Native to eastern North America. Bushy, leafy clumps to 24 ft. high spread rapidly; can be invasive. Dark green leaves grow 46 in. long, have strong, pleasant odor like a blend of mint and basil. In summer, upright stems are topped by tight clusters of long-tubed flowers much visited by hummingbirds. Plant 10 in. apart. Divide every 3 or 4 years. Not long lived. Prone to mildew and other leaf diseases in dry, humid weather. Deer resistant.
M. bradburyana. EASTERN BEE BALM. Native perennial blooming white to pink to purple in late spring. Drought and disease tolerant.
M. didyma. BEE BALM, OSWEGO TEA. An old Southern favorite. Basic species has scarlet flowers surrounded by reddish bracts. Numerous garden selections and hybrids provide a choice of flower color, plant size, and disease resistance. If spent flowers are removed, all selections bloom over a period of 2 months or more. Don't let soil dry out.
Shorter selections include 'Petite Delight', 1112 ft. tall, lavender-rose, some disease resistance; 'Fireball', 2 ft. tall, red; and 'Grand Parade', just over 1 ft. tall, lavender-purple flowers.
Standard-sized selections are 'Adam', 34 ft. tall, scarlet; 'Cambridge Scarlet', 34 ft. tall, red; 'Croftway Pink', 34 ft. tall, pink; 'Dark Ponticum', 3 ft., violet-purple; 'Gardenview Scarlet', 3124 ft. tall, red, good disease resistance; 'Granite Pink', 24 ft. tall, purplish pink; 'Jacob Cline', 3 ft. tall, deep rosy red, good disease resistance; 'Mahogany', 34 ft. tall, dark red; 'Marshall's Delight', 2124 ft. tall, purplish pink, good disease resistance; 'Raspberry Wine', 34 ft. tall, purplish red, good disease resistance; 'Snow White', over 4 ft. tall, white; and 'Violet Queen', 34 ft. tall, purple, good disease resistance.
M. fistulosa. BERGAMOT. Lavender to light pink flowers encircled by whitish bracts are less showy than those of M. didyma. Best suited to wild gardens. This is not the source of the oil of bergamot used to flavor Earl Grey tea; that comes from the fruit of a type of citrus. Look for 'Claire Grace', 3 ft. tall, soft lavender; and 'Peter's Purple', 34 ft. tall, lavender-purple flowers. Both are highly mildew resistant.
M. punctata. SPOTTED HORSEMINT, DOTTED MINT. Usually smaller than the other species listed here. Blooms in midsummer, bearing two or more whorled clusters of purple-spotted yellow or pink blossoms per stem. Good plant for wildflower meadows and naturalized areas.