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Scarlet beebalm

Monarda didyma

Monarda didyma

Regular price $6.48 USD
Regular price Sale price $6.48 USD
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Size

Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 2-4'

Spread: 1'

Flowering period: July

Scarlet beebalm’s spiky red flowerhead has a look that’s positively electrifying. In nature, red flowers are rare and indicate that the plant is pollinated by birds rather than bees. Like humans, birds can perceive long wavelength red hues, but bees can’t. In eastern North America, the primary bird involved in flower pollination is the ruby-throated hummingbird. True to form, scarlet beebalm is one of the very best plants for attracting this whirring avian wonder. The flowers produce a large amount of nectar at the base of tubular corollas that are too deep for short-tongued pollinators to probe. This means that the nectar is just waiting for the hummingbirds, who have no trouble reaching it with their long beaks. Like birds, butterflies can see the color red and they also have long mouthparts. As one would expect, scarlet beebalm receives a lot of attention from butterflies, especially swallowtails and fritillaries.

Scarlet beebalm prefers growing in average moisture under full sunlight to partial shade. In natural situations it is typically found along woodland edges or alongside forest streams, where it can form sizable colonies through spreading via rhizomes. Like its close relative, wild bergamot, scarlet beebalm is prone to powdery mildew, which commonly affects the plant after it finishes blooming. Powdery mildew can be minimized by promoting air circulation through the thinning of adjacent vegetation. Watering scarlet beebalm during dry spells will also help keep the plant robust and resistant to this condition. The concern over powdery mildew is largely an aesthetic one, however, and the fungus does little to impair the plant’s health. Blooming primarily during the month of July, scarlet beebalm is a striking complement to white bergamot, purple coneflower, and early goldenrod, especially in partially shaded situations.

Photo 1 and 2 © Sonnia Hill, CC BY 2.0.

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