How to grow Monarda common names Bee Balm and Bergamot

Monard is a lovely aromatic summer flowering herbaceous perennial which is irresistible to bees, and to lots of gardeners. There are both perennial and annual varieties of Monarda, but most commonly grown and widely available are the perennial varieties which come back each year.

Monarda's common names are Bee Balm, as it has great allure to the bees, and also Bergamot because the leaves are scented and when rubbed it is said they smell similar to the Bergamot oranges. Some varieties can be short-lived perennials, almost annuals really, such as 'Bergamo'. Others, as illustrated above right M. 'Squaw'  are more long lasting.

Monarda is long flowering and fully hardy, it is tolerant only of light shade and is really a sun loving perennial. Monarda will tolerant moist soil and if grown in very dry conditions, it's prone to powdery mildew. In common with many aromatic plants, it dislikes excessive winter wet. This makes Monarda a bit picky as to where to plant it, neither too wet nor too dry, but essentially it wants to be planted on well-drained soil in a sunny position and if planted right, it is easy and maintenance free.

Monarda will attract bees and butterflies all summer long. It does not need staking, most varieties grow to around 1m although there are some newer, dwarf varieties now available.

Regular dead heading will encourage long flowering. It is possible to Chelsea Chop Monarda before flowering, which will make for a more compact plant and which will flower later than otherwise would be the case. Reduce height by about one third in May- more about how and when to do the Chelsea Chop.

Good varieties of Monarda to grow and what to plant with Mondarda

There are a number of Monarda with the RHS garden merit award, which is a good starting point when selecting one for your garden.  M. 'Squaw' illustrated above right one the best known, also M. 'Marshall's Delight' which flowers mauve and grows between .5-1.; M. 'Gardenview Scarlet' which is vigorous; M. 'Violet Queen'.

Monarda hybrida 'Bergamo' does not have the RHS award and is an annual but is very attractive to both bees and butterflies and has multiple purple flowers which are long lasting, as with all Monarda, prolonged by regular dead heading. 

The main problem when growing Monarda is powdery mildew and to avoid this do not plant in dry soil and the varieties M. 'Garden view scarlet', 'Marshall's Delight', 'Sunset' and 'Violet Queen' are said to be more resistant.

Monarda mix well in the border with other perennials, illustrated centre is Monarda with Eremurus, common name fox tail lily and in the background in the same images are grasses, and ideal planting combination. For extra bee appeal, plant Monarda with Helenium, and Perovskia 'Blue Spire' common name Russian Sage, and you will have wall to wall bees.

green wheelbarrow means easy to grow

Monarda is a very attractive, easy to grow long flowering perennial. 

last updated 03.02.2021