A Butterfly and Hummingbird Magnet Everyone Should Grow!

Are you looking to add a splash of vibrant color to your garden while also attracting a host of beneficial pollinators?

Look no further than the beautiful and versatile bee balm! This stunning perennial is not only a feast for the eyes but also a favorite among bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about growing and caring for bee balm, from planting to harvesting. So, grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get started!

What is Bee Balm?

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty of growing bee balm, let’s take a moment to appreciate this fantastic plant. Bee balm, also known as Monarda or wild bergamot, is a native North American herb that belongs to the mint family.

With its showy, tubular flowers that come in various shades of red, pink, purple, and white, bee balm is a true showstopper in any garden.

But bee balm isn’t just a pretty face – it’s also incredibly useful! The flowers are edible and make a gorgeous garnish for salads and desserts, while the aromatic leaves can be used as a substitute for mint or dried for tea. Talk about a multi-talented plant!

red Bee Balm

Choosing the Perfect Spot for Your Bee Balm

Now that we’re acquainted with this garden superstar, let’s talk about finding the ideal location for your bee balm to thrive. Sun Exposure: Bee balm loves the sun! For the most prolific blooms, plant your bee balm in an area that receives full sun. However, if you live in a region with scorching summers, providing a bit of afternoon shade can help prolong the flowering period. Soil Conditions: These plants prefer rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.7. If your garden soil is less than ideal, don’t worry! You can easily improve it by mixing in some aged compost or other organic matter. Spacing: When planning your bee balm patch, remember that these plants like to spread out. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart to give them room to grow and ensure good air circulation.

Planting Your Bee Balm

Alright, you’ve found the perfect spot – now it’s time to get planting! Here’s how to get your bee balm off to a great start:

  1. Timing: Plant your bee balm in spring or fall, after all chances of frost have passed.
  2. Prepare the soil: Work some compost into your garden bed to enrich the soil and improve drainage.
  3. Planting depth: If you’re starting with seedlings or young plants, plant them at the same depth they were growing in their containers.
  4. Watering: Give your newly planted bee balm a good drink of water to help it settle in.
  5. Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Caring for Your Bee Balm

Congratulations! Your bee balm is in the ground. Now, let’s talk about how to keep it happy and healthy throughout the growing season.


While bee balm can tolerate short dry spells, it really thrives with consistent moisture. Here’s how to keep your plants well-hydrated:

  • Water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Aim to provide about 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation.
  • Water at the base of the plants to avoid wetting the foliage, which can lead to fungal issues.


Bee balm isn’t a heavy feeder, but a little nutrition boost can go a long way in promoting lush growth and abundant blooms. Here are some feeding tips:

  • Apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every week throughout the growing season.
  • Alternatively, you can use a slow-release granular fertilizer in early spring.
  • Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to leggy growth and fewer flowers.
Bee Balm

Pruning and Maintenance

A little pruning goes a long way in keeping your bee balm looking its best and encouraging repeat blooming. Here’s what you need to know:

  • In spring, when plants are about 12 inches tall, cut them back by half to promote bushier growth.
  • Deadhead spent flowers regularly to encourage more blooms.
  • In late fall, cut the stems back to about 2 inches above the ground.


Bee balm spreads through underground rhizomes and can become crowded over time. To keep your plants healthy and vigorous:

  • Divide your bee balm every 3-4 years.
  • Do this in early spring or fall.
  • Discard the old center section and replant the outer roots and shoots.

Potential Problems and How to Solve Them

Even the hardiest plants can face challenges, and bee balm is no exception. Here are some common issues you might encounter and how to address them:

Powdery Mildew

This fungal disease appears as a grayish-white powder on leaves and stems. To prevent and manage powdery mildew:

  • Ensure good air circulation by proper spacing and pruning.
  • Water at the base of the plant to keep foliage dry.
  • Choose mildew-resistant varieties when possible.
  • If necessary, treat with a fungicide.


Bee balm is generally pest-resistant, but it can occasionally fall victim to spider mites or whiteflies. If you notice these pests:

  • Spray the plants with a strong jet of water to dislodge the insects.
  • For severe infestations, consider using insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Harvesting and Using Your Bee Balm

One of the joys of growing bee balm is being able to harvest and use it in various ways. Here’s how to make the most of your crop:

Harvesting Flowers

  • Pick bee balm flowers as they appear throughout the summer.
  • Use fresh flowers as a colorful garnish for salads, desserts, or drinks.
  • For drying, harvest flowers just before they fully open.

Harvesting Leaves

  • Snip young, tender leaves throughout the growing season.
  • Use fresh leaves as a minty flavoring in salads, teas, or cocktails.
  • Dry leaves for use in teas or potpourri.

Bee Balm Varieties to Try

With so many beautiful bee balm varieties available, it can be hard to choose! Here are a few popular options to consider:

  • ‘Jacob Cline’: A classic red variety known for its mildew resistance and tall stature.
  • ‘Raspberry Wine’: Features stunning wine-red flowers and excellent disease resistance.
  • ‘Petite Delight’: A compact variety with lavender-pink flowers, perfect for small gardens or containers.
  • ‘Lemon Mint’: Offers pale purple flowers and lemon-scented foliage.
  • ‘Fireball’: Boasts vibrant red flowers on a more compact plant.

Companion Planting with Bee Balm

Bee balm plays well with others in the garden! Here are some great companion plants to consider:

  • Echinacea (Coneflower): These native perennials complement bee balm beautifully and attract similar pollinators.
  • Black-Eyed Susan: The golden flowers of black-eyed Susans create a striking contrast with red or purple bee balm.
  • Phlox: Another native perennial that blooms around the same time as bee balm, creating a colorful summer display.
  • Catmint: The soft purple flowers and gray-green foliage of catmint provide a lovely backdrop for bee balm.

Wrapping Up

There you have it, garden friends – everything you need to know to grow and care for beautiful bee balm in your garden! From its stunning flowers to its ability to attract beneficial pollinators, bee balm is truly a garden superstar.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this versatile perennial is sure to bring joy and color to your outdoor space. Remember, gardening is all about experimentation and learning, so don’t be afraid to try different varieties and techniques.

Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a vibrant patch of bee balm and watching with delight as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds flock to your garden.