Native to North America, bergamot received its botanical name from the sixteenth century Spanish physician, Nicholas Monardez, who" >


Native to North America, bergamot received its botanical name from the sixteenth century Spanish physician, Nicholas Monardez, who first discovered and described it. It was called Oswego (or Otsego) tea by early American settlers because of its use by the Oswego Indians. It was grown by the Shakers in the late 1700s in their settlement near Oswego County in New York. Today, bergamot is also known as scarlet bee balm.


The tuberous root produces an erect, slightly hairy square stem with a citrus-like fragrance. The two-lipped scarlet flowers rest on a collar of red-tinged bracts with solitary terminal heads. The dark green leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, opposite, and ovate with serrated margins. The fruit is comprised of four nutlets resembling seeds.

Plant type and hardiness:

Perennial; hardiness zones 4 to 9. Height and width Height 24 to 48 inches; width 12 inches. Light and soil Full sun to partial shade, especially in hot climates; rich, moist soil with a pH of 6.5. Pests and disease Snails can be a problem in shady, moist locations where roots are kept cool and moist. (Some cultivars prefer this condition.)


When the plant begins to shoot up in the spring, a dressing of well-decayed humus can be applied. Sprinkle grass clippings over the root area during the hottest part of summer. If necessary, lightly tie the slender and sometimes brittle stems with garden stakes. Bergamot can be grown in clumps or masses for a nice effect as a background plant. Planting 18 inches apart would allow plenty of room.

Companion planting:

Bergamot attracts bees, making it an excellent plant to grow near vegetable gardens or orchards. Propagation method Seeds or division in spring and cuttings in summer.

Bloom time and color:

July and August; scarlet red, mauve, pink, and purple.


Harvest both foliage and flowers in late summer when the plants are in full bloom. Dry as soon as possible by removing flower petals and spreading them in a dry, shady place. Store in airtight containers. Fresh leaves may be finely chopped and frozen in ice cube trays. Flowers can be covered with water and frozen whole in ice cube trays.

Herbal uses Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, decorative, and medicinal:

Dried leaves and flowers are used to scent sachets and potpourris. Bergamot also is used in lotions and baths. The leaves are used for tea and the flowers for salads or with fruit. With its long-lasting flowers, the plant itself is decorative. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.

Garden notes:

The plants attract butterflies, and the deep purple variety was especially popular with visitors to our garden. Support may be needed if the plants become top-heavy.

Properties of bergamot

The properties of bergamot are beneficial to many ailments and compounds and potions have the following properties:

* anti-depressant

* antiseptic

* carminative

* deodorant

* digestive

* expectorant

* insecticide

* sedative

* tonic

The natural source of the antiseptic Thymol mentioned above is the main active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas.

Finally, the bergamot herb plant can be grown successfully throughout Europe and Asia. It is great as an ornamental plant and grows best in full sun and will enjoy any soil that moist and well drained.

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