HOCKESSIN, Del. – Monarda, commonly known as bee balm or wild bergamot, is the subject of a newly released research report by Mt. Cuba Center’s research horticulturist. The report details the results of a three year study of 40 different selections of the plant, and focuses on the floral display, powdery mildew resistance, habit and vigor of each selection. Also included in the report are the results of a citizen science project in the summer of 2016 which recorded the number and types of pollinators which visited each selection in the trial.
“Monarda is a great plant that anyone can try,” said George Coombs, Mt. Cuba Center’s research horticulturist. “It spreads easily and covers large spots in the garden with great color.”
Monarda has seen commercial success for its brightly colored flower clusters which bloom in vibrant shades of purple, red and pink at the peak of summer. This perennial thrives in full sun conditions and draws a variety of pollinators, including native bees and hummingbirds. Its ability to support multiple pollinator species makes it an excellent candidate in the growing trend of pollinator gardening.
A member of the mint family, the foliage of Monarda fills the garden with a heady scent in high summer. The foliage of Monarda is prone to developing a fungal disease called powdery mildew, which, while mostly harmless, can make the plant look ragged by the end of summer. The trial rated plants based on their resistance to powdery mildew.
Top-rated plants in the trial include Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’, M. ‘Dark Ponticum’, M. ‘Violet Queen,' M. ‘AChall’ (Grand Marshall), and M. ‘Judith’s Fancy Fuchsia’ (pictured above). Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden evaluates native plants and their cultivars for their use as ornamental garden plants. Recent trials include baptisia and tickseed, and current trials include phlox, helenium and hydrangea.