where to plant bee balm (Monarda didyma)

brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)April 30, 2014

I did a search on here and found that this plant gets pretty big (and tall) and depending on what type it is, it spreads with runners.

Anyone have this particular species (is that right word?) and if so, how tall does yours get? Does it spread with runners? How much room would you allow for it?

Also, it is in a small Bonnie plant herb pot. In the past, I've made the mistake of putting immature plants like that behind already established plants because of anticipating them growing tall. But I didn't take into consideration that the established plants would block out the sun so most times they've died.

So in a case like this, or with any other plant where it's small but is going to get big ~ do you recommend planting it in a pot until it gets bigger? Or planting it where it can get light now and then transplanting it later on or next year?

I know lots of people move plants around like furniture (to quote a friend :) but I don't always have the best of luck with that. They tend to die on me. So I'm just wondering if there is some sort of trick to this that I haven't figured out...lol.


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It likes a moist spot and can tolerate some shade. Most of them are vulnerable to mildew, so they are better with room to breathe and away from things like phlox, which is also vulnerable to mildew.

Some varieties are taller than others.

You can use it for tea, so take that into consideration. You will want it to spread a bit so you can harvest some.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 12:40AM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

very helpful info! Thanks !!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 8:10AM
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It spread for me a bit, but not very rapidly and clump remained neat. It was planted with Joe Pye Weed, etc. I had M. didyma 'Gardenview Scarlet' and it grew to about 4'.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 9:35AM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Thanks Vera!ÃÂ I just noticed it says part-shade.ÃÂ Ya think it will fry if it's in full sun from morning till after 2pm?ÃÂ I did not even notice that when I bought it.ÃÂ Was just happy to find an herb that had such full blooms...lol.

I think I know the perfect spot, altho it won't be in my main garden and I'll rarely enjoy seeing it, which on the side of my porch versus out front.ÃÂ It gets morning sun and is shaded by 10 or 11am there.ÃÂ I actually don't have any part-shade in my garden :(

But at least there, it can get as big as it wants in a gap between my ginger lilies and Creeping Jenny and will provide a buffet for the bees and butterflies :)

AND ~ I can plant it NOW, versus waiting for it to get bigger in a pot.

Altho I really did want it in my front garden to fill in a big gap, but as I said, that is all day eastern sun.ÃÂ HOT !!!


    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 9:50AM
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I have mine on the east side of the house, so it is in hot sun from about 9 or 10 til 1, it does beautifully, spreads nicely under my white rose. And I moved some to the west side of my garage and that patch gets strong sun from 1 or so til 6 and it's doing great. It's Raspberry Wine which is dark pink, almost reddish maroon.
I leave the flowers all winter; they are gorgeous with snow on them. Then when it's dry in March or so, the new plants are starting at the base; I just snap off each stem to clean the area up for spring. Just like Autumn Joy sedums.
They do creep into other plants tho, I haven't seen my Agastache Blue Fortune yet, so I'm hoping it didn't get smothered by the RW. I keep popping other plants in that garage bed to add to the bloom time. Obedience plant is about the same with lighter pink blooms, it creeps into other's territory. Both are easy to pull up; and then pot them up and share them!!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 11:06AM
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I got a Bonnie bee balm a few weeks ago also. I specifically chose one that looks like it was 3 separate plants, since my intention was to split it up. Fortunately, I was correct, and was able to do get 3 distinct plants (with their own roots) out of the peat pot. I put them in a spot on east side of my house with morning sun --- which is how I interpreted the partial shade.

They were doing fine but this week, I noticed one of them fell over -- slugs! Fortunately, I also read that bee balm can be propagated by cuttings, so I will take more care of the other two and get some additional plants from those, other than waiting for them to expand on their own.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 12:11PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Very helpful info from both of you !!ÃÂ Thanks.ÃÂ As long as it's easy to pull up, I don't mind it spreading.ÃÂ And sounds like both of you have yours in the same type spot I have on the side of my porch that gets morning sun so I think I'll plant it there.

I did find that I had picked up a little pot of it at Kmart before I bought the Bonnie plant.ÃÂ It wasn't labeled and I don't know what compelled me to buy it.ÃÂ But while looking at my 'score' of herbs and small plants from both stores, I see they look identical !!ÃÂ So I'm thrilled to have two!!

