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Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 4:38 AM

Don’t let heat stop your planting


Summer in Central Texas may not be the ideal planting season, but with some nurturing you can successfully transplant drought and heat tolerant plants into your landscape.

Texas native and nativeadaptive plants are the best choices for planting during a heat wave. There are lots of wonderful options still available at local nurseries that will do well in our garden.

Salvias, plumbago, Pride of Barbados, rock rose, coneflower, lantana, fall aster and flame acanthus are just a few flowering perennials that will add color to your beds.

Bee balm is an underutilized native adaptive plant that is often left out of Texas gardens, but it is a lovely, versatile herb. Grow it for the shaggy unusual blossoms that attract pollinators, but also for it medicinal and culinary uses.

The common name “Bee Balm” envelopes many varieties in the Monarda family. Other common names for members of this family include horsemint, wild bergamot, lemon mint and Oswego team.

Horsemint is the native wildflower variety. You’ll see it growing and blooming in spring and early summer on the side of the road with the other Texas wildflowers. Horsemint has pale lavender, almost white flowers.

The native species tend to be paler and more muted with soft colors including lavender, white, and pale pink. The cultivated monardas have a larger color spectrum with vibrant reds, deep purples along with mid and light shades. Their flowers are larger and make them great additions to the garden. Jacob Cline, Panorama, Peter’s Purple are common, colorful varieties that do well for us in Central Texas.

Monarda is part of the larger mint family, which includes the common garden mints, lavender, thyme, catnip, basil, patchouli and oregano. Mints have square stems which are very noticeable on monardas.

Bee balm blossoms are distinct with tube-shaped flowers that form in round, dense clusters at the top of the plant creating a spiky ball. The stems, leaves and flowers emit a delicious scent that is reminiscent of bergamot, the key flavor of Earl Grey Tea.

True bergamot is a highly scented citrus fruit that is prized for its fragrant oil in the peels. It is completely unrelated to monarda.

Because of all the fragrant compounds in bee balm, pests, including deer, tend to leave it alone. It is prone to powdery mildew, although newer cultivars such as Peter’s Purple are more resistant.

Monarda are great choices for Central Texas. They can withstand our sun and heat, plus they tolerate our heavy clay soil. Most varieties spread by rhizomes and quickly fill a space. Bee balm is hard to zone six and are quite cold tolerant. They go dormant in the winter but return in the spring. Be sure to remove the dead growth when you notice new spring leaves.

Bee balm contains Thymol, a compound that gives it the pungent flavors of oregano and mint. Native Americans use it as medicine for its antiseptic properties. Many herbalists use bee balm in mouthwash recipes.

Monarda can be used fresh or dried as a substitute for mint, thyme or oregano in recipes. It is a great herb to add to Mediterranean dishes and tomato based sauces when you want to give it a little different flavor profile.

When planting monarda or other plants during the summer, consider planting in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler. Water often and mulch well to give you new plants a chance against the brutal summer heat.

With 25 years of backyard gardening experience, Julie is a plant and nature enthusiast. She lives in Taylor and hosts the “Plow & Hose Organic Gardening in Central Texas” podcast.


Taylor Press