Total Bee Balm Growing Guide [Planting and Care]

If you love pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees, you should be growing bee balm in your garden. These unique and colorful flowers are beautiful enough to star in bouquets and flowerbeds, but their real joy comes from the wildlife they attract. Since bee balm is a beginner-friendly perennial, I often recommend it to new gardeners. With the right planting location and care plan, you can grow an astounding garden with tons of bee balm blooms.

Bee balm growing guide

Why Does Bee Balm Attract Pollinators?

Bee balm is a favorite of summer pollinators because the flowers produce large amounts of sweet nectar. Plus, their flowers are the perfect shape for hummingbirds to feed on this nectar, so they often attract these incredible birds.

As a bonus, when bee balm flowers die they continue to attract wildlife. The dead flowers contain delicious seeds that songbirds love to feast on during fall and winter. Bee balm adds life to your garden year-round.

Where Does Bee Balm Come From?

Bee balm (Monarda) is native to North America. It naturally ranges from the southern United States to Canada. So, it can be grown in almost any American garden. Plus, it is found in a variety of colors, so you’re sure to find one you love.

Since bee balm is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, it has a natural aromatic scent and is a hardy grower. So, you can instantly liven up your flower bed by adding bee balm.

Is Bee Balm an Annual or Perennial?

Bee balm is a perennial flower that will grow back year after year. Even in cold regions, it will survive the winter and return in spring. So, you can cultivate amazing bee balm plants that produce large quantities of blooms each year.

In the event that your bee balm plant doesn’t grow back in spring, you can easily grow new bee balm from seed or nursery plants. If you’re new to bee balm, I suggest planting nursery plants. Starting from seeds adds a few more steps and takes a bit of extra planning.

How Do You Plant Bee Balm?

Begin planting bee balm in spring, two weeks after the last spring frost (usually March or April). However, if you’ve missed the spring planting season, you can plant bee balm in fall once summer highs have cooled off. September is usually the best month for fall planting.

Plant bee balm in south and southwest-facing flower beds where they can receive full sun. Make sure to plant each bee balm 18 to 24 inches (45–60 cm) from neighboring plants, including other bee balm.

How Much Sun Does Bee Balm Need?

Bee balm thrives in full sun. Plant it where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Eight hours is even better. Too little sun will result in thin, leggy bee balm with few flowers.

To get the most blooms possible, plant your bee balm in beds that receive some shade in late afternoon. Shade from the most intense heat prolongs the blooming period for bee balm. I have mine growing in a south-facing bed that gets shade from a nearby tree at the end of the day.

What is the Best Way to Water Bee Balm?

Water your bee balm once per week from spring through fall. Water until the soil is moist to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm). The most successful method I’ve found is to run this soaker hose for 30 minutes each time my bee balm needs water.

In extreme heat and drought, you may need to water your bee balm twice per week. Whenever the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil is dry to the touch, water for 30 minutes with the soaker hose. This will prevent dry conditions from killing your flowers.

Heavy-Duty Soaker Hose
Rocky Mountain Goods Soaker Hose | Heavy-Duty Rubber
  • Sturdy and heavy-duty soaker hose.
  • Perfect for watering plants and flowers in your garden.
  • Available in a variety of sizes.
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

When Does Bee Balm Flower?

The most abundant flowering season for bee balm runs from June through July. However, with the right amount of water and fertilizer, you can actually get a second flowering season that extends into fall.

For an abundant summer garden, plant bee balm with other summer blooms. Alternatively, you can plant it near your spring-flowering bulb plants. That way, as your daffodils and tulips fade, your bee balm will start to bloom.

How Should You Fertilize Bee Balm?

Apply one tablespoon (21 grams) of this all-purpose garden fertilizer to new bee balm plants when you plant them. Then repeat the fertilizer application again in early July to encourage more blossoms.

For bee balm that is more than one year old, fertilize with 2 tablespoons (42 grams) of the same fertilizer in spring. Sprinkle it onto the soil in the root zone of the plant. Then, repeat the fertilizer application once every two months. This encourages your plant to bloom much later in the year.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Does Bee Balm Need to be Pruned?

Deadhead bee balm throughout the growing season by cutting off flowers as they start to wilt. By removing the spent flowers two inches (5 cm) below the blossom, you will encourage the plant to grow new flowers.

Once cold weather arrives and your bee balm has finished growing, cut back all the stems until they are only two to three inches tall (5–7.5 cm). This approach prevents disease from attacking your bee balm during the winter.

What Can You Plant Next to Bee Balm?

Bee balm thrives next to other tall, summer-blooming flowers. Ornamentals with similar sun and water needs as bee balm include lupines, black-eyed Susans, and snapdragons. Since bee balm is one of the best companion plants for coneflowers, they pair well with echinacea.

You can also grow bee balm among your vegetables. They thrive alongside squash, tomatoes, and melons. Plus, they attract pollinators that make certain your vegetable flowers are fertilized and produce more fresh veggies.

Why is Your Bee Balm Dying?

The most common disease that attacks bee balm is powdery mildew. If you see white, fuzzy spots on leaves, stems, or flowers, mildew has attacked your plant. Act fast and spray the mildew once daily with this organic neem oil until the plant has recovered.

Overwatering can cause mildew to attack bee balm, so reduce watering frequency to once every 10 days if you see signs of mold and mildew on your plants. If the leaves are starting to turn brown and curl, your bee balm lacks water and needs extra hydration.

Bonide Neem Oil | Ready-to-Use | 3 Garden Products in 1
  • 3-in-1 Garden Defense: Captain Jack's neem oil acts as a fungicide, insecticide, and miticide, protecting your lawn and garden from a variety of threats, ready-to-use with an attached sprayer.
  • Comprehensive Disease and Pest Control: From common fungal diseases like rust and powdery mildew to pests at all life stages, this product offers full-range protection.
  • Organic Gardening Approved: Suitable for organic produce and can be used up until the day of harvest, it provides a safe, yet effective solution for maintaining your garden's health.
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Is Bee Balm Easy to Grow?

Bee balm is very simple to grow. It adds an abundance of color and plenty of natural pollinators to your garden. Just keep these keys in mind when growing bee balm:

  • Plant bee balm where it will receive full sun (late afternoon shade is fine).
  • Position bee balm plants 18–24 inches (45–60 cm) apart in your garden.
  • Water bee balm for 30 minutes with a soaker hose once per week.
  • If bee balm leaves are turning brown and curling, water twice weekly.
  • Mold and mildew are signs to water your bee balm less often.
  • Spray mildew with natural neem oil to save your bee balm.
  • Fertilize bee balm once every two months from spring through summer.
  • Cut off dead bee balm flowers during summer to encourage extra blooms.
  • Prune bee balm back to ground level in fall—it will grow back in spring.

I can’t imagine my garden without bee balm. The buzz of the bees feeding on the flowers is so peaceful. I encourage anyone with a love for pollinators to try growing bee balm themselves.

Best perennials for beginner gardners

10 Easy-Growing Perennials for Beginners

Oil on lawn mower air filter

Oil On Your Lawn Mower Air Filter? [Top 5 Causes]