Monarda fistulosa, also known as Bergamot is famed for its medicinal qualities. While in the perennial border these lovely plants produce a mass of mauve-purple blooms (even in their first year from an early sowing) and have uniquely scented foliage.
Famous for its fragrance, its perfume fills the air of July and August as incense fills an oriental palace.
Bees and butterflies are especially attracted to the vibrant flowers and nectar of this pretty plant. Excellent as a bedding plant or in the butterfly garden it also performs well in the allotment where it works wonders attracting beneficial insects, and bees of course.
Monarda does best in full sun to partial shade. It can tolerate a wide variety of conditions from wet to dry, will perform in poor dry soils and be luxuriant in good soils. The species has the added advantage of having good resistance to mildew.
Sowing: Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn.
Monarda is easily grown from seed. They can be started early in pots or sown directly where they are to flower once all danger of frost is passed.
Surface sow at 1.5mm (1/16in) deep in pots or trays containing good seed compost. “Just cover” the seed. Make sure the compost is kept moist but not wet and seal inside a polythene bag until germination which usually takes 10-24 days at around 20°C (68°F). Once seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant to 7cm (3in) pots. Harden off before planting into their final positions in early summer. Space 30cm (12in).
Plant 1/8in deep in good quality compost. Germination takes 10 to 30 days. Thin out when large enough to handle, so that they are finally 30cm (12in) apart. Provide additional water if necessary until the plants reach 30cm (10in)
Resist the temptation to crowd plants too closely--they will spread of their own accord soon enough. Clumps should be divided every three years to remove excess woody growth which will over time retard good growth.
If you wish to collect seeds or leave to self sow, allow the seeds to mature completely before cutting. (the spherical heads become dry and brown)
Use young leaves for flavouring for meats. The petals are edible in salads.
A tea from the spicy leaves of this plant is known as Oswega Tea and used to improve digestion. Both leaves and blooms contain thymol-related antibiotic-antiseptic compounds.
When crushed, the leaves can make an effective insect repellent
In the allotment plant Monarda with tomatoes to improve both growth and flavour. It is great for attracting beneficial insects and bees.
Borders, Informal / Cottage garden, Herb garden, Prairie planting, Short grass meadow, Bee and Butterfly garden.
Table cuttings, Dried flower arrangements and to perfume pot-pourri.
Native to the USA, Monarda fistulosa can be found from New England to Colorado and Texas. It occurs in dry soil.
Native to Midwest America, this genus takes its name after Nicolás Bautista Monardes (1493-1588) a physician and botanist from Seville in Spain. Monardes wrote extensively in the 16th century about New World medicinal plants and is considered one of the founders of experimental pharmacology.
Monardes wrote the first account of many of the new plants discovered in America at the time. Although he never visited the New World himself, Monardes established a botanical garden in Seville where he cultivated specimens and studied the effects of medicinal plants imported from the Americas. He published his 'Two books...about the Drugs from the West Indies used in Medicine' in 1565, and it included the first illustrations of coca, tobacco and sunflowers, as well as many other plants. It is known that Monardes also believed that tobacco smoke was an infallible cure for everything.
The specific name fistulosa derives from the Latin word fistulosa meaning 'pipe' or 'tube'. It refers to the tube or pipelike corolla of the flower.
Monarda species have a number of common names. Its most popular being 'Bee Balm', as the flowers are highly attractive to bees.
The common name 'Oswego Tea' was named by early explorer John Bartram who found settlers near Oswego, New York using its leaves for tea.
Although it is often referred to as 'Bergamot', it is not he source of Bergamot used in Earl Grey tea. The name was inspired by the fragrance of the leaves, which is reminiscent of bergamot orange, Citrus bergamia.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 75mg Average Seed Count 200 Seeds Family Lamiaceae Genus Monarda Species fistulosa Synonym Bergamot Common Name Bee Balm, Oswego Tea, Horsemint Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Pink- lavender Natural Flower Time July to September Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) Position Full sun or partial shade Soil Moist to dry sandy soil. Time to Sow Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn. Notes Herb and Companion Plant