Monarda, commonly known as bee balm, has been a popular garden perennial for many years. Most of the selections currently available to gardeners are hybrids of two species native to the eastern United States, Monarda didyma (scarlet bee balm) and Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot). Today’s cultivars come in a range of colors including white, red, purple, and many shades in between. Sizes also vary greatly from dwarf selections just 12” tall to cultivars over four feet. However, there is one significant problem with bee balm, and that is its propensity to develop a foliar disease called powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is generally only a cosmetic nuisance, but severe infections can cause leaf discoloration and premature leaf drop. For this reason, Mt. Cuba Center set out to determine which Monarda are the top-performing, most disease resistant selections for the mid-Atlantic region.
Our trial includes 40 species and cultivars, including some plants that are relatively unknown to the gardening public. Over a period of three years, each cultivar was evaluated weekly on characteristics like habit, foliage quality, floral display, and disease resistance. Information detailing the performance of each bee balm can be found below.
The top-performing cultivars include: Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’, M. ‘Dark Ponticum’, M. ‘Violet Queen’, M. ‘AChall’ (Grand Marshall), M. ‘Judith’s Fancy Fuchsia’, M. ‘Colrain Red’, M. ‘Raspberry Wine’, M. ‘Purple Rooster’, M. ‘On Parade’, and M. ‘Gardenview Scarlet’.
To view the Monarda Trial Report full-sized, please click here.
Monarda ‘Dark Ponticum’
Dark Ponticum bee balm
Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’
Claire Grace wild bergamot
Monarda ‘Violet Queen’
Violet Queen bee balm
Monarda ‘AChall’ (Grand Marshall)
Grand Marshall™ bee balm
Monarda ‘Judith’s Fancy Fuchsia’
Judith’s Fancy Fuchsia bee balm
Monarda ‘On Parade’
On Parade bee balm
Monarda ‘Purple Rooster’
Purple Rooster bee balm
Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’
Gardenview Scarlet bee balm
Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’
Raspberry Wine bee balm
Monarda ‘Colrain Red’
Colrain Red bee balm