Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)
Cressler, Alan

Monarda didyma

Monarda didyma L.

Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea, Red Bergamot

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A dense, rounded, terminal, head-like cluster of bright red, tubular flowers atop a square stem. Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with scarlet-red flowers in terminal tufts. The 3 ft. stems are lined with large, oval, dark-green leaves. Individual flowers are narrowly tube-shaped, tightly clustered together in 2 in. heads. The leaves have a minty aroma.

This species is coarser than true mints (Mentha) but is very showy and frequently cultivated in gardens. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to the red flowers. The alternate common name Oswego Tea refers to the use of the leaves for a tea by the Oswegos of New York. Early colonists also used the plant for this purpose when regular tea was scarce. A white-flowered variant is sometimes grown in gardens.

It is susceptible to powdery mildew, but some cultivars, such as 'Jacob Cline', are mildew resistant.

Linnaeus named the genus Monarda in honor of a 16th century Spanish physician and botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588). Monardes never went to the Americas but was able to study medicinal plants in Spain because Spain controlled navigation and commerce from the New World.


From the Image Gallery

56 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Normally 2 to 4 feet tall, but can get to 6 feet.
Flower: Flowers in 2 to 4 inch clusters.
Fruit: Nutlets, brown.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
Bloom Notes: Will bloom from midsummer to fall in its natural montane and Northeastern habitat. In the Southeast, blooms from late spring to early summer.


USA: CT , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OR , PA , SC , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
Canada: NB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: OH to NJ, s. along mts. to GA & TN; escaped elsewhere
Native Habitat: Moist, open woods; meadows; stream banks; mountains to 6500 feet

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, moist, acid soils. Juglone tolerant.


Use Ornamental: Valued for its bright flowers and minty aroma
Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are attracted to the blossoms of Oswego tea.
Use Food: Occasionally used in Earl Grey tea.
Use Medicinal: It's medicinal uses include expelling worms, and for treating gas, fever and stomach ailments. (Lamb/Rhynard) The name Oswego Tea"" comes from the fact that the leaves were used for a tea by the Oswego Indians of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for this purpose when regular tea was scarce. (Niering) The name Beebalm comes from the folk use of crushed leaves to soothe bee stings.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Propagate by "softwood" cuttings taken in late spring; increase by division of mature clumps in the spring before the plants send up stems; or sow seed. Also propagated by root division.
Seed Collection: Seeds mature 1-3 weeks after flowering. Bend the stem over and tap the fruiting heads. If brown seeds fall out readily, they are mature. Air-dry, clean and store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Can colonize by rhizomes. If want to keep in bounds, divide every 3 years.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Edible Plants for North Georgia
January 10, 2010
We are planning a forest food garden in the hollers of the N GA Mountains. Which edible fruit, nut, berry, herb and creepers would be best for this reddish, clay-like soil? The food garden is in...
view the full question and answer

Edible Plants for a Virginia Rain Garden
October 21, 2009
Can you recommend edible plants that would be appropriate for use in a rain garden? I'm located in Charlottesville, VA, but this can be in general as well.
view the full question and answer

Native, non-invasive plant seeds for each region in U.S.
June 09, 2006
I need to identify a wildflower from each region that we can package in custom packaging to use as giveaways at our member zoos and aquariums. Our project this year is called Conservation Made Simple...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
United States Botanic Garden - Washington, DC
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 199 - National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers : Eastern Region (2001) J. W. Thieret; W. A. Niering; N. C. Olmstead
Bibref 1262 - Plants of Carolinian Canada (1994) Lamb, Larry and Gail Rhynard
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.3 - Miss Helen Hayes Memorial, Director's Report, Monarda Medicinal Mints of Distinc...
Wildflower Newsletter 1996 VOL. 13, NO.3 - Hummingbird Gardening, Blooms Beget Butterflies, Butterflies and Hummingbirds Fo...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Monarda didyma in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Monarda didyma in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Monarda didyma


Record Modified: 2023-04-06
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back