Perennial Overview: Bee Balm


Discover how to grow Bee Balm with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.

Bee Balm Stats at a Glance

Botanical Name: Monardra didyma

Common Name(s): Bergamot, Oswego tea, scarlet monardra

Height: 2-4 feet

Soil Conditions:  Well-drained, moist

Sun: Full sun/partial shade

Soil pH Conditions: 6.0-6.7

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Bee Balm from Seed?

To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 60-70°F.  Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature.  Keep the soil moist.  When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a sunny location.


When to Start Seeds: >6-8 weeks prior to planting
Time to Germination: 10-40 days
Light/Darkness Requirements: Light


When Do I Plant Bee Balm?

Bee Balm is cold sensitive and should not be planted until after the last frost and the soil has reached at least 65°F.

Soil Temperature: 65°F


Where Do I Plant Bee Balm?

Bee balm is a versatile perennial that will grow under a variety of soil conditions as long as it is moist and well-drained.  Tolerates low fertility and will even grow in clay soils.  Flourishes in full sun but will benefit from shade in locations that are hot and humid.

Soil Conditions:  Well-drained, moist
Sun: Full sun/partial shade
Soil pH: 6.0-6.7


How Far Apart Do I Plant Bee Balm?

Providing bee balm with plenty of air circulation will help to discourage powdery mildew, which can sometimes be a problem with this plant. Space 12-18” apart.

Bee Balm Plant Care and Maintenance

Once established, most perennials require very little routine care and maintenance.

How Often Should I Water Bee Balm?

For many perennials, average rainfall is sufficient to keep the plants healthy.  Supplementation may be necessary in droughty conditions. Though bee balm performs well under a variety of conditions, it does require moist soil.  May need to be watered more frequently during dry, hot weather.

Water the soil around the plant. Overhead watering will encourage disease.  Drip irrigation is best.

Mulch around the plant will help to lock in moisture.


Should I Fertilize Bee Balm?

Most perennials do not require a specific fertilization regiment.  Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained and you feel that your perennial bed would benefit from fertilization, keep it light.  Work in a small amount of a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 around the plants in the early spring.

Fertilize the soil around the plant at least 6” from the plant base. Irrigate into the soil.

Over fertilizing will result in lush foliage growth at the expense of blooms.


Additional Care Instructions

Bee balm can be propagated through seed, cutting, and division.  Divide every 2-3 years early in the spring.

Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continual blooming.

Bee Balm Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include cercospora leaf spot, powdery mildew and crown rot.

Bee Balm Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include stalk borer.

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