how invasive is bee balm?

sarahrock(6)May 3, 2010

I just bought 3 "coral reef" bee balm plants on a whim (what a blessing and a curse to have a nursery that I can visit on my lunch break from work!). I am thinking of snuggling them into a border in my front yard, near some russian sage, heliopsis and balloon flowers. But now, back at work, I see that bee balm is considered pretty invasive... should I be worried? And now I'm questioning if these might be too many tall plants trying to spread out take up the same airspace (with the sage & heliopsis nearby, that is).

Anyway, I am a sucker for the flower on the picture and the fact that it's a native plant... anyone have any advice? Should I go for it or abort?

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I have grown monardas for years. Their habit is to expand from the center outward, and they will do that rather rapidly once they're established. But, it's also very easy to control the size of the expanding mother plant by digging and removing portions of the plant around the edges. I do it about every three years and give the plants away. It works for me; others may have other opinions.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 6:32PM
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I live in Eastern WA and my soil is pretty sandy altho the spot where I have bee balm has been super-amended, it does seem to spread a little but I wouldn't consider it invasive. Add to that the roots are not very deep so a little pluck here and a little there and I keep it well in control. So much so that I've three varieties and just added dwarf monarda this fall. Oh, and I water as little as possible (maybe that is why it is so well behaved?).

I vote plant them together where you can keep an eye on 'em and if they get unruly, you can snag them before it gets out on control?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 7:20PM
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terrene(5b MA)

It depends on the type of Monarda and the growing conditions. My red Bee balm (Monarda didyma) and 'Raspberry Wine' are growing in rich organic soil (made from a lasagne bed) that is usually moist and partial sun. The clumps started out small and seem to quadruple every year. Yes, quadruple. They have spread aggressively into the neighboring plants and the nearby path. This year I'm having to dig up a lot and give away or compost.

What I describe is a worst case scenario. If they are in drier or leaner soil they will spread less. I had some red Monarda in a garden that is very dry because of roots from a nearby Silver maple and it is slowly dying out.

'Coral Reef' might also be a less aggressive cultivar.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 8:16PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

My 'M. 'Gardenview Scarlet' does spread aggressively.
But 'Marshall Delight' hardly spreads at all. So As terrene said, it does depend on the type.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 8:54PM
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njmomma(z6 NJ)

I have a pink one that has almost doubled in size in one year. My neighbor up the road has a red one that also spread a lot in one year. However, I agree that it isn't invasive and should be easy to control as it just gets bigger from the center. They perform wonderfully so enjoy!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:29PM
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maozamom NE Ohio

Coral Reef is quite polite for me. It's smaller and less aggressive than some others. I love the color and the hummingbirds don't seem to enjoy it too.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:41PM
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growlove(zone4 Ia.)

I have many monarda and some good winters, they really come through and I have to pull up some areas to contain them. Open, cold winters, I may lose almost all. The red ones, and Blue Stocking seem to be most aggressive for me. Marshall's Delight just sat doing nothing for several years in clay soil so moved it last year and it is beautiful this year. Put in Coral Reef last year and it really is having a struggle so feel it may not be as prolific as the others. Petite Delight is a treasure. Mary

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 10:03AM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

The Monarda I have in full sun stays as a nice clump. Every spring I just rip out what I don't want and I thin from within (to try to prevent mildew). However, the Monarda I have in partial sun doesn't clump, it is sort of thin and dispersed (same type, btw), which I don't like.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 10:57AM
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I haven't had an aggressiveness problem here with "Jacob Cline", a clump of which has been receding in size the past few years (in full sun, well-drained but not dry soil).

The shallow-rootedness would typically make for easy control even if a cultivar was overly happy.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 3:41PM
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I'm just north of you in NH, and have the same to report as terrene; Raspberry Wine, and Marshall's Delight make a nice show, but I made sure to give them their OWN space, or put in a bed that I didn't mind them spreading out.
They are gorgeous en masse, and attract lots of bees & butterflies

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:33PM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

I have Jacob Cline and it is invasive but very easy to control as it has shallow roots and I just pull up what I don't want. Years ago, I had Monarda Marshals delight, that was very invasive and prone to mildew...I got rid of that.
I also have a variety of catmint that gets tall. It is invasive too, but like the Jacob Cline, easy to pull out.
The flowers on these are so pretty it's worth thinning them out every spring.

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 3:35PM
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I'm thinking of transplanting my beebalm to the area where I have so many unwamnted plants. I dug them up just few minutes ago and my body is sore. Will beebalm win over these unwanted plants like crabgrass, clover, dandelion(just few)?


    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 5:21PM
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arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

101, i do not think the monarda would win vs those gladiators.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:18AM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

You need to pull up the weeds (clover, crabgrass, dandelion) before transplanting anything there.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 11:48AM
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They are so easy to pull up that I wouldn't consider them invasive. Just rip them out when you don't like how they are spreading. Too me invasive is something that you can't control. These are very easily controlled with very minimal effort.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:02PM
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sue36, I have weeds and grasses that are very tough to pull. Tag o' war. LOL. Sometimes, the roots gets cut :(

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:37PM
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lisa2004(NY Z5/6)

They are so beautiful. Like everyone has said, they are easy to control. I wish mine would go a little crazier. There are lots of spots I would like to move them to.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 11:42PM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

I have Jacob Kline (sorry if I misspelled that) and it's probably no more aggressive than other bee balm. Beautiful tall gorgeous red. As others have said, yes they spread, but they can be controlled by digging up the invaders. You'll have lots to give to friends or spread into areas that you want to fill up.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 11:06AM
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It's native to the eastern US, so it's hardly 'invasive', but it can be an aggressive spreader under ideal conditions.

But mine hasn't spread at all.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 1:28PM
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I wish they were as invasive as some people say. I have "Blue Stocking", "Jacob Cline", "Marshall's Delight" and they don't go crazy at all. My Marshall's probably got a bit too much shade and has mostly disappeared. There's a few shoots that refuse to die that I really should relocate, and soon ;)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 4:07PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well, technically speaking, "invasive" would apply to non-native plants that not only spread vigorously in the landscape, but also naturalize in the wild and displace or kill native plants (i.e. Oriental bittersweet).

I am kind of surprised that Monarda isn't a rampant spreader for some people. But when it does spread, I agree that it is fairly easy to control.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 4:33PM
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