Monarda didyma, also known as bee balm or bergamot, is in the Lamiaceae, or mint family. This herbaceous perennial grows in hardiness zones 3 to 9 but may die back in winter and reappear in spring.
The inflorescences are shaggy clusters of tubular flowers atop stems of between 2 to 5 inches in height. Bee balm plants grow between 8 to 35 inches tall. They bloom during summer dark red, maroon, shades of pink, purple, white and blue.
The lanceolate, opposite leaves with serrated margins are fragrant, with a similar smell to orange blossoms. Bee balm attracts scores of different pollinators to the garden – hummingbirds, butterflies, beetles, and bees.
Bee balm is relatively easy to grow, as long as you remember to water them regularly. Native to North America, this is a typical woodland plant species. They prefer to grow in sunny areas with well-draining, rich soil but can grow in partial shade.
Bee balm was of great medicinal value to Native American people who used it for its antiseptic properties. The plant resins are used to treat bee stings, hence its name. Bee balm is made into essential oil. It is also made into Oswego tea, and the flowers are edible.
Related: Perennial Flowers | Perennial Flowers that Bloom All Summer | Perennial Flowers that Thrive in the Sun | Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers
1. Basil Bergamot – Monarda clinopodia
Basil bergamot is very closely related to bee balm, a member of the same genus Monarda. This herbaceous perennial is native to North America. It grows as a wildflower in woody thickets along stream banks and ravines. It grows in zones 4 to 8.
It blooms during summer until early in the fall. Flowers are very similar in shape to bee balm but are white and light pink in color. They are tall – growing over 4 feet! The leaves are lanceolate, have serrated edges, are arranged opposite to one another, and are veined.
Like bee balm, it needs to be watered regularly. It can grow in sandy, loamy, or heavy clay soils.
White basil-balm, as it is also known, can be used to make tea. The flowers and leaves are dried and used in herbal tea blends.
2. Horsemint – Monarda punctata
Horsemint or spotted bee balm can grow in poorer, sandier soils than bee balm. Native to North American prairie, this close relative of bee balm is tolerant to drought, poor soil conditions. They are easy to propagate from cuttings or from seed. They grow in full sun or partial shade in zones 4 to 8.
During summer, pale yellow, purple-spotted flowers grow in rosettes, atop flower spikes 1 to 3 feet tall. Horsemint has fragrant leaves and flowers. Just like bee balm, they attract loads of pollinators
The leaves can be made into a tea to treat menstrual pain and digestive problems.
3. Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis
This herbaceous perennial shrub is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia, but has become naturalized worldwide. It can be grown in zones 3 to 7.
As another member of the mint family, it is related to bee balm and shares many characteristics. Like bee balm, lemon balm leaves are fragrant, with a distinctly lemony aroma.
They flower during summer, producing clusters of tiny white nectar-filled flowers that attract a variety of pollinators.
In herbal medicine, it has various uses, from treating anxiety and stress to insomnia, dementia, and indigestion.
4. Lion’s Ear – Leonotis leonurus
Lion’s ear is also a member of the mint family native to South Africa and can be cultivated in zones 8 to 11.
It grows into a perennial shrub with a woody base and herbaceous stems. Lion’s ear is very tolerant of heat, drought, and poor soil conditions.
It puts on a colorful display of orange blooms in late summer and winter that closely resemble bee balm flowers. Like bee balm, it attracts many pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
The leaves are lanceolate, arranged opposite to one another, with serrated margins. When dried, the leaves and flowers are smoked and have a mildly euphoric, calming effect, similar to Cannabis.
Traditionally, the plant has been used for herbal infusions to treat muscle cramps, high blood pressure, dysentery, and diarrhea.
5. Catmint – Nepeta cataria
Native to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, this genus of flowering perennial herbaceous shrubs has become naturalized in many parts of the world. It grows quickly in zones 3 to 7 as a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant.
A member of the mint family, catmint is related to bee balm and shares many properties. Fragrant leaves that are opposite have serrated margins, and clusters of tiny white flowers attract many pollinators. It blooms from late spring, through summer until the end of autumn.
The plant has fragrant resins that can be distilled into essential oil. This oil repels mosquitos, cockroaches, flies, and termites. The oils have an interesting behavioral effect on cats, making them roll around, purr, and drool with delight.
6. Thyme – Thymus vulgaris
This beloved culinary herb is also a member of the mint family. It grows as a small, creeping shrub and makes a fragrant groundcover that attracts loads of pollinators. Inflorescences are clusters of tiny white, pink, or purple flowers.
