drainage.

Monarda is a perennial herb that will come back year after year in most gardens. In cold winter climates, bee balm may die back to the ground but will reemerge in springtime. Plants typically live for two to three years before they need to be replaced. Division is the best way to propagate monarda and it can be done every few years as needed.

How do I take care of bee balm?

Bee balm is most effective in full sunlight, but can flower in partial sunlight too. Make sure you have a well-drained, rich soil that has an acid pH. Make amends to the soil using manure or compost in order to enhance the quality of the soil. Bee balm is especially prone to powdery mildew which is a fungal disease.

You can avoid this by planting in full sun and making sure the soil is not too moist. Water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves. Pruning off any affected leaves will also help to prevent the spread of powdery mildew. If you see any signs of pests or disease, take care of it immediately.

Bee balm will bloom from mid-summer to early fall. After the blooms fade, cut back the plant by about one third to encourage new growth. In late fall, apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from winter weather. Bee balm is a perennial plant, so it will come back year after year with proper care.

Can bee balm survive frost?

Bee balm’s toughness – It can withstand warm and cold climates and is resistant to cold temperatures down to 20F. – makes it a good plant for areas that experience both heat and cold.

In general, bee balm can tolerate light frosts without damage. However, if the temperatures dip too low or the frost is too heavy, the leaves may turn brown and wilt. The flowers may also be damaged by frost. If you live in an area with severe winters, it’s best to grow bee balm in containers so you can bring it indoors when the weather gets cold.

Bee balm is a versatile plant that can be used in many different ways. It’s often used as an ornamental plant, but it also has culinary and medicinal uses.

How long does bee balm live?

Bee balms are spread quickly via the underground stems or stolons. Furthermore, the central areas of the clumps usually disappear within a couple of years. To limit their spread and to rejuvenate them, it’s generally required to divide and dig bee balms once every two to three years.

Bee balms are both heat and drought-tolerant once they’re established. They grow best in full sun to partial shade, in average to moist conditions. Poor drainage will cause the roots to rot, so make sure you have well-drained soil if you’re planting bee balms. They’re also relatively disease and pest-resistant. However, aphids, scale insects, and Japanese beetles may congregate on the leaves and blooms if given the chance. These pests can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

How do you keep bee balm blooming?

Bee balm (Monarda) begins to blossom in July, which will last until the summer’s end. In order to encourage abundant clusters of blooms, you’ll need to deadhead your plant for the entire blooming time. When the flowers begin to fade and wilt, cut them close to the top of the next flower buds.

This will encourage the plant to produce more flowers, rather than seed. If you don’t deadhead bee balm, it will self-seed and spread rapidly. However, many gardeners consider this a benefit, as it can add color and interest to your landscape.

Have you ever tried growing bee balm in your garden? What tips do you have for keeping it blooming? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Try not to let the plant go to seed if you want it to keep blooming abundantly. Cut faded and wilted flowers close to the top of the next flower bud on the stem. This way new flowers will have room to bloom. Deadheading also prevents reseeding, so the plant doesn’t take over your garden. Do this throughout the blooming season, from July to the end of summer.

Final Thoughts

Bee balm is a hardy perennial that can thrive in both warm and cold climates. It’s often used as an ornamental plant, but it also has culinary and medicinal uses. In order to keep your bee balm blooming throughout the summer, you’ll need to deadhead the flowers as they fade. This will encourage new blooms to form. Have you ever tried growing bee balm in your garden? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments below!

Jessica Miles

Jessica Miles is a writer for Botanique Boutique, a plant and gardening blog. She has always loved plants, flowers, and anything green. When she was younger, she used to watch her grandfather garden and would be in awe of the beautiful flowers he would grow. Now Jessica writes about all things related to plants and gardening - from beginner tips on how to start growing your own plants, to in-depth guides on caring for a specific type of flower or plant. She loves helping others learn about this fascinating hobby, and hopes that her writing will inspire people to get outside and enjoy nature!

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