Gardenper, I will have to check my larger one to see if I can divide mine like you did yours.ÃÂ Didn't know I could do that.ÃÂ I will have to keep my eyes open for slugs.ÃÂ Have them on the hosta side of house but not the end of porch side, thankfully.

And Ginnier, glad you compared it to Autumn Joy, because I have that and know how to do that with the flowers. I, too, love leaving the dead blooms on thru winter. I do it with my Russian sage, too.

Thanks again to both !!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 9:31AM
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I've found some bee balm cultivars move around more than others, but, as above, bee balm is easy to pull out.

We've had 'Gardenview Scarlet' (mentioned above) the longest. It's in a sunny bed, but tends to move towards the front of the bed to get more sun. It's too tall to leave, towards the front of the bed (with next year in mind), after blooming.

The short cultivars we have, 'Petite Delight' and Parade Marshall, are fine at the front. They also don't seem to run much anyway.

Below: 'Gardenview Scarlet' (July 8, 2010).
It moves around from year to year and therefore large chunks of it get pulled out periodically. Personally, it wouldn't normally fit with my style of mixed perennial gardening; however, I love the colour and it's so easy to keep pulling it out.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 3:23PM
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Monarda will do better in full sun but it will grow well in part shade. It is a prairie plant native to the Midwest so it can take all the sun you can give it. It does not need to be babied, (if you can't grow Monarda, I would give up on gardening!)

It will spread by runners but it is not invasive. I like that it pops up in unexpected places! Try to plant it where you will brush by it as you walk. The leaves will then release their wonderful aroma.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 3:31PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Thanks Sunny and Linda for all the info!! And what a pretty pic, sunny!!

I wonder how I know which variety I have since the tag didn't specify. And the pic on it showed reddish and light pink blooms...???

Gardenper....how did u know that u could divide urs? I looked down in mine and am not sure.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 8:30PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I grow many types of Monarda including several cultivars of M. didyma. A red no-id, Raspberry Wine, Blue Stocking, and a pink one (can't remember the cultivar). The red Monarda originally came from my mother about 20 years ago, not sure which cultivar it is.

Monarda didyma does very well in part shade, and would probably be happy in full sun as long as it's moist. In my back garden, it spreads like crazy! I have to keep it in check each year. It's one of the top 3 hummingbird plants in the gardens - the other 2 being Lobelia cardinalis, and Salvia 'Black & Blue'.

Here's a pic of the red, this is only part of the patch. There's some Monarda 'Claire Grace' starting to bloom in the background -

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:51PM
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I grow Jacob Cline in morning shade and then it gets hot sun till the sun goes down. It does spread bit like others have said, it's easy to manage. I love the red flowers that look like fireworks to me.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:06PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Thanks to both of you for the beautiful pics.ÃÂ It does look like fireworks, doesn't it?ÃÂ

I guess I will just have to wait to find out what variety mine is since when I search the Bonnie plants site, it often shows different colors (said different varieties are sold depending on how well they grow where you are).ÃÂ

But whatever I end up with, I cannot believe I didn't know about this plant before now!ÃÂ I mean, I'd heard of it as an herb but never knew it had such beautiful flowers.ÃÂ I love making the bees happy...lol.ÃÂ I also go for economical plants that give you the best bang for your buck and this seems to fill that bill.ÃÂ I can't wait!!

Funny thing is, I've noticed with more than one Bonnie plant I got that their growing instructions are different than many other sites and advice I've got from here.ÃÂ For instance, everywhere else has said it can take full sun and even thrives in it.ÃÂ But the tag says part shade.

Or like the roma tomatoes I got for mom.ÃÂ Bonnie's said they'd get 4 to 6' tall, yet another specialty site focused on romas specifically suggested the same plant by brand name yet said it only grew 3 to 4' tall.ÃÂ

I just find the descrepancy between the 'grower' and the experience most everyone else has as being quite odd.ÃÂ Like I don't want to trust the grower....lol.

Again, thanks to all!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 2:53PM
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Monarda is definitely one of my favorites. It grows all through our woods in full and partial shade. I have many cultivars and have most of them in full sun. I don't find that they spread in an unruly way ---- the clump just gets bigger. After blooming be sure to cut it back so you get a second flush in late summer/early fall.