It can grow as an annual in hardiness zones 2 to 10 but is perennial in zones 5 to 9. It has a woody base with herbaceous stems.
Thyme prefers growing in gritty soil that drains well. It is drought tolerant, unlike bee balm.
Thymus vulgaris is used as a herbal remedy for chest congestion and relieving a sore throat. It can also be used to treat intestinal worms in children.
7. Sweet Marjoram – Origanum majorana
Sweet marjoram is a well-known culinary herb that is native to the Mediterranean and western Asia. It can be grown as an annual plant in any zone, but they perennialize in warmer climates – zone 9 and 10. It grows into a small shrub, about 2 feet tall, that creeps to form a ground cover.
From mid to late summer, sweet marjoram blooms with clusters of small white and pink flowers. The inflorescences resemble catmint and thyme flowers because it is also a member of the mint family. The leaves are deliciously fragrant, like bee balm.
They can be grown from seed, sown in the spring after the last frost date. Sweet marjoram prefers full sun but can tolerate light shade. It grows well in a pot, which can be taken indoors during winter.
Marjoram is a staple herb in Italian, Spanish, and Mexican cuisines used fresh or dried. It adds depth of flavor to meat, stews, soups, and vegetables. Medicinally, marjoram essential oil is used to treat headaches, migraines, dizziness, nerve pain, paralysis, cold symptoms, and stomach cramps.
8. Summer Savory – Satureja hortensis
Another member of the mint family, summer savory is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean. This fast-growing plant is easy to grow from seed in zones 1 to 11. It enjoys growing in full sun, in rich, loamy, well-draining soil.
If seeds are sown in the spring, the plants grow into low-growing shrubs, about 24 inches in height. The clusters of tiny white, pink, and purple flowers that blossom during the summer attract butterflies and bees to the garden.
As a herb, summer savory can be used fresh or dried. It should be harvested for culinary use before they flower when stems are between 6 and 8 inches tall.
Summer savory has medicinal uses. The essential oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. The herb can be taken orally to treat digestive problems, nausea, and cold symptoms.
9. Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis
Native to the rocky hillslopes of the Mediterranean, rosemary can be grown in zones 7 to 10 as an annual but will perennialize in zones 9 and 10. It is not cold or frost-hardy, so it benefits from being planted in a pot and brought inside during the winter.
Rosemary seeds are difficult to germinate, so it is best to propagate them from cuttings. It likes to grow in full sun, in well-draining, sandy soil. Let the soil dry out between watering to prevent the roots from rotting.
Like bee balm, rosemary is a member of the mint family, and like most of its family members, it has aromatic leaves and flowers that are great to use in the kitchen. Rosemary essential oil is used medicinally to treat alopecia, arthritis, muscle pain, sprains, and headaches.
10. Basil – Ocimum basilicum
Basil is native to the South Pacific islands, southern Asia, and central Africa. They thrive in hot, humid conditions and are not cold tolerant. In the right climate, they are fast-growing plants. In zones 10 and 11, it can be grown as a perennial, but in other zones, they are annuals.
It blooms throughout the summer, producing white, magenta, or purple spikes of tubular flowers. They attract many bees and other insect pollinators into the garden, just like bee balm. It is actually a member of the mint family, like bee balm, and basil is well known for its spicy, lemony-licorice fragrance.
Basil is a widely used culinary herb. It is a staple in Italian recipes because it pairs so well with tomato and mozzarella cheese. There are many different species of basil, all with a slightly different flavor.
Basil is also used medicinally to treat stomach issues, kidney issues, water retention, head colds, loss of appetite, and intestinal worms. Basil is used by women postpartum to promote blood flow and start milk production.
11. Lavender – Lavandula species
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean. It likes to grow in dry, sunny conditions in zones 5 to 11. Lavender is a cold-hardy perennial shrub. A healthy plant can live for 20 years. They grow to a height of about 2 feet. It does not like overwatering or too much shade.
During summer, lavender produces masses of purple flower spikes that are nectar-filled. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators flock towards lavender. Grey-green leaves are slender, long, and have serrated edges.
Lavender is incredibly aromatic. The fragrance has a calming effect on aromatherapy. The lavender essential oil has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
12. Sage – Salvia officinalis
Sage grows as a hardy perennial is zones 4 to 8 but can be grown annually in other zones. They are very easy to grow, drought-tolerant, and put on a dramatic display when they flower, attracting loads of pollinating insects and hummingbirds.
