Bee balm is an attractive, fragrant member of the mint family. More than one species exists. One of the most common is red bee balm (Monarda didyma), also called Oswego tea. Bee balm is a perennial that does well in full sun or partial shade. It can grow up to four feet tall and it handles pruning well—cutting off spent flowers encourages new blooms. This easy to care for plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, it spreads quickly and survives well in wet ground.
Pruning Bee Balm
Prune spent blossoms when they begin to fade. This often results in a second flush of blooms. Snip flowers off down to the stem where they occur with pruning shears. You can make tea from the cuttings.
Cut stems 1 or 2 inches from the ground after your first fall frost. Standard garden clippers are usually sufficient for this task. Compost the cuttings, dry them or make tea from them if they are still fresh and not frost damaged. (See Tips.)
Dig up and divide your plant in spring every two to three years to keep it from becoming invasive. You can pot up extra clumps that you don’t need and share them with your friends and family.
Cut off any stems that show signs of powdery mildew. Do not discard them in your compost pile because the fungus can spread to other plants.
Fertilize your bee balm in the spring when new growth begins to appear at the soil line. Mix liquid plant fertilizer with water and apply to the soil around the base of your plant. Fertilizers having an nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) ratio of 10-10-10 are recommended.
Things You Will Need
- Bee balm plants
- To dry bee balm that you have pruned off, tie up bunches and hang them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area such as your garage.
- When you make tea with bee balm cuttings and flowers, add a black or green teabag for a little caffeine "kick."