Reader question… “It is spring in New England and I am cleaning my gardens getting ready for everything to ‘pop’ up. I planted Bee Balm last year and loved it next to my tall Phlox. Everything is coming up nicely but I can’t tell if the Bee Balm is coming back up… it seems to have a more vine plant like spreading around it… directly around the old stems (and the only place in the garden this ‘weed’ is growing if it is indeed a weed). I don’t want to ‘weed’ it up if it is actually the Bee Balm. By any chance can you tell what it looks like in the spring as it is returning? Thanks!” –Sandy H.

Is it possible that the “vines” you are seeing are actually the bee balm rhizomes that are growing near (or on) the surface of the soil?

Over the last several days as I have been cleaning out hosta beds, I keep finding bee balm that has come in (uninvited!) from somewhere, so I took these pictures yesterday in the middle of moving some of that bee balm to a better spot. You can see how tiny the plants are at this time of year, and the long pinkish-purple rhizomes that do look very much like a vine. These rhizomes can grow as much as twelve inches during a single growing season and are the reason bee balm spreads so rapidly. You can also see the hair-like white roots at intervals along the rhizomes and the tiny new plants that are just starting to form.

By the way, not all rhizomes are this color. The various bee balms in my garden have rhizomes ranging in color from shades of green to dark red.