Square Tops: Monarda

Monarda with two flowers stacked on top of each other
Monarda (bee balm) with stacked inflorescences

I’m sharing this picture of monarda in a flower border as part of Becky’s SquareTops since one flower is growing out of the top of another. I love the bold contrast of the pinky-red with the dark purple.

Monarda, a member of the mint family, is popular in English gardens despite its reputation for easing out its neighbours and powdery mildew – perhaps more than ever, given its use in the prairie style plantings of influential designers such as Piet Oudolf.

The Mount Cuba Centre has a well illustrated trial report on growing monarda with recommendations of varieties for the Mid-Atlantic region online. I found it  an interesting read even though I live in England.

Here’s a link to all the Mount Cuba reports which include Phlox, Helenium, Heuchera and Echinacea.

28 Replies to “Square Tops: Monarda”

    1. This stacked one is a bit misleading – more often they just have one inflorescence like the ones you see in the background.

  1. I have it in my backyard garden that gets more sun than the beds in my front yard. Yes, bee balm can be a little hoggy. Occasionally it gets powdery mildew, but not too often in Maine. But what’s good about bee balm far outweighs its failings. The color, the smell, the vibrancy, and their attraction for bees. Plus, the flowers last a long time. My backyard garden will always have bee balm.

    1. …and the bees will thank you for it. 🙂

      It is supposed to attract humming birds, but obviously we don’t have those here. If I could magic up one bird – with an extra furry layer of feathers – those would be the ones. Although cardinals would be good too.

      1. Yes, bees and hummingbirds. Wonderful to have them in the garden. My wee camera isn’t good at catching a picture of them in flight. But I will try my hardest to take one for you this season.

    1. If Jackie has had a bad experience with monarda she might be reluctant to grow it. I am the same with lupins. I have never seen such massive greenflies as were attracted by my one try at growing those.

  2. Thank you for this! Late last spring I planted something said to be monarda. It grew beautifully, but nary a flower did it bear. It was just a clump of healthy-looking green stuff. I am keeping a wary eye on it right now, as it makes its comeback. I want the color you have in your photo — that is stunning!

    1. I wonder why it did not flower. Plants sometimes get lush at the expense of flowers when they are heavily fed. You haven’t been giving your plants too many of the cakes we see on your blog? That would seem a waste. (Only teasing about the cakes – it is too much nitrogen that makes them green.)

      1. Plant desserts! What a concept! I don’t know about overfeeding, but it’s a good caution — thanks. Everything else in that plot flowered respectably, but maybe what works for the Veronica doesn’t work for the monarda.

  3. What a beauty (and a great photo of the flower).

    Something about the petal shape reminds me of a Salvia.

  4. There is a yellow one here. I would not be very impressed by it, except that others remind me that it is somehow rare. (I would not mind if it was more rare where it is.)

    1. I wonder if that’s Monarda punctata? I’m fond of that one, although it isn’t as showy as some of the others.

      1. It looks just like the other until it blooms. However, there is another colony that blooms yellow, but is obviously another species. I am not certain that it is even a Monarda.

  5. I’ve seen our Monarda didyma ‘Raspberry Wine’ do this trick not too infrequently. We also have Monarda fistulosa, but it has smaller lavender color flowers. Same shape, but I have never seen a double.

    1. I have seen roses that do something like this too – they don’t produce extra petals but they have an enlarged green centre.

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