Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Pinch Back Monarda (Bee Balm)

Have you ever heard the gardening term pinching back and wondered exactly what it meant? Basically, it means that you can give certain plants a "haircut" to promote a bushier plant with more flowers. Some plants that bloom in July or after benefit from pinching back May, especially Monarda (Bee Balm).

Monarda didyma 'Raspberry Wine'

Shortening Monarda to about half it's height now will promote lateral branching, making the plant fuller, and doubling it's flowers. The flowers will be a little smaller, but you'll get more of them. It also prevents tall plants from flopping by promoting stronger stems, and is a useful technique for mums, phlox, and sedum.

Monarda fistulosa (native bee balm) before "pinching back"...

Because cutting back delays blooming by about two weeks, it is a good idea to cut back only the front half of the stems of the plant. This will give you shorter but stronger stems in front, support to the taller stems in back, and a longer blooming period for the whole plant.

...and after.

 So, how do you pinch back? I've found that you can't often just use your fingers to shorten the plant, as the name of the technique implies, and usually have to use hand pruners. Cut the plant back by about half. I will then usually tuck the cut peices around the plant for a natural mulch. Easy enough, right?

Try this simple trick on your Monarda now for more blooms this summer.

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