Native Plants for Birds

To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are resuming our monthly series featuring a native plant that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.

Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda Punctata)

Horsemint watermark CBW IMG 20190511 083643

Also called Spotted Horsemint or simply Horsemint, this plant is a member of the mint family and is an herbaceous perennial native to North America. It is one of my personal favorites for the native garden as it is so easy to grow, looks beautiful in a mass planting, and once it blooms, it is covered with pollinators including a number of bee species, wasps, and butterflies. It tolerates full sun and part-shade; it is drought tolerant, and will be happy in dry, sandy soil.

Spotted Bee Balm blooms from August through October and has beautiful whorls wrapped around the stems in colors ranging from purple to deep pink to mauve. The leaves and stems are very fragrant and high in thymol which has antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. Historically, it has been used to treat ringworm and hookworm infections. In addition, the leaves can be brewed into a mild tea said to promote relaxation. However, please be sure that your plants have not been treated with any pesticides or herbicides before you decide to do this.

Spotted Bee Balm watermark Mike Fisher 2017

It grows in clumps and can rapidly expand from a seedling to a 2’ diameter mass of plants 3 to 4 feet in height. It will tend to crowd out other plant species over time and fill in any empty spots in your garden. However, it can be easily controlled by cutting it back after it is finished blooming or pulling it from areas where you don’t want it to grow. It is deciduous in North Florida and will die back to the ground in the winter. It easily comes back in the spring and grows quickly. It is extremely easy to propagate – just shake the dried flowerheads to release the seeds or it will easily reseed on its own.

Because it is such a tremendous pollinator attractor, it is excellent for birds as well, including thrushes, wrens, nuthatches, waxwings, wood warblers, woodpeckers, and orioles.

For additional information on native plants for birds, check out Audubon's excellent Plants for Birds website:

For local sources of native plants, check with the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant SocietyThey often have native plants as well as cuttings available at their monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Check out their Events Calendar for all of their upcoming activities.

--Jody Willis, Vice President and Outreach Director, September 2020