The crimson beebalm is a plant native to eastern and northwest North America, which is also commonly known as scarlet beebalm. Adaptable and easy-care, it is ideal for beginners in garden maintenance. For friends of the exotic beauty, the fringed flowers are an eye-catching highlight that also attracts many insects. American natives use the crimson beebalm until today as a medicinal herb and for tea and rely on the antiseptic properties of the plant.
Profile of crimson beebalm:
Scientific name: Monarda didyma
Plant family: mint family (family Lamiaceae)
Other names: scarlet beebalm, scarlet monarda, Oswego tea, bergamot
Sowing time / Planting time: March
Flowering period: June – September
Harvest time: May – August
Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: nutrient-rich and well-drained soils
Use as a medicinal herb: influenza infections, cough, circulatory disorders, indigestion, herpes
Use as aromatic herb: as a tea herb, fruit salads, vegetable salads, smoked fish, poultry
Plant characteristics and classification of crimson beebalm
Origin and occurrence of crimson beebalm
The origin of the crimson beebalm is located in eastern North America. The plant can today be found wild between British Columbia and northern Mexico. Mostly the plant grows on forest edges, in coverts or on cleared lands. The crimson beebalm is very tolerant and is often found in humid locations.
In the middle of the 18th century, the crimson beebalm was introduced to Europe and quickly became popular as a useful and ornamental plant in numerous gardens. Thus, the plant can occasionally find wild in Central Europe.
Plant order of crimson beebalm
The crimson beebalm (Monarda didyma) is a member of the mint family. It belongs in the closer association to the subfamily Nepetoideae, which includes many known spice and medicinal herbs such as sage, oregano or thyme. In the closer kinship, the crimson beebalm belongs to the genus Monarda, of which about 20 species. Other well-known plants are the horsemint (Monarda punctata) and the wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Characteristics of the crimson beebalm
The crimson beebalm is a typical herbaceous plant with stature heights between 60 and 150 cm (24 and 60 in). In the ground, it forms a dense fine root system, which consists of mostly light brown to mustard-yellow root hairs. However, the roots represent a rhizome system that primarily serves the plant for propagation.
The leaves of the crimson beebalm are lanceolate and reach lengths of 6 to 15 cm (2.4 to 6 in). The leaf margin is strikingly sawn and covered with many fine glandular hairs. The stems are greenish to reddish and are noticeably furrowed in older specimens.
The flowers of the crimson beebalm usually appear simultaneously in larger clumps. The flowering period is usually expected between June and September. During this time, the plant forms scarlet to bright red tubular flowers, which are 3 to 4 cm (1.2 to 1.6 in) long. Also, pink and purple flowers may also appear, depending on the cultivation. Remarkable are the reddish bracts of the crimson beebalm, which are in the narrower sense bracts.
To fruit ripeness, the nut fruits that are typical of the plant family are formed. The seeds are usually smaller than 1 mm and have a slightly rounded shape with mostly brownish to almost black color.
Crimson beebalm – cultivation and care
Crimson beebalm grows in its North American homeland on bright, wet meadows and at forest edges. So the location should be as sunny and warm as possible. However, partial shade is also tolerated. For this, the plant prefers a moist place without waterlogging. Near a garden pond or watercourse the conditions are optimal.
A loose, humus-rich soil is ideal for the crimson beebalm. The soil should be able to store water, but neither tend to compact nor waterlogged. Herb soil is ideal. A mixture of normal potting soil and compost is also well suited.
For seeds to germinate, both cold and heat are needed. Good results can be achieved if the seed is sown in the field from about the beginning to the end of March. A previous cold treatment of about 2 to 4 ° C ( 35 to 39 ° F) in a refrigerator, can increase the germination success of the seeds. This stratification should be at least two months. Afterwards, the seeds can also be sown in the open field or, alternatively, in the pot on the balcony as from April. The seeds need light to germ, so just press slightly into the soil. Ensure adequate irrigation (moist, not wet). In the field, attention should be paid to a planting distance of about 25 x 25 cm (10 x 10 in) per plant.
As a moderate feeder, crimson beebalm needs a bit more nutrients. In the field, it is often beneficial to treat the soil with compost or a universal fertilizer with an almost constant NPK ratio before sowing. Pot plants should be fertilized at intervals of four to six weeks, depending on the pot volume and potting soil.
The crimson beebalm tolerates longer periods of drought. However, in order to achieve good growth, the plant should be thoroughly watered in the evenings, especially on very hot and longer summer days. In normal weather conditions a normal irrigation is sufficient. Waterlogging and wet soils should be avoided. Rain water, pond water and soft tap water are suitable for watering.
