Bee Balm: Sun or Shade

Bee balms can bring vibrant color and pollinators to a garden. Should you be planting in sun or shade?

When deciding where to put your bee balm plants, make sure to consider how much sun they will receive throughout the day. It can mean the difference between a healthy, gorgeous perennial herbaceous plant and one that dies after only one season.

Today, I will teach you everything you need to know about the right amount of light for your bee balms.

Why Is the Amount of Light Important?

Without going into too much detail, sunshine is an essential energy source for all plants.

Plants collect energy from the sun through a process known as photosynthesis, which fuels the processes necessary for survival. A plant’s leaves act as “solar panels,” absorbing as much light as possible to help the plant grow. This is why plant leaves shift position in response to their relative orientation to light, a phenomenon known as phototropism.

If a plant is overly exposed to sunlight, it will absorb more energy than it can handle, resulting in the creation of reactive oxygen species that can kill the plant.

A bee collecting nectar from a pink bergamot flower

Bee Balm Prefers Full Sun

Though bee balm can take some shade, it flourishes best when it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

Over time, too much shade may lead the plant to become leggy, limiting the number and beauty of its flowers. Plants grown in hotter climates, on the other hand, may be able to survive with a little bit more shade than usual.

How to Determine How Much Light Your Garden Receives

Knowing your property’s light and shadow zones might help you select where to put your bee balm plants. It is critical to examine potential sources of shade, such as surrounding buildings or trees.

It is simple to make a sunshine map. All you need is a full day at home, paper and pencil, and a clear day.

On one side of the page, make a chart that lists all of your flower beds. Starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m., write the hours of the day across the top in 2-hour increments.

Magenta colored monarda flowers in a garden

Step outside every two hours to assess your yard and record which flower beds are in the sun and which are in the shade.

At the end of the day, count how many times you wrote “sun” for each area. If it’s greater than 6, you’ve got yourself a full-sun garden! Four hours of sunshine define a shady area, and 4 to 6 hours of sunshine make for a part sun/part shade area.

Ideally, you would chart the sunny areas on the first day of summer, but any time in late spring or early summer will work. Consider charting the sunshine once a month for a year to get a complete picture of your yard’s light condition.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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