I sold a bunch of Monarda at our Farmers Mkt. last year and just pulled it up by the roots in the woods and stuck the bunches in water. They didn't miss a step!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 12:03PM
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whitelacy, I've taken 2-3 shots at growing Monarda over the years. None of them survived more than one season. Thankfully, I didn't interpret that as a sign that I have a "brown thumb." :p I've had some big successes but not with Monarda. (Sage and lavender do great for me, for instance.)

This thread makes me wonder if I should try it again, though.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 2:46PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Ryse, did you sell your Monarda as a cut flower or include the roots in water so people could transplant them in their garden? Was it before bloom?

Ms. xeno, I tried to grow lavender at this house for 2 or 3 years and it always died out over the winter. I had a huge patch at my previous house without thinking about it so it was weird! My sage does okay though. I should try lavender again.

Sage and lavender do well in dry, well-drained, sunny conditions which is pretty different from M didyma. You could try Monarda citriodora aka lemon bee balm (or something) which has pretty purple-pink flowers and does well in dry full sun conditions.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 6:50PM
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No, I sold the Monarda for four stalks for a dollar. They were rooted in water and I just wrapped them in a wet paper towel, put in a plastic bag and sent them on their way. Sold all of them right away.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 8:30AM
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Connie K

Ms xeno, I failed several times with Monardo, until I read they like moist conditions. I don't have a moist, sunny spot, but when I planted it in a sunny spot, I religiously watered it for the remainder of the summer. I just made sure the ground never dried out, and was usually fairly moist.

That seemed to do the trick. This is the third year for it, and it's done very well. After the first year, I left Mother Nature take care of the watering.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 4:24PM
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Hi, terrene. The funny thing is that the sage (purple) and the lavender (English) both endure wind and alternate shade/sun during most of the season. Not to mention some weird climber weed (not ivy) that invaded from who-knows-where. I frequently have to untwine it from the other plants. They may not be magazine-perfect but I love them anyway. :D (Some varieties of lavender seem pickier than others about where they grow.)

digginginthedirt, the sad thing is that last time, I think I watered them *too* well, and the poor things mildewed. :o They were in part shade, as is most of my yard. Well, there's a very slim portion of the yard that gets Southern exposure. Maybe I could make a place for them, but it'll probably have to wait for next year since I have too many half-started projects on my plate this year already. ;)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 7:29AM
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I had lost track of this thread, glad to find it again.

As for how to see how many clumps of plants a store-bought planter might have, I just chose something like this (attached picture). In this case, there are several individual stalks in each clump, but I just kept it as 3 distinct clumps for the purposes of transplanting. My previous bee balm purchase had less stalks, so it was more like 1, then 2 or 3, and then 2 or 3, in the 3 clumps. This one seems to have several plants per clump, so I hope more will make it.

I do this for other plants also, especially ones that I already know I will transplant, and so I try to find a pot that has several stalks or clumps of stalks (other examples would be pineapple sage, basil, etc)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 8:58PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Gardenper...so great for u to reply!! Didn't know if it was one giant root ball. Mine looks even "juicier" with good places to section off.

But I will ask this again and not even sure it was within this thread....

When planting small plants, seems if I put them behind established (read...blocks sun) they don't thrive/survive.

So would u repot and let get established for month or so before planting in a spot where its shaded by, in my case, daylilies???

I have a small front porch garden and its soooo full of lilies now I can't see dirt...lol.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 11:23PM
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(if you can't grow Monarda, I would give up on gardening!)

I am feeling a bit embarrassed as I love seeing a wonderful stand of BB in other people's gardens but I can never get similarly for myself!

I have had clump of some dwarf variety for a few years and I find the blooms are weak and do not last nearly as long as they should.

I am tempted to dig it out but I do like that aroma of bergamot.

Maybe I will give it one more year.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:34AM
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I am adding more plants that are favored by bees in effort to help them survive. I have many plants that the bees love but nothing holds a candle to Bee Balm. It is buzzing with bees from morning until night, they can't get enough. Talk about easy to grow!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 12:24AM
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