Monarda, also known as bergamot or bee balm, is valued for its easy-going growth habit and its colourful blooms that attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. Depending on the variety, monarda is available in shades of bright scarlet, purple, pink, blue and white. A perennial, monarda blooms profusely from mid- to late summer. Monarda is suitable for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 9.
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Things you need
- Balanced granular fertiliser
- Garden shears or pruners
- Spade or garden fork
Locate monarda in a sunny, well-drained area in your garden. While monarda tolerates partial shade, the plant won't bloom as well and is be more prone to mildew and other problems caused by cool, soggy soil. Provide plenty of air circulation by leaving 18 to 24 inches of space between each plant.
Water monarda once every week during warm, dry weather. Water deeply, providing enough water to saturate the ground to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches. A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, dry grass clippings or pine needles, keeps the soil moist and helps control weeds.
Fertilise monarda once every year in early spring, as monarda is a light feeder that doesn't do well with large amounts of fertiliser. Use a balanced, granular garden fertiliser with a ratio such as 10-10-10. Sprinkle the fertiliser on the soil around the plants at the rate specified on the fertiliser container, then water deeply to ensure the fertilise reaches the roots. Avoid sprinkling fertiliser on the foliage.
Cut monarda down by about half its height when the plant is about 12 inches tall, using garden shears or pruners. Cutting the plant down results in fuller, bushier plants, and help prevent development of powdery mildew.
Deadhead monarda regularly by pinching wilted blooms. Deadheading prevents the plant from going to seed too early and encourages the plant to bloom as long as possible.
Divide monarda every two to three years, or whenever the plant outgrows its boundaries, or the centre of the plant begins to look old and woody. To divide monarda, dig the entire plant carefully with a spade or garden fork. Pull the plant into smaller sections and plant the sections in a sunny, well-drained spot. Discard the old, unsightly centre of the plant, then replant the main plant.
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