Monarda fistulosa. Wild Bergamot seeds, commonly known as Bee Balm, produce curious flowers that vary in shades from pink to lavender. These flowers appear in July and August above stout, strong stems bearing aromatic leaves. The leaves are excellent in tea, reminiscent of the distinct flavour to Earl Grey blends. Plants grow to a height of 60-90cm (24-36"), and those that don't survive as perennials in Coastal gardens will likely self-sow. All bergamots are highly attractive to beneficial pollinators like butterflies and wild bees. Hummingbirds will stage territorial fights to stake their claims over a wild bergamot plant in full bloom.
Bergamot is also known, somewhat confusingly, as Bee Balm, Scarlet Bee-balm, Horsemint, Oswego Tea, and by its genus name, Monarda. All varieties are aromatic and highly attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds. Pick the leaves as desired for fresh use in the kitchen. For drying, harvest leaves before the flowers open. Cut flowers for drying as soon as they’re fully open. Masses of tiered pink and purple blossoms grow from August until frost. Continue reading below for our recommendations on how to grow bergamot from seed.
Lemon Bergamot: Monarda citriodora, Wild Bergamot: M. fistulosa
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Exposure: Full sun
Hardiness: M. citriodora to Zone 5, M. fistulosa to Zone 3.
Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost, or direct sow in early spring when a light frost is still possible. Seeds can also be direct sown in the fall, as the first frost approaches. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 15-21°C (60-70°F). Seeds should sprout in 10-40 days. Bottom heat will speed germination.
Barely cover the tiny seeds with soil. Thin or space transplants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart. These vigorous perennials will grow in, closer together over time.
Any ordinary garden soil will work. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Where summers are long, plants are prone to mildew, so avoid overhead watering. Deadhead regularly to prolong the blooming period. These perennial plants spread by rhizome growth, and should be dug and divided every three years.
Pick the leaves as desired for fresh use in the kitchen. For drying, harvest leaves before the flowers open. Cut flowers for drying as soon as they’re fully open. Masses of tiered pink-purple blossoms grow from August until frost.