Bergamot is a spreading, clump-forming herbaceous perennial with the square stems and opposite leaves characteristic of herbs in the mint family. The whole plant is strongly impregnated with a delightful fragrance, even after the darkly-colored leaves have died away, the surface rootlets give off the pleasant smell by which the plant has earned its common name Bergamot, it being reminiscent of the aroma of the Bergamot Orange.
It grows to 0.7-1.5 m in height and has ragged, bright red tubular flowers 3-4 cm long, borne on showy heads, with reddish bracts. It grows in dense clusters along stream banks, thickets and ditches, flowering from July to late August. Several cultivars have been selected for different flower color, ranging from white through pink to dark red and purple. You can stimulate a second flowering in the same year by cutting the flowers right after they bloom. In the fall, prune the plants to within 2.5 cm of the ground.
Bergamot can become invasive in time, but you can keep the clump contained by dividing the roots in spring before new growth begins. The plant should be divided every 3 or 4 years to keep it tidy, else the plant will become bare in the center and look messy. Dig up the root clump in the early spring, discard old growth and woody stems and replant the new divisions 30-40 cm apart.
Propagation can be done when you divide the plant in spring by placing the divisions in other parts of your garden or by stem tip cuttings of new growth that can be take in the spring. The cuttings will quickly root and establish themselves. You can also try to propagate Bergamot by sowing seeds indoors in autumn or spring and then set the plants out in late spring.
The leaves of the plant have been used traditionally to make a strongly mint flavored tea but they can also be added fresh, in small quantities, to salad, fruit salads, desserts and drinks. They also improve the flavor of pork dishes. The leaves and flowers are good ingredients to add color and flavor to potpourri. It also is a long-lasting cut flower. For using fresh or drying for storing you have to pick leaves in spring or just before flowering occurs in summer. Gather flowers in summer for drying.