How to Care for Bee Balm

How to Care for Bee Balm image by madaise/Flickr.com

Overview

Bee balm is a perennial herbaceous plant native to North America, which blooms in late summer and is a common sight in herb and flower gardens around the country. The flowers or the bee balm plant come in colors of white, pink, red and purple, and are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Bee balm is simple to grow and will bloom for years with proper care and maintenance.

Step 1

Plant bee balm in an area of full sun with rich, well-drained soil in the spring or fall. Plants will tolerate light shade, but they won't produce as many flowers. Amend the soil at the planting site with organic compost by working in a 2-to-4-inch layer with a garden tiller. Space bee balm plants 1 to 2 feet apart to allow room for root growth.

Step 2

Water bee balm immediately after planting, and then once per week in spring and summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches when watering, as plants prefer a consistent supply of moisture during the growing season.

Step 3

Apply a 1-inch layer of organic compost to the top of the soil each spring, and then cover with a 2-inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture in the soil and prevent weed growth. Use bark mulch, straw, grass clippings or shredded leaves as mulch for bee balm.

Step 4

Fertilize bee balm plants once per year in early spring with a balanced 10-10-10 NPK garden fertilizer for best results. Bee balm does not require heavy fertilizing in order to thrive. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the surface of the soil above the plant's roots. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for proper dosage.

Step 5

Remove spent flowers from bee balm plants to increase the blooming period. Cut stalks back to about 2 inches from the ground in fall, after the first frost of the year. Cover the base of the plant with a 1-inch layer of organic compost or shredded leaves after cutting.

Step 6

Dig up and divide bee balm roots every two to three years in early spring, as soon as new growth emerges from the ground. Use a sharp knife to divide the main root clump into sections, and replant each section immediately. Each section of root should have two or three shoots and appear healthy.

Tips and Warnings

  • Bee balm is prone to powdery mildew, which can take its toll on the plants. If you notice any grayish-white splotches on the foliage, immediately remove and destroy the infected plant. To avoid this problem, choose mildew-resistant varieties of bee balm and be sure to water, fertilize and plant correctly.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic compost
  • Garden tiller
  • Mulch
  • Garden fertilizer

References

  • National Gardening Association Plant Care Guides: Bee Balm
  • Growing Bee Balms in the Home Garden
  • The Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook: A Guide to Growing Herbs for Cooking, Crafts, and Home Remedies; Mary Preus; 2002
Keywords: bee balm, bee balm plants, bee balms

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including Gardenguides.com.

Photo by: madaise/Flickr.com