Plant This: Peter’s Purple bee balm, a pied piper for hummingbirds

The plant getting the most attention in my garden right now is ‘Peter’s Purple’ bee balm (Monarda fistulosa ‘Peter’s Purple’), a 4-foot tall perennial with pincushiony, lavender-pink flowers atop long stems. I bought my original plant 5 years ago from Plant Delights (High Country Gardens carries it too) and have since shared divisions with neighbors and gardening friends.

Nearly every garden blogger in Austin is growing it, thanks to our plant swaps, and I hope it’s available in local nurseries because this is a terrific plant for central Texas. Hybridized here in Texas and tested by Dallas Arboretum, this bee balm doesn’t get powdery mildew in our hot, humid climate, the way other bee balms can.

Just give it sun or part sun and set it loose. It grows well, with established clumps growing wider each year, and it also spreads readily by seed. You can divide it easily at any time of year. I give it once-a-week water in summer, but I suspect it may be able to go longer without, especially in part shade. It blooms for a couple of weeks, and I let it go to seed before cutting it back. In Austin, rosy-hued stems and leaves can hang on all winter.

Hummingbirds love it. Can you spot the hummer in this picture and the one below? Since I’ve planted divisions all around my garden, I imagine the hummers must be well-fed right now.

Plant ‘Peter’s Purple’ bee balm and watch it lead hummers to your garden too.

U.S. hardiness zones: 6-9

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

17 Responses

  1. TexasDeb says:

    I’m laughing a bit as I read this because though I have fully intended to get a clump of Peter’s Purple established in my spaces, I’m still making do with native monarda, which reseeded last year just before a heavy rain and is now blooming where all that seed washed up, leaning, waaaay over driveway edges and street side curbing.

    Um, seed floats, you guys. There are going to be bluebonnet rosettes in some very interesting places next year… : )

  2. Shirley says:

    A favorite in my garden this time of year too. After reading about it on Digging, I quickly added a few to my cart when I spotted them at Milberger’s in San Antonio. Now Peter’s Purple Monarda grows and blooms in three different sun/shade spots.

  3. Interesting that your deer haven’t eaten the blooms. Mine are regularly served for dinner here at our house! They look great next to the yucca.

  4. Cat says:

    It’s happy here along the back fence too. Curious about the plant with the big dark leaves in the second to last photo between the bee balm? Is that a vine?

  5. My original plant came from the SFA plant sale years ago, and I’ve been giving it away to anyone who’ll take it off my hands ever since. Maybe I’ll take some over to the local nurseries to propagate for sale – sounds like they have a ready market.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Great idea, Vicki. When I had the Barton Springs Nursery gals over recently, I recommended they carry this plant if they don’t already. —Pam

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Bee balm in general is a bee and hummingbird magnet. I love all the different colors. This one is lovely.

  7. Chris F says:

    Weeping redbud? Tell us more!

  8. Pam, I found Peter’s Purple at the Natural Gardener and on a later trip found it there in a gorgeous shade of red called Gardenview Red. It looks fantastic so far. No powdery mildew or yellowing at all, but one of my Peter’s Purple is losing its lower leaves and just failing to thrive. I’m thinking of shearing it now even though its top is bursting with flowers. I’m sort of worried, though, that I’ll hurt its feelings and lose it entirely!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m delighted to hear that Natural Gardener is selling ‘Peter’s Purple’, Barbara, and that you’re having good luck (better luck, even) with ‘Gardenview Red.’ Great info! —Pam