Versatile and vibrant ‘Monarda’ has health and culinary benefits

Monarda "Raspberry Wine" can be found in the herb garden or  herbaceous  borders at the Dunedin...
Monarda "Raspberry Wine" can be found in the herb garden or herbaceous borders at the Dunedin Botanic Garden. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The genus Monarda are summer flowering perennials that provide long-lasting flower displays.

Members of the mint family Lamiaceae, they display key identifying features typical of this family, such as square stems, a characteristic growth habit and creeping underground rhizomes.

Known to many gardeners as bergamot and bee balm, Monarda is a ‘‘must have’’ garden plant with a reliable showy display of flowers throughout summer months. These easy care and low-maintenance perennials have bright tubular flowers surrounded by red or green-tinged bracts and aromatic mid-green to dark-green foliage.

Monarda has more attributes than just the vibrantly coloured flowers: it attracts bees and butterflies into the garden and some grow it as a herb for its versatile health and culinary attributes.

Monarda does best planted in well-drained soil where it gets plenty of sunshine. Late summer powdery mildew can be an issue with some cultivars, so have good air circulation. If necessary, affected stems can be cut back early. During the autumn cleanup, flowering stems can be either cut back to ground level or left standing with seed heads intact as they can still add some structure and interest over winter months. Once the new growth starts the old stems can be cut back. Divide every few years to keep the plant under control and replant with the more vigorous younger outer growth.

A selection of Monarda can be seen flowering in the herb garden and the herbaceous borders in the lower Botanic Garden.

Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden.

For further information contact Linda Hellyer.