(mo-nar' dah)

Common name: Beebalm, Oswego Tea, Monarda, Bergamot, Horsemint

Family: Lamiaceae, Mint

Height x width: 2-4' x 3'

Growth rate, habit: moderate to fast; upright stalks, spreading clump

Foliage: opposite, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 3-6" long, serrate margins, smooth (glabrous) to hairy (villous-hirsute), distinctive scent to bruised leaves, 4-angled stem characteristic of family

Flowers: reds, pinks, purples, white; 2-3" tubular flowers in dense terminal whorls either in one or two layers; mid to late summer

Hardiness: zones 3-9

Soil: tolerates most, prefers moist

Light: sun, spreads faster in shade

Pests and Problems: powdery mildew (serious depending on cultivar), rust

Landscape habit, uses: borders, naturalized, bees and hummingbirds; aggressive habit especially in South

Other interest: native to eastern N. America; genus named for Nicolas Monardes, a 16th century Spanish botanist; name Oswego Tea is from early explorer John Bartram who found settlers near Oswego, NY using leaves for a tea;  it should not be confused with the bergamot tree, Citrus bergamina, which yields the oils used in Earl Grey tea and aromatherapy; name Beebalm is from its attractiveness to bees.

Other culture: division usually needed every 3 years as centers die out and to prevent excessive spread; allow air circulation and provide sufficient moisture to reduce mildew; remove spent flowers for prolonged bloom

Propagation: division of clumps in spring is most common for cultivars, also possible from seed for species and cuttings (softwood and root)


•didyma (di-di-mah')--usual species of commerce and cultivars, species has red flowers, the true "Oswego Tea"

•fistulosa (fis-tuu-lo' sah)--Wild Bergamot, to 5' tall, rose to purple flowers in late summer, leaves are more hairy and less toothed than didyma, stems grow out of the previous flower head, tolerance to dry and mildew; herbal use in the treatment of headaches and fevers


Most are crosses between didyma and fistulosa, or among various cultivars; generally 3' tall unless noted.
Cultivar flowers other
'Adam' cherry red compact, tolerates drought
'Alba' white white form of species found wild
'Aquarius' light pink 2-3' tall
'Beauty of Cobham' pale pink  
'Blaustrumpf':'Blue Stocking'    
'Blue Stocking' violet-blue tolerates heat and drought
'Bowman' purple  
'Cambridge Scarlet' scarlet older cv, very mildew susceptible
'Cherokee' rose-pink newer cv from Netherlands
'Colrain Red' red supposed good mildew resistance
'Commanche' dark pink newer cv from Netherlands
'Croftway Pink' rosy pink introduced in 1932, common
'Dark Ponticum' purple purplish stems, new from Netherlands
'Donnerwolke' lilac "Thundercloud"
'Elsie's Lavender' light purple supposed good mildew resistance
'Gardenview Scarlet' scarlet better mildew resistance
'Jacob Cline' deep red large flowers, 4' tall, very mildew resistant; name for son of Georgia plantswoman and garden designer Jean Cline
'Kardinal' deep red  
'Loddon Crown' purple-red purplish foliage
'Mahogany' dark wine red  
'Marshall's Delight' rich pink one of most mildew resistant
'Melissa' pink 3-4' tall
'Mohawk' lilac pink  
'Mrs. Perry' red  
'Ohio Glow' purplish pink  
'Panorama Mix' mix, red based best seed mix available
'Petite Delight' pink  compact, from Morden CN
'Pisces' pale rosy pink  new cv from Netherlands
'Prairie Fire' lilac-red  
'Prairie Night' rosy red older cv from 1955
'Prarienacht':'Prairie Night'    
'Purple Crown' purple  
'Raspberry Wine' wine red dark green foliage, from White Flower Farm
'Red Stocking' red  
'Sagittarius' pale lilac  
'Schneewitchen':'Snow Maiden'    
'Scorpio' purple supposedly highly mildew resistant
'Snow Maiden'  white  
'Snow White' white introduced in 1955, highly mildew susceptible
'Souris' pink  
'Squaw' deep red some mildew resistance
'Stone's Throw Pink' deep pink 3-4' tall, high mildew resistance
'Sunset' purple red some mildew resistance
'Twins' dark pink  
'Vintage Wine' red purple  
'Violet Queen' deep purple  

('Petite Delight' photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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