Crimson Bee-Balm (Monarda didyma) belongs to the Mint family
Crimson Bee-Balm (Scarlet bee balm), a member of the mint family, is a summer bloomer. It is finicky, preferring rich, boggy soil and can be spotted growing along the banks of creeks and rivers in the area growing in the company of bright yellow gray sunflowers or coreopsis. If the bright orange butterfly weed plants love to grow on the poor soil of sunny road banks, the bee balm flowers which also attract insects as well as our humming birds with their bright scarlet flowers enjoy the other extreme and can usually be found on shady banks of streams growing along side other flowering plants.
Monarda didyma has enjoyed a reputation of having quite a few medicinal properties. One of its common names is “Oswego Tea” because the New York state Oswego Indians used to make a medicinal tea from its leaves to relieve chills and fever. The colonists followed suit and made tea from the plant and hence its name. According to sources, its tea was used by colonial physicians as an antiflatulent and to expel worms.
Although a tall plant (3-5 feet) it has tender branches and spills over. If brought into the garden it is best to make it form part of a group of other plants. Because it likes most, rich soil we planted it at the end of a little bluff so that it would benefit from water run off. It is not part of our woodland shade garden because it does like a bit of filtered light as well as moist rich soil. It does really well in wet years, such as this one, and not so well during dry summers. It is most definitely not a drought tolerant plant, as many of our plants are.
For a PDF page on Crimson bee balm, click here: Crimson bee balm
- In the Witch’s garden – Bee Balm (violetandthyme.wordpress.com)