Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa)

The Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa) is generally described as a perennial subshrub or forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring . The Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa) has gray-green foliage and inconspicuous red flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa) will reach up to 4.9 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Wild Bergamot (Fistulosa) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -32°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

General Characteristics

General: Mint Family (Lamiaceae). This aromatic herbaceous perennial is 5 to 12 dm. high and has branched, hairy stems and spreads by seeds and rhizomes. The opposite leaves are distinctly petioled and deltoid-lanceolate to lanceolate and slightly toothed. Wild bergamot has square stems with gray-green foliage. The flowers bloom from June to September. They are solitary and terminal on the flowering branches and the two stamens surpass the upper lip. The flowers are tubular, 13-15 nerved, with lobes much shorter than the tube. The corolla is lavender and strongly bilabiate. The upper lip is narrow, entire, and softly pubescent while the lower lip is broader.

Required Growing Conditions

This plant is found in upland woods, thickets, and prairies from Quebec to Manitoba and British Columbia south to Georgia, Louisiana, and Arizona. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Cultivation and Care

General: When the seeds are ripe, cut off the seed heads and spread them over a clean, dry surface indoors to air-dry for several days. Then place some of the seed heads in a paper bag and shake. Many of the seeds will fall into the bag. Repeat the process with the remaining heads. Next run the seeds and associated chaff through a sieve. Store the seeds in a dry sealed and labeled container or ziploc bag with wet sand or peat moss in the refrigerator that is kept under 40 degrees F for three months.

Propagation by seeds: Sow seeds in flats during January and stored in a greenhouse are expected to germinate in one to two weeks. The soil mix can be one-third sand and two-thirds commercial plug mix. Apply a starter fertilizer solution for the seedlings. Water flats when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Keep the seedlings in the flats for 6-7 weeks, and then transplant them to 3-inch pots. Continue to water seedlings when the surface is dry to the touch. Pinch off the tops of the plants several times during the growing season to encourage branching and bushier grow habit. Apply a weekly application of an all-purpose fertilizer for the transplants. When the roots fill the container (about 2 months) they are ready for outplanting in the garden.

Plant seedlings in a sunny, weed-free well-drained soil, one and one-half to two feet apart. Water, until rains come.

Seeds can also be broadcast on a weed-free surface from January to mid-May in sunny locations. Once the seeds germinate seedlings should be watered during extended dry period. During the first summer of full growth mow the area 3 to 5 times to keep the plants between 8 and 4 inches tall. Mowing also reduces weeds.

Propagation by cuttings: Take stem tip cuttings, 3-4 inches long, any time from May to August. Remove the lower leaves and all flower or seed heads and insert the stems into a sand and perlite-rooting medium. Bury each cutting up to the first node. Place the cuttings in an enclosed area and mist them several times a day. In 4 to 5 weeks the cuttings should be well rooted and can be transplanted to pots. Then outplant the plants in the garden in the early autumn.

General Upkeep and Control

Once established wild bergamot still benefits from extra watering during dry summers. Continue mowing the area, once a year, after the hardest killing frosts or the following spring. This keeps woody plants from encroaching and removes plants that have died back. Since the plant spreads by rhizomes, it can get aggressive. The plant can be kept from spreading by divisions. Division of large plants every 2 to 3 years also keeps them healthy. Mature clumps can be divided in March before they send up stems. Dig up a portion of the clump and divide it into sections. Replant and water the divisions promptly. Continue to add leaf mold and compost to your soil, as the plant's shallow root systems spread easily through light soil.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Subshrub, Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 4.9
Vegetative Spread Slow
Flower Color Red
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -32
Soil Depth for Roots 4
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–8 pH
Precipitation Range 20–20 inches/yr
Planting Density 2728–10912 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 4
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA