Bergamot (Bee Balm, Monarda didyma) is a native perennial plant of North America, formerly used as a tea drunk by the Oswego Indians. Bergamot was supposed to have antidepressant qualities and an infusion was used to treat colds.
The plant is a good addition to any container or herbaceous border for it is attractive with deep red flowers that act as a focal point in any color scheme although it can be invasive and, if grown in a container, is best confined within a pot plunged in the soil.
Bergamot has a dark green, pointed leaves – some varieties have reddish veined leaves. Bergamot required a fertile, moisture retentive soil and morning sun or partial shade for successful growth.
How to plant? Start with purchased plants, set out in spring. 30 cm each way is a good spacing for an initial planting of 3 plants. Bergamot is a slight spreader, but not invasive like mint. Over time, a happy plant will form a mound 120 cm high and wide.
The flowers are much used in pot pourris for they are heavily scented with a strong citrus scent and their color is striking. As the name implies they are very attractive to bees.
The plant grows approximately four feet high and almost as wide, making it a nice ornamental border plant. It has hairy stems, a fuzzy pom-pom center surrounded by scarlet-purple petals and a minty fragrance. Other bergamot species such as lemon or orange bergamot have a citrus fragrance. Harvest stems to dry for tea in early summer, before the plants bloom. The plants will regrow after cutting, then bloom.