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Scarlet Bee Balm-Wisconsin Native Plamt

Monarda didyma


Scarlet Bee Balm


Benefits:    Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Bloom Time:    June, July, August
Sun Shade:    Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones:    4, 5
Soil Conditions:    Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture:    Moist, Medium
Color:    Red
Fragrance:    Yes
Height:    3 - 5 feet
Spacing:    1.5 feet


Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Oswego Tea and Bergamot occurs in bottomlands, thickets, moist woods and along streambanks. It is a somewhat coarse, clump-forming, mint family member that features tubular, two-lipped, bright scarlet-red flowers crowded into dense, globular, terminal flowerheads (to 3-4 inches across) somewhat resembling unkempt mop-heads. Flowerheads bloom atop 2-4 feet tall square stems clad with opposite, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, medium to deep green leaves (3-6 inches long) with serrate margins. Leaves emit a minty fragrance when bruised or crushed. Each flowerhead is subtended by a whorl of showy, red-tinged, leafy bracts. Long summer bloom extends for about 8 weeks from early/mid-summer to late summer. Plant foliage declines after bloom, particularly if infected with mildew. Attractive to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, particularly when massed. There is no floral scent, although the foliage is aromatic. The flowers are replaced by ovoid nutlets. The root system produces abundant rhizomes. This plant often forms clonal colonies.

Habitats include moist open woodlands, woodland borders, thickets, meadows in floodplain areas, and waste areas.

Best grown in rich, medium to wet, moisture-retentive soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers rich, humusy soils in full sun, although some afternoon shade is appreciated in hot summer climates. Does best in well-draining conditions, but can tolerate heavier clay. Soil should not be allowed to dry out. Provide plants with good air circulation to help combat fungal leaf diseases (see Problems section below). Spreads by rhizomes and self-seeding to form colonies.

Plant Care and Notes:

  Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom.

  Divide clumps every 3-4 years to prevent overcrowding and to control spread of the plant.

  Deadhead flowers immediately after bloom to prevent self-seeding.