Growing Bee Balm
Monarda didyma Full Sun ~ Partial Shade pH: 6.0 - 6.7
It is in the mint family and the leaves are used to make a minty tea. It is also known as Oswego Tea, as the Oswego Indians used it to make tea. The plant is closely related to bergamot which is used to make earl gray tea. See - Tea Gardens
The flower blooms have a very strong taste and a smidgen goes a long way. Fresh flower blooms serve as a garnish for salads, fruit salads and preserves, but remember, a little goes a long way. The leaves are highly aromatic and they serve as a substitute for mint in some recipes.
Bee Balm leaves, flowers and stems are used in alternative medicine. It is an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant.
Soil - Fertilizer
The best soil is well drained with a pH of 6.0 to 6.7. As with mint family plants some rich compost added to the soil when planting is a good idea, although not absolutely necessary. Some liquid fertilizer every so often during the growing season is also a good idea, and once again not absolutely necessary. Once the plants are established they should be mulched every spring.
You can generally force a second bloom from the plants by picking the initial round of flowers, which encourages a second round.
Bee Balm is drought tolerant, but naturally will fare much better with sufficient moisture. It must have well drained soil, as most varieties will fare well under excessive moisture. There are exceptions to every rule - there are some varieties that will fare well in wet lands or along a waterway.
Bee Balm is susceptible to powdery mildew so should most definitely be planted in a location that receives good air circulation. Also, if feasible, try to avoid overhead watering as this encourages the growth of powdery mildew.
If deer or rabbits are a problem in your area - that's a plus for Bee Balm as they are rabbit and deer resistant plants.
Like other mint family plants Bee Balm is self regenerating and sometimes needs to be dug up and divided.
Pruning - Pinching Back
At the culmination of the growing season, in the autumn, cut the Bee Balm plants back to about 3 inches above the soil surface. Come spring you will have a bushier shrub.
In the early spring, in order to enhance the bushy effect, pinch back some of the new tips as they emerge.
Other Herbs and Spices