What Is the Remedy for Mildew on a Bee Balm Bush?

Overview

Bee balm is the common name for a fragrant flowering plant in the Monarda genus. Also called bergamot and Oswego tea, it was the plant the American colonists used when they stopped using black tea in protest of British taxation. In addition to having a pleasant taste, this herb has been used to treat colds and sore throats. It's a small, attractive plant with red flowers, which attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. But it can develop powdery mildew. When this happens, you can stop the mildew's spread with several simple remedies.

Step 1

Grow your bee balm plant in soil that is moist, slightly acidic and rich with organic materials to keep it healthy and better able to resist plant diseases such as powdery mildew. Bee balm also thrives in areas that have partial shade to full sun.

Step 2

Spray your bee balm with a combination of milk and water once each week if you notice a fuzzy white or gray coating on the leaves, stems or flowers. Stir 1/2 cup milk, either skim or whole, into 1 gallon of water and then drench your plant thoroughly. The milk and water spray works, according to online resource Pioneer Thinking, because the lactobacillus in the milk will grow on the leaves, leaving no opportunity for mildew spores to gain a foothold.

Step 3

Spray your plant with a purchased fungicide, such as one with potassium bicarbonate. You must use fungicides before the mildew appears or as soon as you notice it because they do not normally succeed in getting rid of established mildew.

Step 4

Keep the growing area cleaned up of leaves and other plant parts that have fallen due to powdery mildew. Burn or discard debris in the fall to prevent further outbreaks of this disease. Do not add diseased plant parts to your compost pile.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use more than 1 part milk to 9 parts water because if the milk content is higher than 30 percent, it will cause another fungus to grow on your plant. The University of Vermont reported that their studies showed that sulfur, neem oil and baking soda are ineffective mildew treatments for bee balm plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Milk
  • Water
  • Commercial fungicide

References

  • University of Vermont: Comparison of Powdery Mildew Resistance...
  • Herbs2000: Oswego Tea
  • Iowa State University: Growing Bee Balm in the Home Garden
  • Pioneer Thinking: Got Mildew? Get Milk!
  • Oregon State University: Monarda (Bee Balm)---Powdery Mildew

Who Can Help

  • University of Vermont: Powdery Mildew on Phlox and Monarda
Keywords: bee balm, monarda herbs, Oswego tea, powdery mildew, disease control

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.