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Butterfly Gardening: Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma)

Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’

Part of the mint family, oswego tea plants produce tufted red flowers concentrated primarily at the end of each stem with a bloom period of at least a month. Deadheading (the removal of dying flowers) can extend the bloom period even longer. For gardeners who appreciate hot (some might say clashing) color in the garden, plant oswego tea next to butterfly milkweed.

(Via, dark green areas represent where Oswego Tea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common. Yellow areas represent where it is present but rare.)

Powdery mildew can be a serious problem with oswego tea. A natural cross M. didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ is a mildew and rust resistant cultivar of oswego tea. It also has the potential to grow much taller than the species, up to six feet in some cases. The cultivar ‘Raspberry Wine’ also gets a call-out in some of our butterfly gardening guides. You can find them here:

Oswego Tea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3- 8
Bloom Period: June to August
Bloom Color: Red
Plant Height: 36 to 48 inches
Plant Spread: 24 to 36 inches
Light Exposure: Sun to light shade
Soil Moisture: Average
Animal/Disease Problems: Deer resistant, powdery mildew may be a problem (see the ‘Jacob Cline’ cultivar as noted above)