Last Updated: September 9, 2023

Monarda fistulosa aka Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm

By Published On: July 26th, 20221.6 min readCategories: Garden, Photos, Plants

Last Updated: September 9, 2023

Monarda, native to nearly all of North America except California, made itself at home here

photo of Monarda fistulosa aka Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot making itself comfortable in the bee and butterfly garden

After a false start a couple of years ago, the wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) settled in and made itself comfortable in the bee and butterfly garden last year. They bloomed all summer, the plants died back, and I let the dried flower stalks stand until winter when I pulled and tossed them in the compost pile.

Early this past spring I pulled some of that compost and spread it around the gardens.

And now I have wild bergamot everywhere. That’s fine by me because it draws bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Interestingly, I assumed because it was native to the midwest and east, that it required a lot more water than it does. Turns out, however, it doesn’t really like water and does just fine in our dry, desert-like San Diego climate.

In fact, looking at the USDA plant map, Monarda isn’t just native to places as far north as the Artic circle, but also dry climates like the Great Basin, Sonora Desert, and west Texas.

USDA Plant Map – Monarda Fistulosa

a map of the native range of Monarda fistula

Monarda fistulosa is native to most areas of North America

What’s weird isn’t that it’s not native to California (the Sierra Nevada Mountains are a pretty good plant barrier), but that it’s not native to Florida (where there are no mountains or deserts) either. Go figure.

Wild Bergamot Details

Plant Details
Common Name Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm
Botanical Name Monarda fistulosa
Plant Family Lamiaceae
Native to North America
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 3-5 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full to Partial
Soil Type Any (not picky)
Soil pH Any (not picky)
Water Moderate. Needs more when young
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Purple, Pink & Blue
Hardiness Zones 3-10 (USDA)
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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

2 Comments

  1. Marge Wright August 2, 2022 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    I didn’t know that Monarda is not native to CA. I garden in northern CA where Monardella, a very similar genus, is commonly found. This is what is available at my local nursery: https://www.calfloranursery.com/searchkeys=monardella&taxonomy_vocabulary_3=All&sort_by=search_api_relevance&sort_order=DESC&items_per_page=25 .

    • Sage Osterfeld August 4, 2022 at 11:52 am - Reply

      Ah, the USDA website didn’t mention that, but it makes sense! Lots of plants in California were the same as those to the eas. But the Sierra Nevadas and the Mojave cutoff the genetic exchange an the California plants went off on their own. I’m already looking into Monardella because I prefer the natives. Thanks for the tip, Marge!

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