Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Wildflower Wednesday: Monarda bradburiana

When a plant description reads like this: "Monarda bradburiana is an upright bushy perennial with square green stems" it's hard to get excited! But when you see the plant in flower and read about its wonderful qualities you know you want it in your garden. At least that's what happened to me. 

Monarda bradburiana is an exceptional Monarda and worthy to be in your garden.

  • it's a compact clumping perennial wildflower
  • plants have gray-green aromatic leaves on strong square stems 
  • it blooms in mid spring in my middle Tennessee garden
  • the stems are topped by showy rounded clusters of pale pink tubular flowers speckled with purple
  • pollinators flock to the blooms
  • it will thrive in sunny or partly shaded gardens with average well drained soils.
  • no mildew
  • it may self seed...that's a plus for me
  • not as aggressive as other Monardas

 It's lovely and the fact that so many pollinators are attracted to it is a major plus. 

Besides all that...who could resist a plant with purple freckles!

My garden this week


The first time I saw Monarda bradburiana was at the Lurie Garden in Chicago. Piet Oudolf, a renowned garden designer has used it there to perfection. I was there in the spring and it looked fabulous among the rivers of Salvia, native grasses, and Amsonias. The entire planting is sublime.

Indeed, Monarda bradburiana is an upright bushy perennial with square green stems. "It's a member of the Lamiaceae/mint family and shares other characteristics that make this plant family easily identifiable. Square stems, fragrant opposite leaves, flowers that are usually arranged in clusters and feature two- lipped, open-mouthed, tubular corollas (united petals) with five-lobed bell-like calyxes (united sepals).  Lamiaceae is distributed nearly worldwide, and many species are cultivated for their fragrant leaves and attractive flowers. The family is particularly important to humans for herb plants useful for flavor, fragrance, or medicinal properties." (Source)  


I plant it for its attractiveness to pollinators and its beauty.

Wondering if you want to add another Monarda to your garden and concerned that it will be a magnet for powdery mildew? Perhaps this from the MT Cuba Research Center will help with your decision making. Mt Cuba is known for its trials of garden plants and they trialed Monardas for two years (2014-2016). This is what they had to say about our Wildflower Wednesday star.

 "Monarda bradburiana is a very promising species for several reasons. It has a naturally short habit (about 2’ tall) and incredibly disease resistant foliage. Its subdued, pale pink flowers are also unique among bee balms which tend to have very bright, bold colors. The bloom period is also about a week earlier than most other Monarda. The only complaint with Monarda bradburiana is that it has a very floppy habit. If further research of this species focuses on sturdier habits it would easily be one of the best bee balms for garden use." (source) 

 Let's hope that further research doesn't take the best of this delightful plant away while trying to improve it's floppiness! 




Botanical name: Monarda bradburiana
Common Name: eastern beebalm 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Monarda bradburiana occurs in the central and southern United States from Indiana to Alabama and west to Kansas, Arkansas and Texas.  The greatest distribution is in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. It's native to middle Tennessee.

Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April/May
Bloom Description: Pink to white with purple and spotted
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance  and cultural: It thrives in sun or part shade with well drained soil.  Plants tolerate drought and shallow rocky infertile soils once established.
Suggested Use: Herb, Naturalize, Rain Garden, might make a groundcover if happy.
Flower: Showy, Fragrant, Good Cut
Leaf: Fragrant
Faunal Associations: Long-tongued bees (especially bumblebees), butterflies, skippers, Hummingbird moths, beeflies, and hummingbirds visit the flowers for nectar. The small black bee Doufourea monardae is a specialist pollinator of Monarda spp. Short-tongued Halictid bees may visit the flowers to collect pollen; they are unable to reach the nectar. Caterpillars of the moths Sphinx eremitus (Hermit Sphinx), Anterastria teratophora (Gray Marvel), Pyrausta orphisalis (Pyralid Moth sp.), and Pyrausta signatalis (Pyralid Moth sp.) feed destructively on Monarda spp. (Bee Balms). Other insect feeders include the scentless plant bug Arhyssus nigristernum, the leaf-footed bug Euthochtha galeator, the aphid Hyalomyzus monardae, and the leaf beetle Physonota unipunctata. Mammalian herbivores usually avoid consumption of Monarda spp. – it is possible that the oregano scent of the foliage deters them.
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil
Comments: If happy can self seed and create a nice ground cover. Middle Tennessee gardeners check with GroWild for availability.


 I think you'll love this sweet little beauty as much as I do. xoxogail

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is about sharing and celebrating our native wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave your url when you comment. I love your comments, so thank you for leaving them.


Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2023 and beyond that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Helping others learn about nature is included. Golly gee whiz, there are so many things you can do. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. Wouldn't an article in the local paper be a coup for nature! Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

Why now?  My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day an older home along with many (if not all) of the mature oak, hickory, maple, Eastern cedar and hackberry trees that have been there for over 75 years are cut down. In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Claytonia, Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, Violets, self-heal, clovers, and dandelions that grew so well in the shallow soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock are sodded non-native lawns that get daily watering, whether it rains or not. Gone are the lightening bugs. Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees. Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. Gone is plant diversity. Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects. Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. It breaks my heart. We can't stop the multi-million dollar houses from going up, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters.

A gardener can hope!

Here's an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden, but don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source)

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Get rid of the plastic weed barriers in your garden, it's not good for anything.

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves. Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds. 

Turn off your yard up-lighting, eave lights and porch lights after 11pm. This is important for nocturnal critters including mammals, snakes, insects, bats, birds (especially during migration). (Birdcast suggestions)

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society (Tennessee Native Plant Society)

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group. (Middle Tennessee WildOnes)

Support your local native plant sellers. (GroWild in middle Tennessee, Overhill Gardens in east Tennessee,  Resource Guide TN Native Plant Society)

Encourage your local garden clubs to offer native plant talks.

If your garden club has a plant sale encourage them to sell more native plants.

Get trained as a naturalist (Tennessee Naturalist Program, Almost every state has their own Master Naturalist training program)

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. Buy them nature books.

Give nature books as baby shower gifts (Nature books for infants and toddlers)

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you are already gardening with wildlife in mind then add a few signs that help educate your neighbors. (Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership)

Set up an information station where neighbors can pick up brochures about your garden and other info. 

Get certified (National Wildlife Federation, check to see what your state offers)




Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. A beautiful plant. Thanks for hosting, Gail!

  2. It’s delightful! I bought mystery monardas this spring, so it will be a surprise when they bloom.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson