PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Beebalm (Monarda spp.)

It’s hard to describe Beebalm without quickly becoming hyperbolic. It is actually painful to be restrained here, but we’ll try. For you.

Monarda is in the mint family so they have wonderfully fragrant and flavorful leaves, stems and flowers. Monardas spread themselves into polite, but expanding colonies by dropping seeds. There are three species common in North America – Wild Bergamot (M.fistulosa) found in most parts of southern Canada and northern U.S.A., Lemon Beebalm (M. citriodora) mostly in the southeastern U.S.A., and Scarlet Beebalm (M. didyma) found largely east of the Mississippi to New England. They grow in clumps of many 3-4 foot tall stems topped with dramatic poofs of tubular blooms that look like dainty, showy, colorful bombs going off.

Beebalms have been used for millennia by the original people of North America to treat respiratory, digestive, and skin problems and infections. All of this is supported by modern research. The simplest thing is to harvest leaves and make a tea. The whole plant can be dried and used in winter with the same effect. One study has discovered that essential oil from Scarlet Beebalm added to chicken feed produces faster and greater weight gain, which is good if you grow chickens to eat them.

Hummingbirds engage in fierce aerial battles over ownership of a patch of Monarda. Bees and butterflies are crazy for it. And you get all this activity and beauty for a couple of months in summer!