Monarda or bee balm is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and native to N. America. It is named after the Spanish physician, Nicolas Monardes, who wrote a 1569 herbal of New World Plants. Traditionally it was used medicinally for coughs, sore throats, nausea, flatulence and menstrual cramps. Under the genus Monarda there are three species: didyma, fistulosa and punctata.
Monarda grows best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. It grows 3-5 ft. tall and should be planted 18-24 in. apart in rich, well-drained soil. It should be grown from cuttings or divisions to ensure that it is true to the parent plant. It should be cut back in fall. It is prone to mildew so it needs good air circulation.
Tea is made from the leaves or flowers. You can make salad with the leaves or add them to fruit in combination with mint. You can also add leaves to yogurt or when making jelly. Leaves should be harvested just before or after it flowers. Take the leaves off the stems for drying. The seed heads add a nice fragrance to potpourris.