Scarlet Bee Balm Monarda Didyma Seeds Mei Guo Bo He
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. Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom. Divide clumps every 3-4 years to prevent overcrowding and to control spread of the plant. Provide plants with good air circulation to help combat fungal leaf diseases (see Problems section below). Deadhead flowers immediately after bloom to prevent self-seeding. Spreads by rhizomes and self-seeding to form colonies.
Monarda didyma, known by a number of different common names including bee balm, Oswego tea and bergamot, is native to eastern North America where it typically occurs in bottomlands, thickets, moist woods and along streambanks from Maine to Minnesota south to Missouri and Georgia. 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” across) somewhat resembling unkempt mop-heads. Flowerheads bloom atop 2-4’ tall square stems clad with opposite, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, medium to deep green leaves (3-6” 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.
Genus name honors Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588), physician and botanist of Seville.
Specific epithet from Latin means in pairs in reference to the plant stamens being in pairs.
Common name of bee balm is in reference to a former use of plant resins to soothe bee stings. Common name of Oswego tea is in reference to a former use of plants leaves for tea by the Oswego Indians of New York State. The toothed, aromatic leaves (3-5” long) are still used today for teas and in salads. Common name of wild bergamot is in reference to the purported similarity of the aroma of plant flowers to the bergamot orange.
Powdery mildew can be a serious problem, particularly in crowded gardens with poor air circulation. In addition, if the soil is allowed to dry out, the stressed plants become increasingly susceptible to disease. Rust can also be a problem. Deer and rabbits tend to avoid this plant.
Butterfly magnet for border fronts. Provides color and contrast for the perennial border, cottage garden, wild garden, native plant garden, meadow, herb garden, naturalized planting or along ponds or streams. Good plant for butterfly gardens and bird gardens.
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