Wild Bergamot

How to Grow Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot
This is wild bergamot in captivity in my back yard. In the wild the plant can be tall and spindly but its another one of those prairie plants that will grow like crazy if you water it.

Wild bergamot is the prairie equivalent of bee balm (monarda didyma) but it does well in dry conditions and the flowers are lavender-pinkish rather than red. One well-bred variety comes in a dark purple color. Bees love this plant as much as bee balm. In the garden you can't tell them apart unless they are blooming.

Seed starting was routine, I started a few in Park's Starts inside and others in a pot of soil outside early in the Spring. Once started they are fairly vigorous (its in the mint family and mint family plants are fairly good at spreading) and if you try and move it or get rid of it at one location the plant will likely come back from small amounts of roots at the original location. It will not bloom the first year. Bloom time is July, supposedly it will re-bloom if cut back but my one half-hearted effort to cut back some plants did not result in any new blooms. One source says it is better to move plants in the Spring than in the Fall because plants moved in the Fall often die over the Winter.

Wild bergamot does best in full sun but will get by in spots with little sun however be aware that the leaves can get mildew so a sunny location with good air circulation will be better. If you water it it will grow like crazy, get bushy and 3 to 4 feet tall and may bend over some so a good spot is along a fence where you can tie it up.

The wild plants I've seen in the forest preserves do not have any scent in the leaves however the plants from Midwest Wildflowers have a minty scent all season long. The leaves have been used in tea and by the Indians for flavoring meats. Someone in rec.gardens who seemed to know said that Earl Gray tea which includes "bergamot" uses a small tropical fruit and NOT this plant.

If you have any questions or comments, write me.

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