Growing Bee Balm (Bergamot) Flowers: Planting, Care Tips, Types of Horsemint

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Woman looks at Bergamot bee balm plant after learning about the types of bee balm like horsemint (spotted bee balm) and how to grow bee balm flowers, as well as how to identify bee balm varieties and pollinator care tips.

Native to the eastern United States, Bee Balm is perhaps best known for its brilliant red blossoms, but various cultivars also offer blooms in shades of pink, purple, yellow, and white, making them an excellent addition to any landscape.

Ranging from dwarf varieties less than 1 foot tall to species that sprout up to 4 feet or more, this plant attracts many different types of pollinators, including different types of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

One of the most interesting Bee Balm facts is how it got its name.

Known to scientists as Monarda didyma, and also commonly known as Bergamot or Horsemint, this plant produces a resin that was once used to soothe bee stings.7

Today Bee Balm plants are much more likely to be used to attract bees and butterflies to a backyard garden, and this guide outlines everything you need to know about planting Bee Balm and ensuring it thrives.

Bee Balm

(Monarda didyma)

Bee Balm in circle frame on green background.
  • Characteristics: Brilliant blooms atop tall sturdy stems
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Genus: Monarda
  • Leaf: Green and oval
  • Seed: Contained within a nut-like capsule
  • Blossoms: Red or scarlet
  • Native Habitat: Eastern portion of North America
  • Height: Up to 4 feet
  • Canopy: Up to 3 feet
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: 4a to 9b

Image Credit: Hermann Luyken16

Bee Balm Planting

The Bee Balm is ideal for a pollinator garden alongside other plants that attract hummingbirds.

It is useful as a border plant because of its height and can be used as an ornamental planting because of its attractive flowers.

Graphics showing the different planting and caring tips for Bee Balm which include the best season, soil type, sunlight requirement, watering, and spacing to plant Bee Balms and the worst plants to grow close to Bee Balm.

The Bee Balm thrives as a native plant, but can also be grown in other areas under the right conditions.

Is Bergamot the Same as Bee Balm?

Although Bergamot is commonly known as Bee Balm, it’s a specific variety (Scarlet Bee Balm) and attract specific types of pollinators to your garden.

Particularly, hummingbirds, bumble bees, and hawk moths, as well as some other specific bees.

By attracting a variety of pollinators to your plants, you help support the entire ecosystem of your outdoor area.

How To Grow Bee Balm

Ready to learn how to grow Bee Balm?

Planting tips for Bee Balm involve choosing the right spacing, sun exposure, watering schedule, care techniques, and other factors to maximize growth and flowering time.

Growing a Bee Balm From a Seed

Growing a Bee Balm from a seed is possible with proper patience and planning.

In early spring, plant seeds indoors in a container filled with a seeding medium. Allow 10 to 40 days for the seed to germinate.1

Seedlings can be planted outdoors after the last frost.

When To Transplant Bee Balm

If you’re deciding when to transplant Bee Balm, think spring. Wait until seedlings are well rooted and all frost risk has passed,1 then transplant them into moist soil in a part of the garden that receives full sun exposure.

Companion Plants For Growing Bee Balm

Ideal companion plants for growing Bee Balm include low-maintenance perennials that won’t compete with the Bee Balm for nutrients in the soil.14

Some options include other pollinator favorites like the Black-eyed Susan, coneflowers, daisies, or Liriope.

What Not To Plant With Bee Balm

What not to plant with Bee Balm is just as important to gardening success as the things you do choose to plant with Bee Balm.

Bee Balm likes neutral to acidic soil, you will need to avoid plants that thrive in alkaline conditions.

It is a relatively tall plant, you should also use care not to plant it next to much shorter flowers that will suffer in its shade.14 For that reason, it may be a better choice for back borders in a garden rather than front ones, because it will prevent Bee Balm from shading smaller plants.

When To Plant Bee Balm for Maximum Blooms

For the best yield, plant Bee Balm in early spring.1 If you already have Bee Balms in the garden, early spring is the perfect time to divide them to improve yield.

Dig the plant out as soon as it starts to erupt from the ground. Split it into sections so that each one has at least a few shoots with leaves and a section of roots, then replant each section immediately for best results.

