A citrus species mainly grown in the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the city, and sought for the scent of its fruits : Earl Gray tea and the Eau de Cologne!
Common name : Bergamot orange
Scientific name : Citrus bergamia
Family : Rutaceae
Category : Fruit plants
Type of plant : Perennial
Citrus bergamia - the bergamot orange - is a fragrant citrus fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow or green color similar to a lime.
Just as most of its cousins, it is not hardy below -5°C, so best kept in a greenhouse for the winter.
Sowing & planting
100 - 400
6.4 - 6.8
Identify my bergamot orange
Citrus bergamia is a species of small tree in the Rutaceae family cultivated in Mediterranean regions for its fruit.
It is an evergreen tree with spear-shaped oblong leaves. In order to keep it in temperate regions, in winter, it must be brought into a cold greenhouse where the temperature is about 8 to 12°C! Our heated homes aren't the best for it.
Plant my bergamot orange
Plant your bergamot orange tree in a pot, except in a really mild climate.
Choose a large container, preferably made of terracotta with a hole at the bottom to ensure water drainage. Place a thick layer (about 20% of the pot's volume) of gravel or clay pebbles at the bottom of the pot. Make a mixture of good manure, potting soil, compost, and medium grained river sand. Spread a layer of this mixture at the bottom of the post and place your bergamot orange so that the end of the stem slightly exceeds the pot's top as it should never be buried. Fill the empty space with the mixture and tamp it around the plant. Water generously to eliminate any possible air bubbles in the soil. Add more mixture on top if necessary.
In open soil, plant the bergamot orange in direct sunlight, sheltered from wind, ideally next to a wall, in light slightly acidic well drained soil.
However, never try to cultivate the plant inside an apartment. It cannot handle the heat.
Water my bergamot orange
Did you know this? The bergamot orange, like most member of the citrus species, has a way to tell you that it's thirsty.
Leaves pointed upward signify that it doesn't have enough water. On the other hand, leaves pointed downward means that there's an excess of water!
That said, during good weather, an outside potted bergamot orange is subject to a high level of evaporation: it therefore must be watered very regularly during this season for optimal growth. The mixture should never completely dry between two watering in summer, but water should never stagnate in the container.
In winter, water even more steadily as long as the tree is bearing fruit — after, you can reduce to just once a month, leaving the substrate slightly dry between two waterings.
Repot my bergamot orange
A potted bergamot orange needs regular provisions to stay in shape!
Repot in spring about every 2 to 3 years by changing the substrate as much as possible to a potting soil specially for citrus fruit or planting. Ensure that the bottom of the pot has a hole - add some gravel to the bottom for drainage.
Shelter my bergamot orange
Starting in autumn, bring in the pots.
Have your potted bergamot orange spend winter in a bright frost-free spot: the ideal temperature is between 8 and 12°C - definitely not in your living room or else resign yourself to living in these temperatures.
During winter, keep watering your tree as long as it is still bearing fruit, then you can space out the watering, letting the substrate dry slightly between them.
Put outside my bergamot orange
Take your potted bergamot orange back outside starting in May. Find it a nice spot in direct sunlight but sheltered from wind, which dries out its leaves.
Protect my bergamot orange
If your bergamot orange is planted in open soil, but you fear a possible frost, don't hesitate to cover its base with a good layer of dead leaves for the harshest weeks.
Also wrap the stem in a thick mat (woven bulrush, cane, rye or rice straw...), held by ties. You can also cover the foliage with a wintering cover.
Fertilize my bergamot orange
The bergamot orange's love of water accelerates soil leaching: therefore, it really must be fertilized — especially for potted bergamot oranges!
For a plentiful harvest, regularly provide a fertilizer rich in nitrogen and lye — you can find fertilizers appropriate for citrus fruit in stores or try with a compost. In winter, reduce the provisions to once a month. In spring, start back up with a frequency of once every two weeks.
Prune my bergamot orange
Trim your bergamot orange to encourage more offshoots for a more compact and less spread out habit.
For the first years, cut each new stem once the growth is finished — the new leaves will be darker and tougher — leaving it at a length of 20 cm.
The bergamot orange is pruned once a month from May to September until the plant has taken its shape. Thereafter, only one pruning per year is necessary at the end of winter. Remove dead or diseased branches as well as those that overlap to open up the plant and let light in.
Check on my bergamot orange
Watch over your bergamot orange in winter: if the leaves darken, it's a cold spell, and if they lighten, it's a lack of fertilizer!
The bergamot orange can also have other troubles:
Aphids are seen with the naked eye under the leaves near the veins. Spray the leaves with soapy water or a mixture of water and olive oil which will additionally nourish your plant.
Scale insects enclose themselves in a brown shell or under a white coating on the back of the leaf against the main vein and excretes honeydew which will attract fungi.
Is the tree's foliage faded? Its green is becoming a silver gray? Small spider webs are forming at the ends of the leaves? Your bergamot orange has been attacked by red spiders.
Between the scale insects and red spiders, you can moisten the foliage as a precaution several times a week with soften and unbleached water.
Mulch my bergamot orange
The bergamot orange love well drained cool soil. Their roots are mostly superficial, and they don't like the presence of weeds or other plants that compete with them. Mulch to avoid having to weed and to keep the roots cool! Pine needles are perfect for this.
Reap my bergamot orange
The harvest takes place from November to March. Thus, the fruits often ripen inside. Keep the ground slightly damp until you pick the last fruit.