Bee balm (Monarda species) is a gorgeous perennial plant that brightens any garden with its colorful, fragrant flowers. Often spotted growing wild along roadsides and in open fields, bee balm thrives when planted in flower beds and mixed borders. This tough plant attracts beneficial pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, making it a great addition to any wildlife-friendly landscape.
However, bee balm does have particular growing preferences. While it plays well with some companion plants, other species can inhibit the growth and performance of bee balm. The goal of this article is provide gardeners with a guide on what not to plant near bee balm. We’ll cover the ideal growing conditions for bee balm and explain which types of plants make poor companions. We’ll also suggest better alternatives for pairing with bee balm in your garden.
What is Bee Balm?
Bee balm, also called monarda or bergamot, is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). This perennial plant is native to eastern North America and valued for its colorful flower heads and fragrant foliage. The whorled flowers come in shades of pink, red, purple, and white depending on the variety. The leaves have a refreshing minty scent when crushed. Bee balm grows 2 to 4 feet tall on stiff square stems clumped together. The leaves are aromatic and have a rough, hairy texture.
Bee balm blooms from mid-summer to early fall, providing nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Goldfinches and other birds also enjoy the seeds that form after flowering. In addition to being an important nectar source for pollinators, bee balm has a long history of medicinal uses by native Americans. Tea brewed from the leaves and flowers was used to treat colds, fever, and stomach ailments. Bee balm oil continues to be used today in soaps, lotions, and other body care products.
Benefits of Bee Balm:
There are many reasons to grow bee balm in your garden or landscape:
- Attracts beneficial pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
- Deer and rabbit resistant due to strong fragrance and taste
- Tea can be brewed from leaves and flowers for herbal remedies
- Adds vibrant colors and fragrance to gardens
- Tolerates heat, humidity, and drier soils once established
- Spreads readily to fill in spaces with little maintenance
Ideal Growing Conditions for Bee Balm:
Bee balm thrives when provided with the following growing conditions:
- Full sun to partial shade – At least 6 hours of direct sun per day
- Moist, well-drained soil – Wet roots can cause root rot
- Spacing of 18-24 inches between plants – Reduce spread and increase air circulation
- Rich soil with compost or organic material – Nutrient demanding plant
- Consistent moisture during first season – Established plants are more drought tolerant
- Pruning spent flowers encourages reblooming
By selecting an appropriate site and tending to bee balm’s particular preferences, you can expect to enjoy many years of flowering and growth.
Plants to Avoid Near Bee Balm(What not to Plant with Bee Balm?)
When planning your garden layout, take care to avoid planting bee balm next to species that will compete with it for space, nutrients and light. Here are some types of plants to keep away from bee balm:
Plants like mints, oregano, lavender, and catnip spread rapidly and will overtake bee balm. Their aggressive growth easily crowds out less assertive plants.
Sunflowers, cosmos, hollyhocks and other tall flowers or grasses can block sunlight from reaching bee balm. This reduces flowering and causes leggy, weak growth.
Heavy feeders deplete nutrients from the soil. Avoid pairing bee balm with tomatoes, corn, peppers, and other vegetables with high nutrient demands.
Similar Pollinator Attractors
Grouping bee balm with plants like agastache, monarda, salvia, and nepeta can dilute the pollinator power of your garden by spreading them between too many flowers.
Plants like asters, coneflowers, and rudbeckia have similar bloom times and growth habits to bee balm. Overcrowding leads to increased humidity and disease.
Better Companion Plants for Bee Balm:
Luckily, there are many great options for companion plants that thrive alongside bee balm without competing. Try combining bee balm with:
Low-growing flowers like pansies, petunias, marigolds, and violas won’t block sun and make nice edges for bee balm.
Sage, thyme, parsley, basil, and dill complement bee balm nicely with their different growth habits and soil needs.
Bulbs like tulips, daffodils and crocus look beautiful with bee balm and bloom much earlier in spring.
Try flowers like foxglove, poppy, onions, snapdragons, and daisies that attract different pollinators than bee balm.
Soil Enriching Plants
Use dynamic accumulators like comfrey, clover, and yarrow to add nutrients to the soil for bee balm.
Cardinal flower, coneflowers, lilies, and snapdragons also make excellent companion plants for bee balm in borders and beds.
Caring for Bee Balm:
With proper care and site selection, bee balm will reward you with years of spectacular blooms and growth:
- Divide clumps every 2-3 years in spring to control spread. Replant divisions 18 inches apart.
- Deadhead spent flowers to prolong blooming into fall.
- Cut plants back to 6 inches after frost for winter. Mulch roots for protection.
- Provide supplemental water during drought and ensure soil drainage to prevent rot.
- Fertilize in spring with a balanced organic fertilizer. Avoid high nitrogen formulas.
Final Tips on What not to Plant with Bee Balm?
Bee balm is a stellar addition to gardens that benefits both pollinators and gardeners with its colorful flowers and fragrant foliage. While it pairs nicely with many plants, take care to avoid aggressive spreaders, tall flowers, and heavy feeders around your bee balm. Select companion plants with differing growth habits and pollinator attraction to allow bee balm to thrive. With smart companion planting and proper care, you can enjoy bee balm’s beauty and wildlife benefits for many seasons.