Friday, July 13, 2018

In bloom now - Monarda!

Adam Eyring

You probably have noticed patches of deep red or pink tall flowers on your local travels this June and July. There's a good chance they are two different species of Monarda. The red ones are Monarda didyma and the pink are Monarda fistulosa. Didyma is an eastern North American native while fistulosa is native to all of North America.

Monarda didyma

These plants are in the mint family and have common names such as bee balm, bergamot, oswego tea, and horsemint. They are herbaceous perennials and if you look closely, are well-visited by a number of critters thanks to the strong fragrances. Didyma is among the most fragrant of Monarda and a favorite of hummingbirds, which have the ability to reach into the deep flowers. The pink fistulosa are frequented by large bees. Both flowers are also visited by some butterflies and moths.

Monarda fistulosa

Monarda are very easy to grow and spread fast. The best time to plant them is when they're short in spring or to transplant their dormant stems in the fall. As mentioned above, they are tall (and leggy) and thus it helps to plant them as a group so they can support each other - otherwise staking may be necessary. Although I've never encountered it, I've read they can be susceptible to powdery mildew and thus one solution is to plant them in full sun and ensure some wind can pass through them. 

A good place to visit these flowers is at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center Pollinator Demonstration garden. Seriously consider planting native shrubs & perennials that supply nectar & pollen for an array of native bees & birds.