Sage grows into a small shrub, 24 to 36 inches tall, producing many long flower spikes with white, blue, purple, and pink blooms. The blue-grey leaves are lanceolate and furry.
In Latin American and Asian folk medicine, Salvia officinalis is used to treat a range of ailments – diarrhea, high blood sugar, paralysis, seizures, rheumatism, gout, and ulcers. The leaves are also used in cooking.
13. Dead nettle – Lamium species
Dead nettles are hardy perennials when grown in zones 4 to 10. Like bee balm, they enjoy growing in moist, well-draining soil in partial or full shade. Dead nettle will spread as a groundcover. They can be quite invasive, especially in rich, fertile soils.
The leaves of dead nettles look similar to those of stinging nettles, but they do not sting your skin. Like bee balm, dead nettle is a member of the mint family.
In late spring and summer, they produce clusters of small, white, pink, and purple two-lipped flowers that look like little snapdragons.
Dead nettle has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be made into a poultice for external cuts or wounds.
14. Hyssop Mint – Agastache foeniculum
Native to the North American prairie, hyssop mint can be grown in zones 3 to 10. It is a hardy perennial that is tolerant of heat and drought. A member of the mint family, like bee balm, makes great container plants, as they can be invasive when planted in the ground.
It is a low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow. It likes to grow in full sun but will tolerate light shade and requires well-draining soil. Plants grow up to 8 feet tall.
The foliage and flowers smell like bubblegum or liquorice. Hyssop mint flowers for a long time, from summer to the end of the fall. Blooms are tall and striking in a palette of blue, white, purple, pink, red, and yellow. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds with their sweet nectar.
Medicinally hyssop mint is made into a tea to treat a cough, sinus infections, bronchitis, flu, or a cold. The essential oil is used to relieve morning sickness, headaches, stomach pain, and gastrointestinal problems.
15. Beardtongues – Penstemon species
Like bee balm, penstemons are herbaceous perennials that can be grown in zones 3 to 9. It is native to the North American prairie. These tall, colorful flowering plants are low maintenance, resistant to pests and disease, and invite a diversity of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies into the garden.
Beardtongues bloom for a long time from spring, through summer, and into the fall. Many varieties of beardtongues flower in white, purple, blue, red, and multi-colors.
Flowers are tubular and flared, growing on long spikes. Their common name, beardtongues, comes from the tuft of hair on the flower’s stamen. They make good cut flowers due to their long, straight stems.
Beardtongues like growing in full sun to part shade. They can tolerate poor soil conditions, but the soil must be well-draining. These plants do not have high water needs and are drought-hardy. They grow to an average height of about 30 inches.
16. Zinnia – Zinnia elegans
Zinnias are native to South America. They thrive in heat and are super easy to grow as they tolerate drought and poor soil. Sown from seed, they can be grown as annuals in zones 2 to 8 and will perennialize in zones 9 to 11.
Like bee balm, zinnias attract lots of pollinators. But unlike bee balm, they do not have fragrant foliage.
They are grown for their bold, vibrant flowers that grow singly on tall stems. Flowers are orange, yellow, chartreuse, hot pink, magenta, purple, red, maroon, and bright white. Some varieties look like daisy flowers, while others resemble dahlia flowers. Zinnias bloom in profusion for a long time, from late spring until the first frost in the fall.
Some varieties are as tall as 4 feet, while other dwarf varieties only grow 6 inches in height. Zinnias like to grow in full sun and need well-draining soil.
Zinnia petals were used by Native American people to make colorful dyes and paints. They are also a significant medicinal and ritual herb for many Native American tribes.
17. Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
A herbaceous perennial, like bee balm, purple coneflower is a North American native that can grow in zones 4 to 9.
Echinacea grows in clumps, with a fibrous rootstock, long, dark green leaves, and tall, smooth stems that hold large magenta-colored daisy-like flowers. The center of the flower is a spiky dome of seeds.
Can grow in most soils, but they need good drainage. Grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet. Like full sun but can tolerate partial shade.
Echinacea is a valuable medicinal plant. It is used as an immune system booster and to treat colds and flu.
18. New York Aster – Aster dumosus
New York asters are natives of North America and are grown as herbaceous perennials in zones 3 to 8. Cold hardy, these tough plants can survive temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees!
They produce pastel pink, blue, or purple daisy flowers with a bright yellow center. Blooming in the autumn, unlike summer-flowering bee balm, they bring late-season splendor to the garden. With their tall, straight stems, they make great, long-lasting cut flowers.
