Content Detail

Wild bergamot has oregano-scented foliage and beautiful purplish-pink flowers that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. This is a sturdy midsummer to early fall perennial that works well in a butterfly garden, pollinator garden, native garden, rain garden, or naturalized area with moist, well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Mint
  • Family (botanic) Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, Purple
  • Shape or form Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Wild bergamot is usually between 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Plants form colonies by sending out underground stem structures (rhizomes) that produce offsets. Wild bergamot also spreads by self-seeding.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

The native range of wild bergamot includes the entire United States with the exceptions of Florida and California. C Value: 4.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Wild bergamot attracts hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, butterflies, moth and butterfly caterpillars, skippers, long-tongued bees, halictid bees, bee flies, and wasps.

Leaf description:

Wild bergamot has leaves that are primarily ovate in shape and taper to a point at the tips (acute apices). The upper leaves can be longer and narrower (lanceolate). They are typically around 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. The upper leaves may be slightly reddish or yellow, but the leaves will mostly be light to dark green. The edges of the leaves are serrated. They occur in pairs (opposite arrangement) along the stem with each pair occurring at a right angle to the pairs above and below (decussate). The leaves are covered in short, fine hairs on both sides. They smell strongly of oregano. 

Flower description:

Wild bergamot flowers are condensed into showy, pinkish-lavender flowerheads (cymes) that are approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The individual flowers are composed of a two-lipped (bilabiate) petal-like structure (corolla) that has a tubular upper lip and a lower lip that curves slightly downward with wavy edges and typically two teeth. Within the cymes, the individual flowers occur in whorls. The flower’s reproductive structures protrude slightly from the tubular upper lip. The flowers mature from the center outwards. Surrounding the bases of the corollas are tiny, light green, leaf-like tubes (calyxes) with five light green to purple teeth around the tip. Under the calyxes, surrounding the bases of the flowerheads, are larger, grayish-green, leaf-like bracts.

Fruit description:

After the corollas of the wild bergamot flowers have fallen, the calyxes persist and will contain the developing fruit. Each calyx will have a tiny, dry fruit that splits into four segments (schizocarp). Each of the four segments are often referred to as nutlets. The nutlets are brown and ovoid in shape.

Plant Care:

Wild bergamot spreads abundantly. In dry conditions, some of the lower leaves may drop from the plant. Planting in full sunlight conditions, avoiding overhead watering, and pruning to increase air flow can help reduce issues with powdery mildew.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

The foliage of wild bergamot is susceptible to issues with powdery mildew, but resistant varieties are available. Wild bergamot is deer and rabbit-resistant.


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