How Far Apart To Plant Bee Balm

Plant Bee Balm 12 inches to 3 feet apart.7 Proper spacing is very important not just for aesthetic reasons, but also so that the plant has room to grow to its full potential.

Adequate spacing also allows for airflow, which is healthy for the plant and can help prevent disease as the plant grows over time.

Best Growing Conditions for Bee Balm

The best-growing conditions for Bee Balm are those that provide full sun exposure, which includes at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.7 While the plant will tolerate partial sun, it will grow faster and thrive with full sun exposure.

Native Bee Balm also prefers acid or neutral soil with a pH below 8.0.7 Soil should be nutrient-rich and well-draining; clay soil is preferred.

How Much Sunlight Does Bee Balm Need Each Day?

The question of how much sunlight does Bee Balm need each day is a very important one when adding this plant to your garden. Bee Balm needs full sun, which means it should be in direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day.7

While Bee Balm will tolerate less sun, it will not grow as quickly, and may not blossom to its full potential.

Watering Needs for Bee Balm Plants

Watering needs for Bee Balms are fairly minimal. The plant requires watering every 7 to 10 days.6

Each time you water it, you should take the time to saturate it so that the soil is moist down to at least 6 or 8 inches below the ground. Mulch around the plant regularly to help with moisture control, keep water from evaporating too quickly, and also to protect the roots of the plant from the cold of the winter.

How To Deadhead Bee Balm

While figuring out how to deadhead Bee Balm may seem complex, it’s a surprisingly easy process that can make a big difference in the appearance of this plant.

Deadheading simply means cutting off flower heads after they have died off. This allows the plant to focus on fresh, new buds instead of old, dying ones.

It extends the flowering season for Bee Balm and keeps the plant looking its healthiest.

In addition to deadheading, it’s important to take the time to divide Bee Balms every two to three years.1 This is required because the center of the plants tends to die off as it spreads over time.

To remedy this, cut out old sections and dispose of them while cutting and dividing newer growth to create more room for the plant to spread out.

Bee Balm Threats

Like all plants, Bee Balm faces challenges. Bee Balm threats include both diseases and pests, but both can be handled with proper care and maintenance.

Bee Balm Disease Prevention

Bee Balm disease prevention begins with understanding the diseases that plague this plant.

In the majority of gardens, the most common Bee Balm disease is powdery mildew or Erysiphe.15 This disease appears as white patches or spots on the leaves of Bee Balm.

Left untreated, the leaves will wither, turn brown and die. Failure to address this disease not only affects the aesthetic of Bee Balm but also its long-term health.

How To Stop Bee Balm Disease

If you’re wondering how to stop Bee Balm disease you may be surprised to learn that there are a variety of techniques you can use, and many require no chemicals.15

  • Ensure adequate spacing and airflow: Overcrowding is an invitation for powdery mildew to take over your Bee Balm and other garden plants. You can avoid this with proper garden planning and by regularly dividing your Bee Balms every two to three years to create more space.
  • Remove dead leaves: Once you spot white spots or patches on Bee Balm leaves, the best course of action is to remove those diseased leaves by hand. This keeps the disease from spreading and helps to maintain the appearance of the plant.
  • Cut plants back as soon as they top 12 inches of height:1 Once Bee Balm is a foot tall, cut it back to about half of its height. This not only makes it more resistant to mildew but can also improve flowering potential over time.1
  • Cut back diseased plants to the ground level: If you have a plant consumed by powdery mildew, cut it all the way down to the ground to stop the spread of the disease and save the plant.
  • Apply fungicides with care: Check your local gardening center for fungicides that can be used to fight powdery mildew if all alternative attempts at fighting this disease have failed.

