How to Grow Bee Balm: The Complete Bee Balm Flower Guide


Flowering bee balm (Monarda) in the garden

Photo Credit
Tatyana Mut/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Monarda spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone

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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Bee Balm Flowers

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Bee balm is a native perennial that flowers in summertime. This plant is beloved by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies! Learn how to plant and grow bee balm flowers—a great addition to a pollinator garden.

About Bee Balm

Bee balm (Monarda spp.), also called wild bergamot, is known for its attractive scarlet flowers that bloom in the summertime and its fragrant foliage. In June and July, slender, tubular flowers are produced in 2—to 3-inch-wide flower heads. Flower colors include white, pink, red, lavender, and purple.

In the garden, its most frequent visitors are hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies because they have the long tongues required to reach the tubular flowers’ nectar. Bumblebees and a few other insects are too big to get into some of the smaller tubular flowers of some bee balms, so the insects practice something called “nectar robbing.” The insects punch a tiny hole at the base of the flower to access the nectar, bypassing the flower’s pollen and “robbing” it of its nectar. Find more flowers that are great for bees.

The seed heads also attract birds in the fall and winter. Learn more about plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

bee balm flower with a pollinator

Given its height (2-4 feet), bee balm makes for an excellent background plant in a flower bed. Consider it as part of a pollinator garden!

Check out this video to learn more about the benefits of growing bee balm:


Bee balm performs best in full sun (at least 6 hours). It will grow in partial shade but won’t flower as well and is more susceptible to powdery mildew. Provide moist, well-draining soil with a neutral pH. Amend soil with compost or aged manure, if necessary.

When to Plant Bee Balm

  • Bee balm can be planted in the spring or in the fall.
  • Spring is the best time to divide existing plants and transplant them.

How to Plant Bee Balm

  • Give careful thought to placement. Without good air circulation, the leaves can develop powdery mildew, a fungal disease. (Reduce watering if this appears.) Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart. 
  • Water thoroughly at the time of planting.


  • Keep soil evenly moist throughout the growing season, watering every 7 to 10 days during dry periods. Soak to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Add mulch to preserve moisture and control weeds.
  • Avoid fertilizer in general; apply only a sprinkling of a balanced product in spring, if desired. An excess can promote rampant leaf growth and powdery mildew. 
  • Deadhead faded blooms to encourage the plant to re-bloom in late summer. Deadheading the main stem allows the side shoots to develop and bloom. These, too, can be cut when flowers reach the size you want.
  • After the first frost in the fall, leave seed heads for the birds or cut stems back to about 2 inches above the soil. (See local frost dates.)
  • Divide every 2 to 3 years to ensure its vigor. (Clumps tend to die out from the center.)


Bee balm is a lovely cut flower. The leaves are aromatic, which adds interest to an indoor arrangement. Cut the main stem flower just as it begins to open up. The plant’s side shoots will continue to develop and bloom. The side shoots can be cut for indoor enjoyment, too. Its vase life is seven days.

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Wit and Wisdom

  • The common name of bee balm is in reference to its former use to treat bee stings! 
  • Native Americans and early colonists used bee balm leaves and flowers to make a variety of medicinal salves and drinks.
  • The Native American word for a river in New York became part of the name of a bee balm drink: Oswego tea.
  • Bee balm is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Its foliage has a strong aroma and is sometimes used in herbal teas, salads, and as garnishes. The flowers are also edible.
  • Although called “wild bergamot,” bee balm is not used in “bergamot” (Earl Grey) tea, which is made with oils extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a citrus fruit.


Diseases: southern blight, fungal leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust
Pests: aphids, spider mites, stalk borers, thrips

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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