Whether you call it Spotted Beebalm, Dotted Horsemint, or Monarda punctata, the blooming of this native wildflower is a reliable signal that the end* is near.
Each year, as children are heading back to school, Monarda punctata announces the approach of Florida’s fall wildflower season with an eye-catching display of speckled white flowers tucked between whorls of purplish bracts.*
The combination of these distinctive bloom spikes and a long blooming period is guaranteed to attract attention from pollinators and passers-by alike, especially since the otherwise plain (some might say “weedy” looking) plants seem to suddenly “appear” out of nowhere…
- RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE: During spring and summer, Monarda punctata can look rather “weedy” and untamed, so it’s important to choose your growing location accordingly. (This isn’t a plant for the front of a formal garden!)
TIP: You can trim the tops of the plants during early summer if you’d like to encourage a bushier growth form and keep their height in check.
- Monarda punctata can produce a LOT of seeds, which can potentially result in a LOT of seedlings the following year. If left unchecked, this plant can gradually (or quickly) take over the growing space, so plan accordingly, and/or be prepared to thin out some seedlings.
TIP: You can collect seeds in late fall by cutting off the dried flower stalks and shaking out the “pom-poms.”
- RECOGNIZING THE SEEDLINGS: If allowing them to re-seed naturally in your garden, you’ll need to be able to recognize the seedlings. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a tangled mess of weeds competing with your flowers.
TIP: The leaves of Monarda punctata resemble mint leaves (they’re in the same family), but they contain very high concentrations of aromatic compounds like thymol. If you rub or crush a leaf of Monarda punctata, it should give off a strong smell similar to oregano or thyme.
TIP: One way to avoid the hassle of ID’ing tiny seedlings is to simply collect the seeds in fall, and grow some seedlings in pots or seed starter trays. That way, you can give your plants a head-start, and plant them where YOU want them (i.e. into beds that are already weeded and/or mulched.) BONUS – If you end up with too many plants, you can give some away to friends!
Further reading and additional photos of Monarda punctata:
Want to learn more about adding seasonal interest to your landscape?
Although people often joke that Florida has a perpetual summer, plants like Monarda punctata are certainly able to “sense” the subtle cues of seasonal change – shorter daylight hours, rainfall patterns, etc. That’s great because it means you can have very distinct seasonal changes to your landscape… if you have the right plants!
Want to enjoy seasonal changes in your garden? It’s all about – you guessed it – the right plants in the right place… For more, read: https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/pascoco/2018/11/21/florida-fall-color/
About the Author: As the Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) Program Coordinator in Pasco County, Frank works with the residents, homebuilders, and businesses of Pasco to help prove that attractive landscapes DON’T require a lot of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Through an innovative collaboration with Pasco County Utilities, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program in Pasco County provides targeted on-site troubleshooting assistance to individuals and communities identified as high water users. Frank can be reached at (813)929.2716.
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About UF/IFAS Extension: UF/IFAS Extension – We are that helpful friend. UF/IFAS Extension serves as a source of non-biased, research-based information for the residents, businesses, and communities of Florida, providing educational materials and programs for adults and youth. We proudly “provide solutions for your life.”
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by Frank Galdo
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