Bee Balm (Monarda) is a perennial plant in the mint family. Also referred to as Oswego tea, horsemint, and bergamot, it grows well in zones 3-9. Bee balm self sows in the garden and requires very little care year to year. Bee balm can die down completely to the ground during the cold season, but it will come back in the spring. After the first hard frost, usually anywhere from mid October to December, you will want to prune the plant to the ground.
Be sure that the plant has died back before you prune it. Cut the bee balm down to the soil surface. Lay down a one inch layer of mulch (mid-autumn) around the roots. Do not mulch prior to this as it will prevent the seeds from dropping down to the soil. Some gardeners prefer to leave the seed heads on the bee balm all winter to provide food for birds.
Cutting Back Bee Balm For Winter
Bee balm spread very easily from season to season. As a general rule, cut the plant back after the first frost in the fall. Waiting until fall will allow the plant to drop it’s seeds for the next growing season. If you do not want the plant to spread as much, then cut some of the plant back prior to fall. On the other hand, if you want the plant to spread more, then leave all of the stalks intack through autumn.
Bee Balm Winter Care in Pots
Caring for container bee balms during the winter is similar to caring for garden planted bee balm. When the stems die back, usually after the first frost, cut the plant back. Trim the stems to about 2 inches from the soil surface. Cover the surface with an inch of mulch. Occasionally water the plant when the soil feels dry. You can bring the outdoor container bee balm inside for the winter, but it will most likely not bloom.
Watering Bee Balm in Winter
During the cold weather season, bee balms will need an occasional watering. Depending on the rain or snowfall in your area, provide water so the soil is not completely dried out. Water a container plant when the top inch of soil feels dry. Careful not to allow the bee balm to sit in soggy soil. This can prevent the roots from breathing and drown the plant.
Growing Bee Balm Indoors
If you house your container bee balm indoor from the initial planting, it can grow successfully year round with well drained soil and full sunlight. Bee balm go dormant for the winter and successfully return each spring. Bringing your outdoor container inside for the winter is an option; however, the plant will most likely not bloom during this time.
Steps To Care For Bee Balm in Winter
Bee balm is a hardy perennial plant that requires little care. Whether planted in a garden area or in a container, it will return each season and will have likely spread. A few easy steps will prepare the plant for the cold weather.
- Cut the plant to the ground in mid-autumn.
- Add an inch of mulch around the roots.
- Occasionally water when soil feels dry.
- Avoid soggy soil.
- Remove mulch in the spring.
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