With elegance and beguiling fragrance, bergamot (Monarda didyma) and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) transform your summer garden into a sea of flowers.
These secret queens of herbs, spices, teas, and aromatic plants hold court in your perennial bed without requiring any horticultural feats.
The bergamot is also known as beebalm, horsemint, and mountain mint, depending on the variety.
Planting Bergamots Properly
Since the gregarious bergamot likes to surround itself with conspecifics, plant the perennial preferably in small groups of 3-5 specimens.
To do this, create small pits at a distance of 14-18 inches (35-45 cm), which will provide enough space for a root ball.
Meanwhile, place the potted root ball in water until no more air bubbles rise. The rest of the procedure of proper planting is as follows:
- Enrinch the excavated earth enrich with horn shavings, compost, and leaf soil.
- Line the planting hole with nettle leaves to place the potted bergamot on it.
- Fill with the substrate so far that you maintain the previous planting depth.
Finally, water the plants and spread a layer of mulch with organic materials.
Since the bergamot has natural stability, the effort of support is unnecessary in a sheltered location. The aromatic perennial is just as uncomplicated in terms of its care program.
All essential care aspects at a glance:
- Organic start-up fertilization with compost and horn shavings in March/April.
- Water regularly during dry spells, directly onto the root discs.
- Promptly clean out withered and wilted areas for a vital reblooming.
- Prune completely in autumn or late winter.
In the first few years of growth and in areas where the plant is not exposed to winter conditions, give it light winter protection of leaves, brushwood, or compost.
Which Location is Suitable for Bergamot?
To show off its many talents as a cut, ornamental, and fragrant flower, the bergamot needs to get every ray of sunlight it can get its hands on.
Therefore, treat this multifaceted perennial to a sunny to full-sun, wind-protected location in fresh, moist soil that is nutritious and humus-rich.
To signal its willingness to compromise, the bergamot also tolerates a place in light shade with good care.
The Right Planting Distance for Bergamot
A wisely chosen plant spacing not only makes an important contribution to the visual appearance. At the same time, with adequate spacing, you effectively prevent lethal fungal infections, such as powdery mildew.
Therefore, plant bergamot at a distance of 14-18 inches (35-45 cm) from each other, so that the foliage can dry quickly after a summer downpour.
What Soil Does the Bergamot Need?
The rhizome of bergamot produces the fragrant leaves and pretty feathery flowers in the hoped-for splendor if the soil is such:
- Deep loose, humic, and nutrient rich for Monarda didyma.
- Slightly moist, without danger of waterlogging.
- Preferably a neutral pH value around 7.
- Sandy, lean and somewhat drier for Monarda fistulosa.
In the trade, you can find mainly hybrids between scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Therefore, in principle, any good garden soil is recommended as a suitable home for the rhizome.
As long as no waterlogging or desert-like dryness dominate, the perennial will show its best side.
When is Flowering Time for Bergamot?
The central flowering period of bergamot and beebalm extends over the months of July and August.
Knowledgeable growers always produce new varieties that start their flower festival as early as June and last until September.
As a gardener, you also have the opportunity to prolong the flowering period with a simple care measure. If you clean out faded flowers regularly, floral successors will be on hand immediately.
Pruning Bergamot Properly
In the cultivation of bergamot, beebalm, and their hybrids, pruning shears are considered the most important tool in cultivation.
To use the aromatic leaves for cooking, tea, or syrup, cut them during the flowering period in the early morning hours.
Also, use this opportunity to clean out wilted flowers right away for a neat appearance and long blooming season.
Then, in the fall or early spring, cut the perennial close to the ground to make room for the next sprout.
Dry soil is not at all to the taste of bergamot. Therefore, water the perennial regularly, if the natural rainfall is not enough.
The same applies to hybrids of bergamot and beebalm. Only the wild species of a Monarda fistulosa can cope with short-term drought.
It is important to note that you should always water the ornamental perennials directly to the root disc. Overhead watering invokes the ubiquitous fungal infection powdery mildew.
Fertilizing Bergamot Properly
Bergamot readily accepts an organic starter fertilizer of compost and horn shavings in the spring. Bark humus or guano also ensure the nutrient supply for the new season.
In addition, a mulch layer of leaves, grass clippings, or bark mulch helps to maintain a vital soil life.
Powdery mildew is a permanent threat to bergamot and beebalm. The omnipresent fungal infection often targets the labiates with the magnificent leaf dress.
In summer drought, fluctuating temperatures, and overhead irrigation, the cunning fungal spores strike mercilessly. Within a short time, a grayish-white, washable patina spreads over the plant.
You can combat the disease with a home remedy that is as simple as it is natural and effective. In 10 parts of water, mix 1 part of fresh milk and apply the mixture every 2-3 days.
Native to North and Central America, freezing frost could harm young bergamot and beebalm. So for the first 2 to 3 years in the bed, we recommend light winter protection.
After cutting back the stems to just above ground level in the fall, spread a thick layer of leaves or compost over the root disc.
The gardening practice has proven that division is the best form of propagating bergamot. This method is not only uncomplicated to implement, but at the same time serves to rejuvenate the perennial.
This is how you proceed:
- In the spring, dig up the rhizome widely and clean it from soil.
- Put it on a stable base to cut the rhizome.
- Promptly plant the individual segments at the new location in loose, humus-rich soil.
As long as a segment has at least 2 buds or shoots, it has the potential to become an adult bergamot. A consistent water supply in the first days and weeks creates the best conditions for this.
What is the Use for Bergamot?
Behind its magnificent appearance are manifold talents that a knowledgeable amateur gardener should know how to use.
We have compiled interesting uses of bergamot for you here:
- Ornamental plant in the perennial bed and fragrance garden.
- Charming cut flower for the vase.
- Leaves and flowers as medicinal herbs for various ailments.
- As a thyme substitute in the kitchen.
- Prepared as syrup for refreshing drinks.
- Infused to aromatic tea for any occasion.
- Dried to a bouquet or as a fragrant potpourri.
Shortly before the beginning of the flowering period, the valuable ingredients of bergamot are at their zenith. As flowering progresses, the flavor takes on a slightly bitter note.
- Cardinal: Charmingly beautiful variety whose crimson flowers catch the eye from July to August. The growing height is 32-40 inches (80-100 cm).
- Gardenview Red: Majestic bergamot whose deep red flowers set decorative focal points. The height of growth is 48-56 inches (120-140 cm).
- Snowcloud: You can’t go wrong with this gorgeous variety in pure white in the perennial bed. The height is 32-40 inches (80-100 cm).
- Marshall’s Delight: The feathery, delicate pink flowers complement red and white varieties beautifully. The height of growth is 32-40 inches (80-100 cm).
- Cherokee: The mighty bergamot acts with pink flower whorls as an eye-catcher in the fragrance garden. The growth height is 48-52 inches (120-130 cm).