Common Pests of the Bee Balm Plant

Common pests of the Bee Balm include:15

  • Aphids: Tiny insects that feast on new plant growth
  • Stalk borers: Pests that tunnel up and down inside the stems of Bee Balm and other plants
  • Thrips: Tiny white insects that consume the petals and pollen of Bee Balm
  • Spider mites: Build webs on leaves, eventually turning leaves yellow

Natural Pest Control for Bee Balm

While several pests can interfere with the growth of this plant, natural pest control for Bee Balm is possible:15

  • Cut and remove any dead or damaged sections of leaves or stalks
  • Deadhead flowers as they die off and divide plants every few years as recommended
  • Try using a garden hose to direct a spray of water at aphids, thrips, mites, or other insects living on the outside of plants
  • Remove visible insects, nests, or egg casings by hand and dispose of them far away from your garden

If natural pest control methods aren’t doing enough to deter insects from feasting on your Bee Balms, you may have to turn to chemical pesticides.

One option is to use an insecticidal soap or an ultra-fine horticultural oil.15 These soaps or oils are designed to kill insects on your plants without harming the plants or preventing them from blooming normally.

Because insects can vary across the country, it’s always best to check with your local nursery to see what they recommend in terms of garden pest control products. Protect yourself when using these types of chemicals by reading the label and only using them according to the product instructions.

5 Types of Bee Balm Colors

Many gardeners are familiar with red Bee Balm, but there are actually many different types of Bee Balm to choose from.

These species can be distinguished not only by the color of their flowers but also by their size and other features.

1. Lemon Bee Balm

Also called Monarda citriodora, Lemon Bee Balm ranges from 1 to 2 feet tall and its flowers and leaves have a lemony or citrus scent when crushed.8 Blooms include both lavender and pink flowers, plus every shade in between.

Closeup of a Lemon Bee Balm plant showing green leaves and two-toned flowers with purple petals and light yellow ones on top.

(Image: Phillip Larking17)

Eye-level shot of Scarlet Bee Balm plant showcasing green leaves and red flowers growing at the end of the flower stems.

(Image: sonnia hill18)

2. Scarlet Bee Balm or Red Bee Balm

Monarda didyma is often known as Scarlet Bee Balm or Red Bee Balm because of its characteristic red blooms. Generally growing to about 3 feet in height,2 this plant has minty-scented leaves.

It has also been cultivated to create species with many different types of white flowers, which can be planted alongside those with red blossoms to create attractive patterns.

3. Pink Bee Balm

Pink Bee Balm, or Monarda fistulosa features flowers ranging from lavender to pink or white. Also known as Wild bergamot, it grows 2 to 5 feet tall and has ragged pom-pom style flowers.9 The leaves of this plant are sometimes used to make mint tea.

Closeup of Pink Bee Balm plant showing flowers with light pink petals.

(Image: NPS | N. Lewis19)

Top shot of a Purple Bee Balm showing reddish-purple flowers and green leaves.

(Image: F. D. Richards20)

4. Purple Bee Balm

Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’ is a form of purple Bee Balm that produces bright purple flowers. It is a dwarf variety and grows only 10 to 12 inches tall.10

5. Spotted Bee Balm (Horsemint)

Monarda punctata goes by the nickname Spotted Bee Balm.

As you may guess from its name, it features yellow flowers with purple or lavender spots. This species can vary in height from 6 inches to 3 feet.11

Eye level shot of a Spotted Bee Balm showing long leaves with serrated edge and flowers with small spots.

(Image: Road Travel America21)

Bee Balm Growing Zone

The Bee Balm growing zone includes USDA zones 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, and 9b.7

To find out if you live in one of these zones, check the USDA Hardiness Zone Map found at this link.12

What Is a Perennial?

Bee Balm is a perennial, which means that it lives for more than one growing season.5

It may die off above the ground during the winter, but the roots survive and will produce new stems and flowers each spring. This is different from an annual, which lives for only a single growing season.4

How To Identify Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

If you’re wondering how to identify Bee Balm, you could start by looking for its characteristic red flowers, but there are also other clues that can help you spot this plant even when it’s not in bloom.

Graphics showing how to identify bee balm plant, with images of Bee Balm seeds, Bee Balm flower, and Bee Balm leaves inside circle frames on a green background.

(Image: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz22)

While scientists refer to Bee Balm as Monarda didyma, this plant goes by many nicknames,7 which include:

  • Beebalm
  • Bergamot
  • Horsemint
  • Oswego Tea

Bee Balm Flower

The Bee Balm flower is commonly bright red in color, which helps to attract many types of butterflies and even different types of moths. The flowers range from 1 to 3 inches long and are made up of long, thin pedals.7 The flowers are also edible and can be used in salads and other meals.

