Native Perennial Series: Bee Balm

Bee Balm (or bergamot) is a native perennial to most of the United States and it grows very well in my area of Northwest Indiana.

It is an unusual-looking flower that has an unusual, but pleasant, scent like oranges. Bees and other natural pollinators love beebalm! This plant flowers in early summer and lasts for weeks. When the day is at its sunniest, the warmth helps exude this beautiful flower’s fragrance. A person can just walk by it and smell this sweet scent.

Traditionally, Native Americans used beebalm in a tea to help alleviate the symptoms of colds and sore throats. They then introduced this plant to the early settlers who also found it very helpful medicinally.

Whether this plant is used medicinally or simply for ornamentation, it brings a unique architectural element to anyone’s garden. It will propagate by self-seeding, unless it is dead-headed before seeds form. Bee balm grows about three feet tall and its flowers are edible! Throw them in a salad for a nice, citrus flavor.

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Beautiful blooming bee balm (say that five times fast)

Bee balm comes in different colors, as well. The ones I grow in my garden are a deep pink color (see my photos), but there are also white, purple, and scarlet bee balm varieties (click on the links to see photos).

Sometimes this plant is referenced as bergamot, oswego, wild monarda, or horsemint. Search these names as well in order to find plants or seeds to add to the garden.

Bee balm flower heads dry very nicely preserving its color and scent. This makes bee balm a very popular addition to potpourri. It’s also wonderful in aiding to scent homemade bath salts.

Gardeners won’t be disappointed with this plant. It attracts beneficial pollinators and beautiful butterflies. Since it’s a native perennial, hardly any extra care is needed as it’s disease resistant. The smell of this flower is wonderful, it cuts and dries well, it is easy to take care of, and its benefits include medicinal properties and support for the area’s pollinators.

If you’re interested in other native perennials, check out the rest of my Native Perennial Series on my Garden page. More is added all of the time. Please feel free to comment and share. Let me know if you would like me to showcase one of your favorite native perennials. Send a photo, if you have one, for me to use on my blog! ~ April

 

 

Purple Coneflower (echinacea): Beautiful and Beneficial

Purple coneflower (echinacea) is one of the easiest native perennials to grow in the midwest United States. I live in northwest Indiana and these plants have propagated like crazy. Not only is it beautiful, but it benefits our health and our environment. If you’re looking for a great starter plant to beautify your yard and benefit the local bee or butterfly population, start growing purple coneflower (echinacea).

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A ladybug rests on a purple coneflower.

 

 

Purple coneflower is a native plant to the United States, which means it was not brought here from another location. It has been on this continent for centuries. It has adapted to the soil, rainfall amounts, pests, and diseases that could make it impossible for another type of plant to survive without a large amount of expensive, chemical care. Since it is a native plant, no fertilizer or pesticide is needed to have these beautiful plants flower and propagate.

Purple coneflower is a native species. They will attract the natural pollinators of the area. Some of the beneficial insects that frequent these flowers are ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. Goldfinches will benefit as well and be a daily visitor to your yard simply by allowing purple coneflower to go to seed in the late summer. Look at the ingredients list in any store-bought goldfinch bird seed and you will see this as the ingredient. Save yourself money and grow your own! Even purple finches have stopped by my home for a visit.

 

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Purple coneflower that has gone to seed along with a grasshopper photo-op.

If you harvest the roots of echinacea, as it’s known medicinally, you can use it as an immune-booster. Again, look at the ingredients lists of some of the  homeopathic cold and flu remedies and it will be on that list. Native Americans and early settlers used the dried roots as a tea for fighting off illnesses. It has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiallergenic properties (source:  All About Herbs).

 

Purple coneflower grows approximately two to three feet tall, depending on its age, and prefers sunny areas although it will grow well in partial shade. It has a daisy-like flower and comes in many different colors. The main types of coneflower are echinacea angustifolia, echinacea pallida (these are the best grown for medicinal purposes) and echinacea purpurea.

If you’re looking for a carefree flower to add a cottage element to your yard, or simply want to attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees, plant purple coneflower (echinacea). It will be attractive and help support the natural wildlife in your area.