Monarda citriodora. Lemon Bergamot has a wonderful taste and lemony aroma, but it is usually grown as an ornamental or for its cut flowers. Lemon Bergamot seeds are easily started and produce knee-high plants with masses of tiered pink and purple blossoms from August until frost. Lemon bergamot can self-sow, and its seeds are easy to collect for seed saving. The flower stems are very attractive in bouquets as cut flowers, and the dry well. The dried flowers can be used in tea. All bergamots are highly attractive to honeybees and other pollinators.
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.