Bee Balm Leaves

Bee Balm leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and 1-3 inches wide.7 They are oval in shape, with serrated edges and a hairy, coarse texture. The leaves release a minty smell when crushed or broken.

Bee Balm Seeds

Bee Balm seeds are contained within a coppery brown fruit.7 The fruit has a nut-like appearance and appears each fall. While this plant can be propagated by seed, it also spreads via underground rhizomes.

Bee Balm Growth Rate

Bee Balm growth rate can vary based on conditions like sun exposure, soil, climate, and weather. It is a medium-fast grower and spreads rapidly once established.7

How long it takes to grow Bee Balm also depends on how you choose to grow it. For example, if you are starting Bee Balm from seed, it will take 110 to 120 days to reach maturity.13

Bee Balm Height: How Tall Does Bee Balm Get?

Bee Balm height can vary depending on which species you choose to plant. Monarda didyma can grow up to 4 feet tall,7 but there are dwarf varieties shorter than 12 inches and many in between these two heights.

No matter what type of garden you have, Bee Balm is a welcome addition for drawing in pollinators or for simply providing attractive flowers that add a pop of color each summer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bee Balm

Is Bee Balm Invasive? Does Bee Balm Spread?

Bee Balm is native to North America and is not considered an invasive species.1 Despite this, it is a fast spreader that propagates itself using underground rhizomes or stems, so it can quickly take over a home garden if not properly managed.

Why Is Bee Balm Sometimes Called Oswego Tea?

The Oswego people of New York once used Bee Balm flowers to make tea.2 If you are interested in trying this for yourself, many say that the red flowers produce the best-flavored tea.

Why Is Bee Balm Called Horsemint?

Bee Balm is also known as Horsemint, but this has nothing to do with horses consuming this plant. It earned this nickname because it is larger and more coarse in texture than true mint plants, but still has the same minty aroma and flavor.5


1Cornell University. (2006). Bee balm. Cornell University. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

2Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2023, April 06). Monarda didyma. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

3Weisenhorn, J., & Coyle, G. (2018). Edible flowers. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

4Lineberger, D., & Parsons, J. (2023). Annual, Perennial, Biennial? Wildflowers in Bloom. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

5Ellison, G. (2019, July 31). Horsemint is a fascinating, useful plant. Smoky Mountain News. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

6Jauron, R. (2022, July). Growing Bee Balm in the Home Garden. Iowa State University | Extension and Outreach. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

7N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Monarda didyma. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

8Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2023, February 20). Monarda citriodora. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

9Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2023, February 20). Monarda fistulosa. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <> (2023). Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’ (Bee Balm). Gardenia. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

11Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2023, February 20). Monarda punctata. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

12U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2023). 2023 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. USDA | USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

13Buckner, H. (2023, July 25). How to Plant and Grow Bee Balm. Gardener’s Path. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

14Gardenhousing. (2022, October 4). Best 8 Bee Balm Companion Plants (+What to Avoid). Gardenhousing. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

15State of Connecticut. (2023). Beebalm (Monarda). Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

162013.07.13.083631 Indianernessel Monarda didyma Heidelberg Germany Photo by Hermann Luyken. (2013, July 13) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>

17Bergamot, Bee Balm, Monarda Citriodora, Lemon Mint Photo by Phillip Larking. (2020, January 11) / Unsplash License. Resized. Unsplash. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

18Monarda didyma Photo by sonnia hill. (2021, August 28) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 1, 2024, from <>

19Wild Begamot Photo by NPS | N. Lewis. (2016, August 2) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

20Monarda didyma ‘Balbalmurp’ (Monrovia) 2020 photo Photo by F. D. Richards. (2020, June 27) / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>

21Spotted Bee Balm growing wild in East Texas Photo by Road Travel America. (2017, July 24) / CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 10, 2024, from <>

22Monarda didyma kz1 Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz. (2016, September 26) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped and added image, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 28, 2023, from <>