Monarda Clinopodia Care: How To Grow White Bergamot Plants

Monarda clinopodia [mo-NAR-da, klin-oh-POH-dee-uh] (syn. Monarda allophylla) is the scientific name for a bee balm plant species known for its white flowers.

Monarda plants are from the mint family, Lamiaceae and Lamiales orders are vast in numbers and characteristics.

White Monarda Clinopodia (white bergamot)
Image by Fritzflohrreynolds [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Out of these, the Monarda or the bee balm genus is known to attract a wide range of pollinators. 

The plants are primarily native in the Appalachian range but they have a native status in North America, especially in the United States and Canada. 

The native plants in New Jersey and New York are currently considered endangered but they are abundant in other regions.

The color of the flowers and their ability to attract bees and other pollinators has earned M. clinopodia various common names including:

  • White bergamot
  • Basil bee balm
  • White basil balm
  • Bee balm

Bee Balm Clinopodia Care

Size & Growth

This dicot perennial can grow up to 4’ feet tall when given the required care and optimal growing conditions. 

They are spectacular additions to wildflower gardens and are some of the most effective species for attracting pollinators in the Plantae kingdom.

From germination to maturity, the plants have a considerably fast growth rate. They are easy to grow and care for.

Flowering and Fragrance

The flowers of the white bergamot and other bee balm plants are not typically known for their flowers as they aren’t showy. 

However, they are not entirely insignificant. 

A simple Google search or look through a plants database will show you almost pure white blooms grow on this plant.

They are mildly fragrant and grow on branched and un-branched stems rising up to 4’ feet tall. 

The bloom color is usually creamy-white with purple spots on the lower lip and a hairless upper lip of the corolla. 

The bloom time lasts for about 2-3 weeks in the summer.

Light & Temperature

The plant is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. 

It can withstand temperatures down to 15° degrees Fahrenheit (-9° C) but prefer temperatures around 64° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) with full sun exposure.

However, it is also tolerant of partial shade. Choose a location getting at least 2 to 6 hours of sunlight during the day.

Watering and Feeding

These vascular plants are not drought tolerant. Keep the soil moist with regular watering and bark mulch around the base. 

If you let the soil dry out completely in the summers, the plant may wilt and may have irreversible damage.

As for feeding, organic compost works well for Monarda plants. 

Add a layer of compost around the roots in spring to encourage better growth.

Soil & Transplanting

The plant doesn’t really care about the intricacies of the soil as long as it is well-drained. 

It can thrive in loamy, clay, and sandy soils. There are no specific pH soil requirements and the plant tolerates neutral and slightly acidic and basic soils.

Transplanting is best done from spring to early fall. 

Divide the root ball to distribute clumps when new growth emerges. Move the divided plants to new positions. 

Make sure the area you choose has full sun exposure (part shade will also do). Spacing should be 2’ – 3’ feet apart.

Grooming and Maintenance

Like other wildflowers, these plants are low-maintenance. 

You may pinch back new growth when it is 1’ foot tall. This encourages better side growth. 

Thinning the stems will help improve the plant’s health and growth.

When the bloom time is on its way to end and the flowers begin to fade, deadhead spent flowers to encourage reseeding and prolonged flowering.

How To Propagate White Bergamot

White Bergamot is propagated with seeds or by dividing the roots.

Propagation with seeds should be done in early fall, winter or early spring. 

Cold stratification may help the germination process, which usually takes 10-40 days at 68° degrees Fahrenheit (20° C). 

Transplant the seedlings and pot into individual pots when large enough and then move to permanent locations in the summer.

  • Divide the root ball of the plant when new growth emerges in spring. 
  • Gently dig around with a gardening knife and cut the ball in half. 
  • Plant the offsets in new locations.

White Bergamot Pest or Diseases

Basil bee balm plants are typically free of most serious pest and disease problems. 

The problem somewhat common in some plants is powdery mildew

Low airflow can cause white, powder-like patched to appear on the plant.

To remedy the problem, trim the affected stems and leaves along with moving the plant to a location where it can get enough light and air.

Invasive Species

This species of bee balm may become invasive when all the growing conditions are optimal. 

Because of this, these plants are best grown in wild gardens.

Clinopodia Monarda Uses

The white basil balm is a great addition to gardens where pollinators are needed in great quantities i.e. pollinator gardens. 

The flowers are full of healthy nutrients, which are used to attract bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds.

Flowers on M. clinopodia plants might not be too much to look at but they do make great additions to wildflower gardens; some people also add them to wildflower bouquets as cut flowers. 

The foliage looks great against other flowering plants.

Dried leaves and flowers of the plant are used to brew a tea. 

Native Americans and other traditional medicine practices used the plant along with other species of Monarda such as Monarda fistulosa (wiild bergamot) to treat various ailments.

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