Wild bergamot offers a variety of benefits such as soil stabilization, fragrant flowers, and food source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Drought tolerant.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Monarda fistulosa is a sturdy perennial wildflower that expands to form upright clumps. This beebalm bears deep green aromatic leaves on strong square stems. In summer, plants are topped by showy rounded clusters of fragrant lavender tubular flowers. Pollinators flock to the blooms in sunny prairie-like settings or in gardens with average well drained soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Monarda fistulosa occurs through most of North America. Plants are absent from a few Canadian provinces and from Florida and California.
This species is indigenous to Blackland prairies, savannas, margins of woods, sandy
Black Oak woodlands, edges of limestone glades, thickets, roadsides, fence rows, clearcuts and abandoned fields. Plants occur in high quality prairies type habitats but the durable rhizomes can also survive in disturbed sites.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Monarda fistulosa is an upright perennial that expands into colonies from shallow vigorous rhizomes.
Stems are smooth, green and square. They branch frequently in the upper half. The aromatic leaves are arranged opposite from each other on short petioles along the stems.
Leaf blades are deep green and lanceolate to ovate. They are 4” long and 2” wide with toothed edges and pointed tips.
The stems terminate in rounded 2-3” flower clusters. The flowers are tubular, fragrant and about 1” long. Each corolla tube is actually a ring of united petals with a soft pink or lavender color. The tubes are pubescent with lobes toward the tip and exserted stamens.
The flowers are born in a ring on dense head-like cymes. The lobes and stamens of individual flowers give the flower clusters a ragged appearance.
Blooming lasts for about 6 weeks and is followed by ovoid nutlets that are nestled into brown button-like cymes.
Plants grow 2-4’ tall with 3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Monarda fistulosa thrives in full sun and moist fertile soil. Plants tolerate part sun, clay, alkaline pH, heat and drought.
Plants bloom more vigorously if they are divided in spring or fall every 3-4 years.
This species is prone to powdery mildew especially during rainy weather.
Irrigation during drought and pruning to thin dense growth helps to enhance the resistance.
The aromatic foliage is unpalatable to deer, rabbits and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Cut Flower Garden, or Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Monarda fistulosa has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Monarda fistulosa with Coreopsis tripteris, Rudbeckia hirta, Liatris spicata, Schizachyrium scoparium and Andropogon gerardii.
Monarda bradburiana has similar appearance and culture and could be substituted in some situations.
TRIVIA: Long tongued bees, butterflies, skippers, hummingbird moths and hummingbirds sip nectar from the flowers. Caterpillars of several moth species feed on the foliage. The aromatic leaves and stems are unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
This species is called Wild Bergamot due to the similarity of its fragrance to the fruit of Citrus bergamia, the Bergamot Orange.
Monarda fistulosa contains thymol which is also prevalent in oil of thyme. The plant was used medicinally because of thymol’s aromatic and antiseptic properties.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MOFI