Description & Overview

Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white to purplish-pink bracts that provide both pollen and nectar, both of which are in plentiful supply for our pollinators. The conspicuous, fragrant flowers, fragrant leaves, and high popularity amongst pollinators really augment this plant’s place in any landscape. Spotted Bee Balm is found throughout Wisconsin in sunny, dry, well-drained, and sandy soils.

Spotted Bee Balm may also be known as Dotted Horsemint or Horsemint.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 12-36 inches

Mature Spread: 12-36 inches

Growth Rate: Fast

Growth Form: Erect perennial. Spreading.

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Dry, well - drained soils

Flower: Tubular, yellow with purple dots. Inflorescence is a dense whorl stacked upon other whorls, fragrant, 1"

Bloom Period: July – September, mid-to-late summer

Foliage: Hairy, lance - shaped, green, fragrant

Fall Color: Yellow

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Brown nutlet, ready in September to October

Suggested Uses

Spotted Bee Balm is not your average Bee Balm! It looks nothing like others in the family and is most recognizable by its pagoda-like tiers of pink to lavender bracts with whorled light yellow to cream flowers featuring the ubiquities purple spots. At the nursery, many people stop and remark that Spotted Bee Balm is a most unusual-looking flower and are amazed at how many bees it attracts.

It thrives in full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight), and in dry, well-drained soils and would be perfect for sunny slopes, rocky outcroppings, and dry-mesic prairies.

Spotted Bee Balm would be a great addition to prairie restorations, increasing diversity and supporting pollinators.

Incorporate into butterfly, hummingbird, and pollinator gardens. There’s no doubt pollinators of all kinds are attracted to Spotted Bee Balm-it will be buzzing at peak season.
Consider using within a moon (night) garden that supports night-foraging creatures including moths, fireflies, and some beetles and bees. Its pale colored flowers (whites, yellows) reflect moonlight, allowing them to be seen from afar by pollinators.

Spotted Bee Balm, with its form and tendency to flop, is best used in a more natural landscape setting supported by other tall species.

Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…
Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…
Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…

Wildlife Value

Spotted Bee Balm is a larval host plant for Gray Marvel Moth (Anterastria teratophora), Snout Moths (Pyrausta generosa, Pyrausta signatalis), Hermit Sphinx Moth (Lintneria eremitus), and Orange Mint Moth (Pyrausta orphisalis).

Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris thysbe), Bedstraw Hawkmoth (Hyles gallii), Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria Cybele), Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus), Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus), Long-horned Bees (Melissodes spp.), Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.), and Soldier Bees (Chauliognathus spp.), Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaenides mellisa samuelis), Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and more use Spotted Bee Balm as a nectar source.

Spotted Bee Balm is an excellent pollen source for sweat bees (Lasioglossum spp.), as well as specialist bees including the Black Sweat Bee (Dufoura monardae).

A common sight on Spotted Bee Balm is Wedge-shaped Beetles (Macrosiagon limbatum). Females lay eggs on the foliage, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae attach to a wasp or bee that is visiting the flowers. The beetle larvae are then carried back to the nest of the wasp or bee, where the beetle larvae will burrow into the wasp or bee larvae and parasitize them.

Maintenance Tips

All Bee Balm varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew, which will cause the plant to defoliate. Plants that are overcrowded in shadier locations are most susceptible. Site in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day, spaced roughly two feet apart from each other. Division every two or three years to prevent overcrowding is a good practice.

A member of the mint family, (Lamiaceae), Spotted Bee Balm can be aggressive and spread. Luckily, the shallow roots are easy to remove.

Although Spotted Bee Balm enjoys drier, well-drained sites, supplemental watering during summer, particularly during drought periods, can reduce stress on the plant, maintaining its flowers and foliage.

In a typical landscape, it is considered a short-lived perennial; roughly two to four years. Leaving plants up over winter gives the seed the chance to germinate, thus sustaining its presence in the landscape.

Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…
Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

The scent of Spotted Bee Balm, and those within the mint family, is not attractive to mammalian herbivores and is usually left alone by deer and rabbits.

As mentioned previously, Spotted Bee Balm can be prone to powdery mildew, a fungal disease characterized by grayish-white powder. If cultural practices don’t solve the problem, some fungicides can be used as a preventative method.

If the plant already has powdery mildew, remove and destroy diseased plant debris in the fall so that it doesn’t hang around over the winter and come back again.

Leaf Lore

The genus Monarda is named so after Nicolas Monardes (1493-October 1588), a Spanish physician and botanist who is credited with writing the first herbal that covered plants of the Americas. The specific epithet punctata is Latin and means “spotted” referring to the spots on the flowers.

Spotted Bee Balm contains Thymol, the same oil found in thyme and oregano, making it a great native substitute for these Mediterranean herbs. Interestingly, Thymol is an antiseptic still used today in mouthwashes such as Listerine.

Throughout history, Spotted Bee Balm had many medicinal uses. The Meskwaki tribe historically used a compound of the leaves of Spotted Bee Balm to ease stomach cramps, headaches, and fevers. It was also used as a snuff to lessen mucus build-up and head colds, as well as to revive deathly sick patients. The Ojibwe used Spotted Bee Balm to ease stomach sickness and constipation. The Navajo used the plant for its fragrance, hanging it around the hogan for the pleasing odor.

Companion Plants

In similar dry conditions, combine Spotted Bee Balm with Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Canada Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis), Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa), Leadplant (Amorpha canescens), Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus), Red Pine (Pinus resinosa), Black Oak (Quercus velutina), Lupine (Lupinus perennis), and Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa).

Other fragrant plants that complement Spotted Bee Balm include Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), Lavender (Lavandula spp.), Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Bigroot Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum), Salvia (Salvia spp.), Spikenard (Aralia racemosa), Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), Basswood (Tilia spp.), Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), and Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).

Spotted Bee Balm is a great Wisconsin native perennial for a night garden! The pale-yellow flowers are spotted with purple dots, surrounded by white t…
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Written by Beth DeLain