Are you looking for something to make your yard more beautiful and attract pollinators? Yeah, me too. Lucky for us, bee balm may be exactly what we need to spice up our garden.
I’m always looking for ways to support the bee population and bring hummingbirds to my yard, and this plant is great for doing just that. If you love to watch the ecosystem thrive in your garden too, bee balm is a great choice. Not only does it come in a host of colors, but the blooms also last a long time, and you can use pretty much every part of the plant.
Bee balm is a perennial flowering plant, which means it will come back year after year, as long as you treat it right. Depending on which variety you choose, the mature plant can grow between one and eight feet and is generally two feet wide. Keep that in mind when picking your space.
You may have already heard of bee balm but under a different name. It is also known as monarda, bergamot, horsemint, and Oswego tea.
Bee balm foliage is a bluish green color and the bursting flowers it produces come in a variety of colors. You can pick pink, purple, red, or white for your garden aesthetic. The plant not only looks beautiful, but bee balm is deer resistant, which is good news for those who have problems with deer ruining their gardens.
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Bee balm’s blossoms look like little bursting firecrackers, and they attract a wide variety of different pollinators to your garden. In addition to the insects and birds who will enjoy your new addition, you can use different parts of the plant yourself.
Bee balm attracts all kinds of different creatures to your garden, and all of them are good. You’ll have hummingbirds zooming from flower to flower, and butterflies flitting from bloom to bloom.
In addition to the pretty birds and butterflies, this minty beauty attracts other pollinators like bees, beetles, centipedes, and spiders. While you may not want to think about most of them creeping around in your garden, each one plays a vital role in nature. Giving them all a home in your garden not only helps propagate the flower species, but they’ll keep destructive insects in check as well.
Top that off with the fact that the insects and pollinators ultimately keep us all alive and fed, and you might be wondering why you haven’t been growing bee balm all along.
Bee balm was first used by Native Americans to make poultices for infections and minor wounds. Part of the mint family, horsemint is a natural antiseptic and has been used to treat mouth infections and gingivitis.
Native Americans also used the tea made from this useful plant’s leaves to treat headaches and fevers. In addition, it was a favorite herb used to season their food.
It’s also interesting to note that the tea tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party was Oswego tea. Who knew?
Bee balm can be produced from seed or by planting already grown plants in your garden. You can also grow bee balm from your existing stock by division and from stem cuttings.
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When dividing your bee balm, and this goes for most perennials, all you need is a shovel and some gloves. First, dig up the bee balm you want to divide and remove the entire root ball from the ground. Second, cut or pull apart the individual crowns, keeping the roots and leaves separate from each other. You’ll end up with several different plants. Replant the divisions, water, and mulch to keep moist.
If you want to create more plants from stem cuttings, it’s easy to do with bee balm. Cut a stem off of your plant in the morning, and remove the lower leaves. Place your cutting in a pot filled with a mix of potting soil, sand, and perlite or vermiculite. Wrap in clear plastic to create a terrarium effect, and the plant will do the rest.
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The best place for your bee balm to grow is in the sun. They love it, especially in the South or Southwest. If you can find a place that offers a little shade in the afternoon, you can enjoy your blooms a bit longer.
Keeping in mind that your flower will attract lots of bees, you might want to choose a place not directly in your walking path. If the bees don’t bother you, then don’t worry about it. Bee balm is hearty, so it spreads quickly and wide. If not kept in check, like other mints, it will take over your garden and then some. Giving your happy little flower some room to spread out, though, will result in a pretty blanket of whatever colors you choose.
You don’t need to prepare much to grow vigorous bee balm, but as mentioned, you want to pick a spot in full sun. Although it will tolerate drought, it thrives in soil that is moist but well-drained. Avoid wetting the leaves on your plant because that can invite diseases, such as powdery mildew.
Space your plants about 18 to 24 inches apart, and mix in a few inches of compost before planting. Fertilize using a liquid fertilizer every week or two in the summer, and mulch in the spring.
The birds and the bees aren’t the only ones who can appreciate and use your bee balm. You can use it too.
Add the fresh flowers from your bee balm to salads, cakes, and preserves. Dry the leaves and use for tea, or in potpourri. New cuttings can also be placed in a vase to add beauty to your dining table or your kitchen.
Like most natural remedies, the medicinal claims associated with bee balm have not been FDA approved, but different cultures have used it for medicinal purposes for a long time. As mentioned, people have used the antiseptic properties in the plant to treat injuries and infections in the mouth and on other areas of the body. The tea is combined with honey to treat sore throats, coughs, and other respiratory illnesses.
An added benefit to growing bee balm in your garden is that its scent is supposed to repel mosquitos naturally. With that in mind, it makes sense to grow the pest-repelling perennial in an area where you gather with your family outside for cookouts or relaxing.
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If you can’t figure out how to add this plant from the mint family to your diet, here’s a recipe for you to try from Natural News. Make sure you allow this bread to rest in the refrigerator overnight to become its best, most delicious self. It has a crumbly texture that isn’t ideal for sandwiches, but thick slices are delicious when toasted and served with a favorite spread.
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 tbs. butter
- 1/2 tsp. honey (preferably raw organic honey)
- 1 cup balm flowers (the soft outer petals)
- 1 cup water at room temperature
- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- Light olive oil to coat baking sheet
- First, you need to dissolve the yeast in warm water in a mixing bowl. After it has dissolved, add butter and honey and mix it thoroughly. When that has you have mixed that, add in the bee balm flower petals and flour alternately with water. You’ll need to beat the dough down after each time you add to it. When you get to the last bit of flowers and flour, knead it into the dough by hand.
- After you’ve finished that, shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning once to oil all surfaces. Cover with a damp towel. You will want to let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
- Punch dough down and turn onto a lightly floured board where you will knead it for five minutes. Next, divide the dough in half and shape into two round loaves. Place loaves four inches apart on a lightly oiled baking sheet or baking pan and cover with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes, then brush top with beaten egg and spread more egg dipped blossoms over top of the bread.
- Finally, bake it in a preheated 400° F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until you see the light brown loaves.
Bee balm begins blooming in the summer and continues to blossom into the fall. That’s a long season to enjoy your blooms. Pick a place in your garden where you can see your plants from inside and outside your house. You can also bring the cut flowers inside to admire.
Adding the flower to your garden and yard is a simple way to add color, and invite beneficial wildlife to your home. Not only can the insects and birds take full advantage of the blossoms all summer and into the fall, so can you. This plant has so many uses and is so lovely that it’s hard to find a reason not to add these colorful firecrackers to your summer and fall garden. They’re easy to grow and take care of, and they will keep coming back year after year with little effort. It’s a no-brainer.