By David Wall, Mount Pleasant Master Gardener
It has been said that everyone should grow bee balm in their yard. A member of the mint family, bee balm is also known as horsemint and Oswego tea. It’s a native-to-North America wildflower that is a hardy perennial. It can be any of several colors or a mixture of colors. It can be12-24” tall or up to 48” tall. Then, it can grow almost anywhere from pristine conditions to shady and rocky wooded areas. All this and more is nice, but it hardly makes the plant so noteworthy; So, why should we all have bee balm in our yards?
First, bee balm is multi-pollinated. Hummingbirds love the crownlike flower petals which are considered a hummingbird favorite. The nectar is also a favorite and sought after by butterflies and bees.
If you have a favorite flower color from deep burgundy to pale purple, there’s probably a shade of bee balm to satisfy your desire. Stems are emerald green whose length is dependent on the particular species, ranging from several inches to supporting a plant 48” tall.
Bee balm is very easy to grow, requiring virtually no maintenance. It requires no fertilizing. Even in the poorest of soil, simply add some quality compost at the time of planting. It actually thrives in poor quality soil. It has an aroma that actually repels pests but is still pleasant to pollinating insects, hummingbirds, and humans! The plant self-seeds and spreads by creeping rhizomes, so it can expand to fill in vacant area on its own. In the fall, when mowing for the final time, you can mow it down knowing it will return in the spring.
Google bee balm to see the multiplicity of colors and flower heights before deciding which one will best improve your flower garden by sowing seeds or installing plants.