There are many species of bee balm, but in this post we’ll be referring primarily to Monarda citriodora. This the one that grows easily in Central Texas and the one we have the most personal experience with.
Like mullein, bee balm is a hardy Central Texas plant ally that you’ll see growing happily along the roadsides in the heat of the summer with no maintenance or care. That alone is impressive. But then considering this plant’s many benefits for the body and the garden ecosystem, it’s easy to see why this is one of our favorite Central Texas wildflowers. The bees agree that it’s pretty fabulous! And the firework-looking pom poms with tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and hawk moths as well.
Growing Bee Balm in Central Texas
Bee Balm grows best in full sun and well-draining soil. For us, it grows in abundance in our backyard prairie area and we find that it does not need our help to thrive (even during drought conditions.) However, bee balm’s easy to grow in a more cultivated garden situation as well. Once established, bee balm will easily and readily self-seed.
Benefits of Bee Balm in the Garden Ecosystem
Beyond its magical presence and beauty, bee balm plays an important role in the garden ecosystem. Its aromatic flowers attract pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, contributing to the biodiversity of your garden. As a member of the mint family, Bee Balm's spreading habit also acts as ground cover, suppressing weeds and protecting the soil from the harsh Texan sun. And bee balm’s strong volatile oils make it unappealing to deer along with many other pests.
Working with Bee Balm
Think “wild oregano.” The leaves and flowers of bee balm have similar chemical constituents as oregano and can be used similarly. The plant’s antimicrobial action make it a helpful ally to turn to at the onset of a cold or flu, its expectorant properties help expel coughs, and it’s antifungal as well. Bee balm is the primary ingredient in our Sinus Kindness steam and we try to always have bee balm infused honey on hand.
Propagating Bee Balm
Encourage bee balm to thrive by allowing it to self-seed . It’s also easy to collect seeds to spread in the fall and start in containers to transplant out to the garden. Like basil, the seeds are tiny and need a bit of light to germinate, so just press them into the surface of the soil. Don't bury them.