Monarda: A Jewel In Every Border

An ideal garden plant. Everything about it is pretty; the brightly coloured typical flowers, the bracts and the strongly aromatic foliage. Moreover, even in winter this plant is an eye catcher with its sturdy stalks.

Fabulously fragrant foliage

The Monarda, or Bergamot plant is a favourite with many. It belongs to one of the main garden plant families and can hardly be ignored when you select your perennials. Everything about this plant is beautiful; it has sturdy straight stalks, very specific flowers that grow in ball-shaped clusters, striking colours and wonderful bracts.
The Monarda is very popular with bees too. Do not be too hasty with cutting back the dead flower heads, as these stay highly decorative, well into the winter. All this makes this a plant well worth having.

New cultivars

Still, this plant has been slightly less popular for a while, as in the older varieties mildew was quite a common problem. Once infected, the plants lost their foliage and their good looks. Seven years ago this was the reason for some growers to create new varieties that were not so prone to this disease. It took them 4 years to sow, select and market their new Monardas.

Indian plant

As the plant was sometimes referred to is a name that came from the fact that the plant comes from America where the native Indians had great respect for the plant. In the area now known as New York, the Oswego Indians used the leaves of the Monarda 'didyma' for brewing tea. The colonists later took over this tradition. The Monarda 'fistulosa' was used for mint tea and as a cure for respiratory problems. The fragrant foliage of the Bergamot plant is still used as flavouring for Earl Grey tea.

Rich, long lasting flowers

The Bergamot plant is highly suitable for the summer border and make excellent cut flowers, but it is also very well suited to a more natural styled garden. Their height can vary from 70 cm to about 180 cm. They flower abundantly in July and August in white, violet, lilac, pink, red or purple. The flowers are made up of a round bundle of tiny bell shaped flowers. The bracts underneath these flowers really give this plant its specific beauty.


You can rejuvenate the plant by taking it up every few years and removing the old centre. The younger, outer parts can be re-planted. Taking the plant up should not cause too many problems as the Monarda does not root very deeply. The bergamot plant is hardy, grows in full sun as well as in half shade and can be planted almost all year round, but not after September. It needs a well-drained, humous soil. In a heavy clay soil it will perish. It is a very strong plant that is happy as long as it does not get too thirsty.

Mixing colours

Try mixing the Monarda with other colours in your border. The mixed 'Fantasy' Monardas vary from white and pink to deep red and purple. The look nice in combination with Achillea, Agastache, Lavatera, Lobelia, Nepeta (catmint), Origanum (marjoram), Salvia (sage), Sidalcea, Thatictrum (meadow rue) and Veronica (speedwell).