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Native Plant of the Week: Bee Balm or Oswego Tea

Family: Lamiaceae

Name: Monarda didyma

Bloom Time: Jul-Aug

Flower: Red

Soil Condition: Moist-average, rich, well-drained

Light: Sun, partial sun

Height: 2-3', sometimes up to 5'

Native Range: Eastern North America

Zone: 4-9

Photos: M. didyma flower (Stacy Hodes, CC BY 4.0), M. didyma 'Jacob Cline' flower and habit (KMS Native Plants)

Are you looking to attract hummingbirds to your yard? Plant bee balm and they will come. The fragrant foliage is edible as are the flowers. It makes a great cut flower and dried flower. It is in the mint family so it does spread rapidly, especially in ideal conditions.

Maintenance: Pinch back when the plant gets to be about 2' tall for tidier and more floriferous plants. Straight species and 'mildew resistant' cultivars are prone to powdery mildew. This is only a cosmetic issue. If it bothers you, plant something in front of it so you only see the pretty flowers and not the defoliated stems. Deadheading the spent flowers will prolong bloom time.

Benefits: Hummingbird magnet! Great for bees and butterflies. Host plant to several moths. Supports specialist bees that only use Monarda species.

Noteworthy Cultivars: 'Jacob Cline'

Fun Facts: M. didyma is used as a medicinal plant. The plant resins have been used to soothe bee stings and the Oswego Indians of New York State also used the leaves for tea, hence the common name Oswego tea.

Companion Plants: Asclepias incarnata ssp pulchra (Showy Swamp Milkweed), Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed), Eutrochium species (Joe Pye Weed), Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower), Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby St. John's Wort), Sambucus canadensis (Black elderberry), Iris versicolor (Blue Flag Iris), Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (NY Aster)



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