Peter’s Purple monarda, meet purple coneflower


‘Peter’s Purple’ monarda, which I ordered from Plant Delights last fall, is the first bee balm I’ve tried. In its description, Plant Delights quotes Jimmy Turner, director of research at the Dallas Arboretum trial gardens, as saying that ‘Peter’s Purple’ is “the only Monarda that doesn’t die from powdery mildew” in our hot, humid summers.


Central Texas does have a native bee balm, Monarda citriodora, also known as horsemint. But I was inspired to try the showier ‘Peter’s Purple’ after seeing all the big, beautiful bee balm in Buffalo last summer. So far so good. I’ll give additional reports through the season to let you know how it holds up.


Now I’m wishing I’d planted it alongside the purple coneflower for a hot pink-on-pink combo. What? Too much? Is there such a thing? As it is, they’re eyeballing each other across the sunny hillside path. The powder-blue plant in front is Wheeler sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri), a spherical native of west Texas.


Maybe next year.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

10 Responses

  1. David C. says:

    I like the monochromatic nature of your using such cool colors together. Just in the desert, the coneflower needs too much water, while the sotol would drown alongside it. But purples and blues…mmm!

    Yes, I can’t quite imagine purple coneflower growing in the desert. It prefers deeper, clay soils here; caliche, not so much. My sotol is growing on a little berm of decomposed granite, and the coneflower is tucked at the base of a big, slanting rock that delivers extra rain (when we get it) right to its roots. —Pam

  2. S. Fox says:

    Beautiful, purple is a favorite color and I don’t have many purple flowers yet. Great color against the shed doors too.

    Thanks, S. Fox. —Pam

  3. Denise says:

    I love monarda but haven’t had any success here and don’t try new kinds anymore. Don’t they need a lot of water? Please update on this one. I just may order it myself this fall.

    I know nothing about monarda except what I’m learning with ‘Peter’s Purple.’ But it doesn’t seem to be thirsty. We’re currently in an exceptional drought in central Texas and in the mid-90s every day, but I haven’t been babying it. It gets part sun and water once a week. We’ll see how it holds up. —Pam

  4. Marcia S. says:

    Coincidentally, I also planted a mildew resistant monarda this spring in my Austin garden that looks every bit like your ‘Peter’s Purple’ except mine is called ‘Claire Grace’. I ordered it from White Flower Farm where the description stated it was “Discovered in Mississippi, where this selection of our native Wild Bergamot stood out for its mildew resistance”. The folks who discovered the plant named it after their daughter, Claire Grace. I’ll let you know how ‘Claire Grace’ fares, if you’re interested.

    Thanks for the info about ‘Claire Grace,’ Marcia. I’d definitely like to know how she fares in your Austin garden. For the record, I looked up both our monardas and found more from Plant Delights: “Monarda ‘Peter’s Purple’ occurred in the garden of Texas native plant guru Peter Loos, when a Mexican Monarda bartlettii and the American Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’ got frisky under a moonlit sky, and you know the story. The result is a robust heat-loving 4′ tall clump, topped in June and July with rich lavender-purple flowers, backed by purple calyces…a hummingbird hangout. We have seen no signs of mildew in our trials and greatly reduced spreading compared to other monardas.” —Pam

  5. Gorgeous. And duh, you had told me about Plant Delights before. Jimmy had mentioned this on CTG, too, and I wrote it down on the long list of plants to lose somewhere! Daphne’s had great luck with this one and we’ve made it Plant of the Week. So, this fall I’ll order some! I’ve got just the spot. I do think your coneflowers and monardas should just say howdy to each other so they don’t compete for attention in the same place. They are both just lovely!

    So there IS such a thing as too much purple then? ;-) By the way, Vicki at Playin’ Outside is growing this too. It seems to work for us Austinites. —Pam

  6. Never too much…….plant it thicker and thicker and thicker!!! Gotta try the Monarda. We have the same problem with mildew.

    Ah, a more-is-more advocate! An ebullient philosophy—I like it. —Pam

  7. Caroline says:

    NEVER too much. I like to mix pink and orange — WHAT? Yes, I love the combo, just as much as I love that Peter’s Purple. I’ve had no luck getting coneflowers to grow from seed, it’s just too darn dry, will keep trying. My little patch in the back come back every year but I want a big patch out front. I have just the big blank spot for it!

    I like to mix pink and orange too, Caroline. And purple coneflower mixes it perfectly! (But why oh why is it called “purple” coneflower?) Bummer about the seeding problem. Yes, it’s terribly dry, and that’s probably the problem. Don’t give up! They can take a while to get going. —Pam

  8. I love to use coneflowers and monarda together. I do hope mine are in bloom together when you’re here! Right now, the coneflowers look like they will bloom before their companion monarda.

    I hope to see that combo in person, Cameron! —Pam

  9. katzien says:

    Okay…what gives? I’ve tried growing purple coneflower from seed and it didn’t sprout. I’ve tried it as transplant from a friends garden and it didn’t survive. How am I supposed to grow it? I just love it and I really want some.

    Just keep trying, Katzien. That’s my main gardening advice, no matter the problem. I find they come up pretty well in good soil with no mulch on it. I just flick the seeds out of the cones onto the soil and let them come up where they will. But it does take them 2-3 seasons to look like anything, so give them time. Keep them watered in this drought. Good luck! —Pam

  10. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, I’ll be interested to hear how that Monarda does for you. I hope it not only survives but thrives!

    I’ll keep you updated, Cindy. —Pam