Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm for Swallowtails!
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is known for being extremely attractive to Swallowtail butterflies. They love to nectar from this plant along with many other butterflies during summer and fall.
Monarda Fistulosa Characteristics
Wild Bergamot is an US native Bee Balm that has a range across the entire US except for Alaska, Califormia and Florida. Its range reaches up into Canada from Quebec to the NW Territories and British Columbia.
This plant is a quick growing herbaceous perennial that is hardy in USDA zones 3-9. It grows about 3 ft tall. Nectar-filled, violet-colored flowers appear from July into the fall each summer.
Bee Balm in the Butterfly Garden
The Monarda fistulosa’s flowers are actually clusters of smaller blooms, white/violet, long and tubular. They are the perfect design to attract a variety of butterflies (Swallowtails, Skippers, Sulphurs, Mourning Cloak, Tawney Emperor, and Monarchs) and Red-throat Hummingbirds.
Besides these, there are also moths (especially the Hummingbird Clearwing or Little Glassywing) attracted to Wild Bergamot. They are little sphinx moths that look like hummingbirds when flying. They have so much personality that they are as much fun to watch as the butterflies!
Wild Bergamot Growth Conditions
This Monarda can be found growing wild in rich soils in dry fields, thickets and clearings, usually in limy, well drained soils. It can tolerate somewhat poor soils, shallow-rocky soils and some drought.
It is a low to medium maintenance plant. It does well with dry to medium moisture and needs good air circulation in order to prevent powdery mildew (though this particular species has good mildew resistance).
The light requirements for this plant are full sun to part shade.
Propagating Monarda Fistulosa, Seed or Division
Wild Bergamot can be propagated with seed or division. It is healthy for the plant to divide it every 2-3 years and this also prevents it from becoming aggressive.
Our seed does not need to be stratified (however, some websites do advise cold stratification for about 3 months). If starting indoors, surface sow seeds, pressing them lightly into the soil and cover loosely with plastic until germination (usually 10-24 days). The soil should be maintained moist, but not wet. After 6-7 weeks transplant the seedlings into pots or in a sunny spot with well drained soil, about 1.5-2ft. apart.
Seeds start easily outdoors when broadcast on a weed free surface from mid January to mid May in a sunny location. Thin out the seedlings when large enough to handle, so they are at least 12 inches apart. Provide additional water until the plants reach 10 inches tall.
Another way of propagating this butterfly plant is from cuttings, and it also spreads on its own by rhizomes.
Why Buy Monarda Fistulosa Seeds and Plants
Monarda Fistulosa is a popular plant for all the right reasons: native, hardy, showy, attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, moths and bees. It could be planted as part of borders, informal/cottage gardens, prairie plantings, and short grass meadows. It makes a great cut flower for arrangements and to perfume potpourri.