Story and Photography by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon

Native spotted horsemint (Monarda punctata), one of the remarkable members of the mint family, is a beautiful short-lived perennial herb that is a must-have for the pollinator garden. Butterflies, bees, solitary wasps, and other beneficial insects flock to the gorgeous, nectar-rich flowers. It is also deer resistant and drought tolerant.

Traditionally, Native American healers used small amounts of the flowers and leaves, which have a strong oregano-like flavor, in medicinal teas and as a seasoning. 

Horsemint stands out in a flowerbed and works well as a border for the vegetable garden, attracting pollinators and predatory insects. Good companions include Salvia coccinea, Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var.drummondii), beebalm (M. didyma), wild bergamot (M. fistulosa), and lemon beebalm (M. citriodora). 

The leaf-like bracts range in color from white to purple. The pom-pom-shaped seed heads turn brown in the fall when the seeds are mature and ready to collect. Horsemint can spread and form large clumps that provide plenty of cut flowers for bouquets. The bracts emerge green and change color with age. By late summer, most are a bleached-out white or yellow. Solitary predatory wasps, such as the beneficial thread-waisted wasp seen above, drink nectar from the horsemint flowers between forays to gather insect prey for their egg chamber. These wasps remove many insect pests from the garden.

Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Spotted horsemint, spotted bee balm
Botanical Name: Monarda punctata
Varieties/Cultivars to Look For: ‘Fantasy’
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 5-10
Color: Bracts can be purple, pink, white or yellow; flowers are yellow (sometimes white or green) with maroon spots.
Blooming Period: Summer to fall
Type: Short-lived native perennial or annual herb
Mature Size: 1-3 feet
Exposure: Sun to part-shade
How to Plant: Sow seeds outdoors in fall or cold stratified seeds in spring. Can also be propagated by stem cuttings of young foliage. 
Soil: Prefers rich, well-drained
Watering: Is drought tolerant but blooms better with summer watering.
When to Prune: Deadhead to prolong bloom and to prevent reseeding.
In Your Landscape: Beneficial and outstanding horsemint, as well as other Monarda species, add color, attract pollinators, and improve the biodiversity of the landscape.

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