Douglas Pearsall on
July 21, 2017
27511 Cary, NC Zone 7
July 21, 2017
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It will bloom next spring. Many perennials focus on root growth the first year; flowering requires a lot of energy which new roots just can't provide. Also, too much nitrogen fertilizer stimulates green growth which diverts energy away from flower production. If you improved the soil before planting, a top dressing of compost is adequate nutrition for bee balm.
More than likely it has too much nitrogen in the soil, or it could be that the soil is too acidic. Apply dolomitic lime to the soil, and this should take care of the issue. If it continues, then you may add a fertilizer heavy in phosphorus and potassium.
So I have some wild bergamot seeds, and I’m confused about when to plant them. I don’t want to directly sow them, I want to first grow them in plastic cups and then in bigger containers, and when they’re big enough I plant them outside. But I’m confused about when I should plant them. Do I sow the seeds in the cups now (mid-October, after the first frost) after the fir and transplant them in spring, or do I do it in the spring???
Seeds need to go through a period of cold storage to get them to germinate. Most seed companies do this for you. If seed was collected this fall, separate the seeds from the chaff and let them air dry for a few days. If you are sowing indoors, store the seed in a glass jar in the refrig for 2+ months. Some sites advocate "moist stratification"; there is disagreement on this point. It takes 2-3 weeks for seed to germinate and then 2 months to reach planting size. 95% of seeds germinate. Here is a resource: https://npn.rngr.net/renderNPNProtocolDetails?selectedProtocolIds=lamiaceae-monarda-95&referer=wildflower
First year perennial plants often don't bloom as they are focusing on root establishment but I'm a bit surprised that your bee balm didn't show a flower. Is it in full sun and moist soil? Apply compost to the surface yearly; this is the only fertilization bee balm should receive. Too much nitrogen yields lots of green growth and few flowers.
I'm not a fan of this approach but you can give it a try and see how the plants respond. It will tell you if it isn't happy by under-performing. Bee balm likes moist soil and spreads slowly via above-ground stolons. The fabric will be an impediment to spreading out so it is likely to get very crowded. This makes it prone to powdery mildew. Landscape fabric has other problems. It doesn't stop weeds; it just makes it much harder to pull them. It reduces the amount of water and air that reach the roots. The rocks heat up under the sun and increase soil temperature. This isn't good for soil moisture (warmer soil evaporates faster) and it isn't good for plant roots. You can tell I'm a fan of starting with a clean planting bed and using mulch. 3 inches of compost or wood chips - or any other plant-based material - will suppress weeds, help retain moisture and slowly improve your soil as it breaks down. Enjoy your bee balm.