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.
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.
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