July: Bee Balm

After enjoying all the fireworks on the 4th of July, we'd like to share one of nature's fireworks: bee balm. Bee balm (sometimes called bergamot or its scientific name, Mondarda) is one of our favorite perennials. It has a long bloom season and unique flowers, and pollinators love it, which makes it a perfect pick in advance of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful's second annual pollinator count.

Image free for use by CC0 public domain

Image free for use by CC0 public domain

This bright and funky flower is native to the U.S. Typically in the garden center you'll find varieties of scarlet bee balm, or hybrids between scarlet and wild bee balm. Both species grow naturally in Indiana in grassy mesic prairies. The straight species and many varieties are extremely susceptible to powdery mildew, so if you want a good look all year without fungicides, make sure you pick a variety with resistance to the disease. Chicago Botanic Gardens has a great overview of different levels of resistance across varieties.

Image by Maria Gulley

Image by Maria Gulley

Common Names: Bee Balm, Bergamot

Scientific Name: Monarda species and hybrds

Notable Varieties: 'Raspberry Wine' (deep pinkish purple color, great powdery mildew resistance), 'Marshall's Delight' (lighter purple, great powdery mildew resistance), 'Gardenview Scarlet' (red, good powdery mildew resistance)

Light: full sun is best, will tolerate part sun

Size: 30-48" tall (with some dwarf options available), spreads gradually to fill space if allowed

Soil: moderate to high moisture, will tolerate low fertility and clay

Blooms: pink, purple, or red depending on variety; unique shape reminds us of a fireworks display

Other Notes: native plant, pollinator friendly, fragrant, deer and rabbit resistant, tolerates black walnut

See other plants of the month.


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