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Monarda didyma L. - Bee Balm

Common Names:  Scarlet beebalm, Oswega tea, Red bergamot

Family:  Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial       Herbs: Culinary 

The native plant, Monarda didyma  has dense rounded terminal head-like clusters of bright red tubular flowers atop a square stem.  Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with scarlet-red flowers in terminal tufts.  The 1 meter stems are square and lined with large, oval dark green leaves.  They have a clump-forming habit. Flowers appear in midsummer and last for several weeks.  Deadhead to extend blooming. Monarda didyma can be invasive but is controllable in a garden.  The native plant is found throughout eastern North America.

Cultivars:  Beebalm may be subject to powdery mildew.  Cultivars that are mildew resistant include: ‘Colrain Red’, ‘ Jacob Cline’ (red), ‘Violet Queen’ and ‘Gardenview Scarlet’.

Attracts: bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds

Habitat:  prefers moist conditions and light shade but will grow in full sun with adequate moisture.  Beebalm will grow in most kinds of soil, even heavy clay.

Propagation:  by seed or division in early spring

Availability: seed catalogues and many native plants and cultivars are available at local nurseries.

Culinary Uses:  The flowers and leaves are edible.  Leaves and young shoot tips can be used raw or cooked.  The leaves are used as flavouring in salads and fruit salads, drinks, etc.  Flowers  can be eaten raw and are used as an attractive garnish in culinary dishes.

The name Oswega tea comes from native North Americans who used the leaves to brew teas and it is the leaves that give Earl Grey tea it’s distinctive flavour.

Monarda attracting Hummingbird Hawk Moth