Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot has rich globular heads of fragrant lilac-purple tubular blooms. The flower heads perch on a whorl of beautiful, pinkish bracts and bloom for weeks from mid-summer to early October. You may also flavour tea with the foliage of deep green, distinctively scented leaves. Wild bergamot is a drought-tolerant prairie perennial that spreads by seeds and rhizomes.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Monarda fistulosa

Botanical Family: Lamiaceae

Also Called: Purple Beebalm; Wild Horsemint

En français: Monarde fistuleuse

Colours:

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Dry to moist

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

A close up of a Purple bee balm flower
Purple balm flower
Credit Salicyna, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Attracting Pollinators

Wild Bergamot is an important native species for pollinators in the United States and Canada, and is one of the most preferred species for bees, especially bumblebees. The colorful and nectar-rich blooms attract hummingbirds, such as the Ruby-Throated hummingbird, butterflies, skippers, and moths, as well as long-tongued bees, such as bumblebees, miner bees, cuckoo bees, and large leaf-cutting bees. Sometimes sweat bees collect pollen, while some wasps steal nectar by perforating the nectar tube. The caterpillars of some moths may feed on the foliage. 

Where to Plant

It may be found in fields, meadows, and along boundaries in nature. Wild Bergamot adds colour and contrast to a , garden, wild garden, native plant garden, meadow, or naturalised area. It is a good choice in the perennial border.

How to grow wild bergamot

Spring or fall are both favorable times to plant wild bergamot. Even though it can tolerate less-than-ideal growing conditions, it prefers full sun and rich, well-draining soil. In order to prevent powdery mildew, wild bergamot needs plenty of air circulation, and you should space plants between 17 and 25 inches apart. 

If you start with seeds, divided rhizomes, or cuttings, thoroughly water them after planting. Digging and dividing these perennials every three years is necessary due to their growth. Bergamots are in the mint family and spread by slender underground rhizomes, but they do not spread widely and are not invasive. These perennials do not spread themselves across the garden, and this plant isn’t any more intrusive than most.

When growing from seed, start them indoors eight to ten weeks before the last frost, or direct seed them outdoors two to three weeks before your last frost. The ideal soil temperature is 60-70F, and seeds should be sown 6mm (1/4) deep and lightly covered with soil. It would be best if you thinned your plants or space them 45-60 cm (18-24″) apart in the garden.

Does wild bergamot bloom in the first year?

After the plant has been well established for the first year, leaves can be harvested, and as the plant grows yearly, more leaves can be harvested. Bee Balm generally does not flower until the second year after planting.

Watering Needs

The wild bergamot prefers moist soil environments, so it provides an adequate supply of water during the main growing season. You can determine the soil’s moisture level by placing your finger in the soil. You should water dry soil immediately; in the summer, plants should be watered twice a week if the soil feels dry. 

Water accumulation should be prevented during wet weather periods. Wild bergamot should be watered once a week during the winter. Rainwater or distilled water is better than tap water for watering wild bergamots. Tap water can contain high levels of magnesium, calcium, or other mineral salts. Salinization and hardening of soil can occur when tap water is used long-term.

Instead of watering the leaves, water the roots of the plant. Water each garden area thoroughly for 30 seconds with a hose pipe to ensure wild bergamot gets enough water. A lack of adequate water can cause withering and shrinking of leaves. It is important to regularly water the plant in order to prevent this from happening. However, the leaves will droop if they are overwatered. You should probably reduce the amount of watering if this happens.

Does wild bergamot make good tea?

There are tube-shaped petals on the flowers of wild bergamot. Green leaves on bergamot plants are slightly fuzzy and rich in color. You can also detect lemon and mint aromas in the leaves. The beneficial tea made from wild bergamot tastes great and helps fight off colds and the flu. Having it available during the winter is especially useful.

Caring for Wild Bergamot

Best grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates somewhat poor soils and some drought. Plants need good air circulation. Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom. Tends to self-seed.

Sources and References

North Carolina State

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