If the name doesn’t give it away, the Bee Balm plant is a member of the Lamiaceae family and is native to North America. Bee balm is known to attract pollinators to its beautifully colored flowers of purple pink, red, and white. This plant is available in most areas of North America and is relatively hardy compared to others in its family.
In the right conditions, the Bee Balm plant, also known as Bergamot, is manageable and a great addition to place along herb and vegetable gardens. If it has the right conditions throughout the growing season to establish a solid root foundation, it can survive the winter and return bigger and brighter in the next season.
Before you purchase the Bee Balm plant, there are a few things you need to know and prepare yourself for so that you grow a successful and beneficial plant for your garden. Keep your eye on the Bee Balm, however. It has a tendency to spread when the conditions are absolutely perfect and may try to invade other areas.
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How to Grow and Care for Bee Balm
With bee balm plants growing in zones 3-9 regularly, they will bloom in the Spring and Fall months each year. You can also plant them during these two seasons; you just need to make sure you have a solid root foundation on the plants before the weather gets too extreme on either spectrum by following the guide below. Another great thing about Bee Balm plants is they are not toxic to dogs, cats or humans.
Lighting and Shading
Unlike others in the Lamiaceae family, the Bee Balm plant prefers to have direct sunlight and be in the full sun throughout the day. If you do not have a place on your property for full sun, they can survive in partial shade as long as they get some direct sun in the morning or afternoon hours.
Soil and Fertilizer Preferences
If you really want to keep the bee balm happy, it is best to keep the soil loamy with a variety of dirt textures. This soil type not only provides the necessary nutrients that a bee balm needs but also gives it aerated roots and a drainage system for the water.
Periodically, you will want to add some fertilization to your soil once it is transplanted from the pot to the ground. Additional phosphorus options like bone meal around the drip line will spruce up your bee balm plants when they are looking gloomy.
Watering Bee Balm
After you get your bee balms, it is important that you keep a steady water cycle for the first six months. During this time, they are growing at a faster rate and need water to help keep up with this process. The soil beneath the plant should be damp but not soaked, so watering them every three to four days during the spring and summer months is ideal.
After they start maturing and the growing process slows down, a weekly watering will be just fine for the bee balm plants. You want to make sure that you are not over-watering them or letting them get too dry.
Temperature and Hardiness
Bee balm plants are preferred by a lot of homeowners because of their ability to be hardy and withstand strong weather conditions. While they are most comfortable between 70 and 85 degrees, they do have the ability to withstand much higher temperatures and much cooler temperatures.
It is important to note that bee balm plants do not prefer humid places simply because it opens the door for powder mildew on the plant. If you are growing bee balm in a humid environment, keep an eye on your leaves and make sure the humidity is not causing irreversible damage.
Maintaining Bee Balm Plant
Once you have stabilized your bee balm plant and want to make sure it returns in the spring, there are a few maintenance steps you need to take so that it continues to grow. Under the right conditions, it will spread naturally on its own, which may be what you are aiming for if you have a large property that needs to be pollinated.
Because these plants spread quickly, you will want to propagate them at least once a year to keep them from invading other areas. It is best to dig them up at the root during this process so that you can get the new bulbs and remove them from the area.
After several years of having a bee balm plant, you will notice that it stops blooming and appears to be in a rut of sorts. This could mean that it is old and needs to encourage new growth through the propagating process.
While you do not have to prune and prepare the bee balm for winter, you can prune it back once the blooms fall off so that it redirects its attention and will grow more blooms in the next cycle. It is ideal removing all the lower leaves also so that you do not have to worry about the mildew developing from the dew and watering that catches itself on these leaves.
While the flowers are bright and vibrant, once they start to fall off, go ahead and start deadheading them so that they come back with even more blooms and flowers. These flowers give off the desired scent for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, drawing in more to your garden, while keeping mosquitoes away.
Watch For Diseases
The most common disease, powdered mildew, has already been discussed. It will take a gray appearance on the bee balm and will start to have flowers and leave a wilt around it. You will want to start treating with your preferred fungicide method at that time to save the plant and others that are planted nearby.
In some cases, your bee balms may attract more than bees. You could find an infestation of thrips and spider mites that are attracted to the smell and feed on the plant. This is tricky to treat, however, because you do not want to use an insecticide. If you treat it with chemicals, you could kill the pollinators coming to take advantage of the bee balm and pollinate your garden.
Is Bee Balm Right For Your Garden?
If you are planning to grow either herbs, vegetables, or both in your garden this year, you need something that will bring and keep the pollinators in the area for successful crops. This is the benefit of bee balm and growing it in your garden so that you have these bright flowers placed tactically across the property. Keep an eye on your soil, water, and sunlight for these bee balms, and they will continue to return each spring and assist with your garden needs.