The New York aster prefers growing in full sun in rich, fertile soil that is kept moist. They grow 10 to 12 inches in height.
Aster flowers are edible, fresh, or dry and are used in tea blends or as a garnish for salad. Native American people have harvested and used aster plants for hundreds of years. Medicinally, aster root is used to treat headaches, constipation, and venereal diseases.
19. Red Valerian – Centranthus ruber
Red valerian is a herbaceous perennial that grows in zones 5 to 8. It is native to the Mediterranean, so it can tolerate chalky, sandy, nutrient-poor soils and drought.
It grows in clumps, about 3 feet tall, and develops a woody base. It is a low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow and has low water needs. Red valerian likes to grow in full sun or partial shade.
The striking carmine flowers are fragrant, and they bloom for a long time from late spring through summer. Inflorescences are dense bunches of small, star-shaped pale pink, crimson red, or white flowers. They make great cut flowers due to their long stem. The leaves are long, lanceolate, and veined.
Pollinators of all kinds are drawn to the bright, fragrant flowers. Another advantage of this plant is that it grows deep roots and can therefore be used to manage soil erosion.
Young valerian leaves are edible and are delicious raw in salads or lightly cooked. Red valerian root is used medicinally as a sedative.
20. Swan River Daisy – Brachyscome iberidifolia
Native to North America, these cheerful daisies can be grown as an annual in zones 2 to 8 and as a perennial in zones 9 to 11. They like to grow in rich soil with good drainage. Grow 1 to 3 feet in height.
Swan river daisies are just as easy to grow from seed as from cuttings. They are very low maintenance, drought-hardy plants, not requiring regular watering.
Bloom for a long time, from summer into the fall. The daisies are white, blue, lavender purple, and pink, depending on the variety.
21. Skullcap – Scuttelaria species
Skullcap is also a member of the mint family. It comes from North America and grows as a perennial in zones 4 to 8. It can also be grown as an annual in other zones
Small, tubular, fragrant flowers are blue-violet or lavender purple. They bloom from late spring to early in the fall. Skullcaps attract scores of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
In herbal medicine, it is used as a sedative to treat anxiety and as a supplement for heart health.
22. Swedish Ivy – Plectranthus verticillatus
This southern African plant is a semi-succulent that has naturalized in parts of Australia, the United States, and the Caribbean islands. It is low-growing and creeps as a groundcover, not exceeding a foot in height. Because they like growing in the shade, they are popular indoor plants in hanging baskets.
It is grown as an annual but perennializes in zones 10 and 11. Swedish ivy is extremely sensitive to cold. Plant them in a pot with well-draining soil so that they can be taken indoors over winter.
Swedish ivy flowers late in the season, in fall, through winter, and into early spring. The small, delicate flowers in white, mauve, lilac, and pink grow on upright, whorled lances, and when grown in sweeping masses, can make quite an impact.
Like bee balm, they attract many hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. They rely on birds for pollination.
23. Obedient Plant – Physostegia virginiana
Native to North America, the obedient plant, also known as false dragonhead, is a herbaceous perennial that grows in zones 3 to 10. A member of the mint family, it is a relative of bee balm.
It is happy in average, clay-loam soil and does not require a lot of water (unlike bee balm). It is easy to grow and will spread fast via rhizomes and by self-seeding. They like to grow in full sun and reach 2 feet in height.
Like bee balm, the obedient plant attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. It has tall spikes of bright, pink-purple bellflowers. Similar to foxgloves or snapdragons. They bloom from late summer to early fall.
24. Garden Phlox – Phlox paniculata
Native to the eastern United States, garden phlox grows in zones 4 to 8. It is a 2-to-3-foot tall, herbaceous perennial plant that attracts loads of butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds to the garden.
It likes to grow in soil with good drainage, and soil should be kept evenly moist. They are sensitive to heat.
Garden phlox blooms during the summer. Clusters of 5-petalled flowers vary in color, from pastel pink to lilac, lavender, purple, salmon, and white. They grow atop long, straight stems, making them excellent cut flowers.
Garden phlox has medicinal uses. The leaf extract is taken orally to treat constipation and used topically to treat boils. Native American people used phlox to treat gastrointestinal issues and skin problems.
25. Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
This herbaceous perennial is also native to the Americas. It likes to grow in full sun to partial shade and love moist soil, like bee balm.
It blooms throughout summer, producing long tubular red, pink, or white flowers. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and hummingbirds and butterflies visit the plants to sip their sweet nectar.