Native Perennial Spotlight: Monarda (Bee Balm)
Monarda, commonly known as bee balm, is a genus of North American flowering plants that’s a delight for both gardeners and pollinators. These vibrant blooms boast a long list of charms, making them a must-have for any sunny garden. The number one seller at the nursery is Jacob Cline, a fast-growing variety with true red blooms, pictured above.
A Feast for the Senses:
- Visual Appeal: Monarda comes in a kaleidoscope of colors, from fiery reds and vibrant purples to soft pinks and sunny yellows. Their showy flowers, often clustered in dense heads, resemble fuzzy pom-poms, adding a playful touch to the garden.
- Aromatic Delights: True to their name, Monardas boast a delightful fragrance that’s reminiscent of citrus, mint, or oregano, depending on the species. The scent attracts a bevy of pollinators, creating a lively buzz around your garden.
- Culinary Treats: Don’t let the beauty fool you; Monarda leaves and flowers are edible! Use them to add a citrusy zest to teas, salads, and even desserts.
More Than Just a Pretty Face:
- Pollinator Magnet: Monarda’s nectar-rich flowers are a magnet for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, making them a valuable addition to any pollinator-friendly garden.
- Easy Care: These adaptable plants thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, requiring minimal maintenance once established. They’re also relatively pest- and disease-resistant.
- Long-Blooming Beauties: Enjoy weeks of colorful blooms from early summer to fall, depending on the variety. Deadheading spent flowers encourages reblooming, extending the floral show.
Planting and Care Tips:
- Plant Monardas in well-drained soil and full sun for optimal growth and flowering. They are tolerant of the heavy clay of Western North Carolina, but you may want to break up the clay a little with a bit of soil conditioner when you plant.
- Water regularly until established, then reduce watering as needed. We find that they can be thirsty plants when in the heart of the season, particularly if in well-draining soil.
- Deadhead spent flowers to encourage reblooming.
- Divide clumps every few years to maintain vigor.
- Mulch well with a good shredded bark.
- Some varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, particularly in shadier areas. Pick more recent cultivars bred for resistance to that, or trim way back if you see it.
So, why not add a touch of vibrant color, delightful fragrance, and pollinator-friendly charm to your garden with Monarda? These low-maintenance beauties are sure to buzz with life and bring joy to your outdoor space. Some varieties, like Jacob Cline, can take over before you know it. Look for newer cultivars like the Sugar Buzz or Upscale series for a more well-behaved habit.
I hope this article has piqued your interest in these captivating plants. With their diverse colors, captivating scents, and pollinator-attracting abilities, Monardas are truly a gardener’s delight and a worthy native for your Asheville garden.