Crimson beebalm are frost tolerant and tolerate cold to -35 ° C (-31 ° F). Special measures for the wintering of the plant need not be taken. For pot cultures it is advisable to put the pot inside and place it cold but frost-free.
The multiplication can happen either over seeds, cuttings or by division. The advantages of division are the high chances of success and the reduction of the plant. Because crimson beebalm are too big and too dense, they are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
In the summer, shoots can be cut off, which should be about 10 cm (4 in) long. The leaves only of the lower part of the cuttings and flowers are removed. For the propagation by cuttings one uses at best potting soil. The shoots are put into and the soil is now kept slightly moist.
The crimson beebalm is cut back in autumn. The plant is cut about a hand’s breadth above the ground. Besides, spent blooms will be cut out.
For use in the kitchen or for healing purposes, leaves and flowers are harvested: The flowers can be harvested from June to September and the harvest of the leaves should take place before flowering.
Flowers and leaves can be dried. For the conservation of the leaves whole branches are cut off, bundled and hung upside down in a shady, warm and airy place. The dry leaves are then stripped off the branch. The flowers can be laid out on a shady place to dry. Both, dried leaves and flowers, are stored in a sealable and light-protected container.
Diseases and pests
With proper care, the plant is extremely robust against pests. However, snails can be a problem because they especially like the fresh shoots and young plants. The plants can be protected by placing a slug fence around the plant. In the field of diseases, especially powdery mildew is problematic. This usually occurs only in case of unfavorable care, especially if the crimson beebalm is too large and also if the planting distance is too low.
Use of crimson beebalm
Crimson beebalm in the kitchen
As a spice herb the crimson beebalm is commonly used, especially in the USA. First and foremost, it is considered to be an excellent tea herb, but it can be used to prepare or flavor drinks, salads and light meat dishes. As a seasoning it can be used for all the dishes for which one would use mint or thyme. The leaves and flowers of crimson beebalm go well with meat, vegetables and fresh salads. Also, as a sandwich or to refine desserts, the flowers and leaves can be used.
For crisp and tasty salads, the fresh leaves and young sprouts of scarlet Indian armchairs can be used. Crimson beebalm is suitable for both vegetable salads and fruit salads. They have a fresh, slightly citrusy and minty taste. Incidentally, milch leaves harmonize perfectly with peppermint.
As a substitute for black tea or peppermint tea, the dried leaves and flower heads of the crimson beebalm can be used. For a tea (250 ml) you need either 2 grams of the dried herb or half a hand full of fresh leaves. By the way, crimson beebalm tea was a cheap and popular substitute for black tea at the time of the Boston Tea Party, as the British had drastically increased their taxes on tea and few people could afford tea from distant lands.
Preparation of a crimson beebalm tea
Time needed: 10 minutes
This is how to prepare a crimson beebalm tea by yourself.
- put 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried leaves or flowers in a tea strainer in a cup
- dash with boiling water.
- let draw for 5 to 10 minutes
The tea is for headaches, menstrual cramps and colds. But it can also be enjoyed simply as a tasty drink.
Crimson beebalm as a medicinal herb
The crimson beebalm was hardly known to European healers until the end of the 18th century. To this day, the crimson beebalm does not play a big role in European herbal medicine. In Native American medicine, however, the plant has a great importance for the treatment of internal and external diseases. The medicine men used it for example to keep bees away and to fight infection and inflammation in the skin and mouth area. It is known today that the Native Americans have prepared envelopes that have been placed directly on the skin and on smaller wounds.
Crimson beebalm can be used for these ailments and diseases
- badly healing wounds
- menopausal symptoms
- regulating menstruation
- skin irritation
- stomach weakness
The crimson beebalm is generally very well tolerated. During Pregnancy and lactation period it should be avoided.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy crimson beebalm – What is there to pay attention to?
The Crimson beebalm is a plant imported from the USA. Fresh plants can be purchased online and very rarely in plant markets. If possible the plant should be checked for mildew on or under the leaves. The botanical name of the plant should also be checked carefully. In addition to the crimson beebalm (Monarda didyma), alternatively, the wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) can be selected, which is quite similar to the crimson beebalm. The prices range from 4 to 6 EUR /$.
As an alternative to fresh plants, seeds can be purchased online or on plant markets. The prices for the seeds are between 2 and 4 EUR / $.