Bergamot tree, planting and care

Bergamot tree

The bergamot orange tree is a citrus that produces bergamot fruit.

Basic Bergamot tree facts

Name – Citrus bergamia
Family – Rutaceae (Rue family)
Type – fruit tree

Height –
10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters)
Exposure – full sun

Soil: well-drained    Foliage: evergreen    Flowering: late fall→mid-winter

Bergamot is a type of sour orange that is added to many perfumes and delicious infusions, herbal teas, and such.

Planting a bergamot orange tree

The planting of the bergamot orange tree is an important step that influences its further development, bergamot production, and the lifespan of your bergamot tree.

Bergamot tree planted directly in the ground

Planting bergamot citrusThe bergamot tree is one of the least hardy citrus and can only be planted outdoors in regions with very mild winter climate.

  • Plant preferably in spring.
  • Choose a sheltered spot well-endowed with sunlight to support its growth and produce nice bergamot oranges.
  • The bergamot tree loves slightly acidic soil, not chalky at all. Adding heath soil upon planting is an advantage.

Potted bergamot orange

  • Bergamot tree containerGrowing bergamot trees in pots is best, just as for all citrus, if ever it freezes in your area.
  • You will need to bring it indoors in a greenhouse or lean-in, unheated, from October to May.
    Repot upon purchasing and then every 2 or 3 years in spring, with a blend of one part heath soil and three parts citrus soil mix.

Pruning and caring for bergamot orange trees

Pruning isn’t really needed but certain good practices should help increase the harvest and growth of the bergamot orange tree.

After the harvest, shorten each new shoot back to more or less half its length, taking great care to cut just above a leaf.

Remove dead wood regularly and clear the inside branches to let light penetrate to the center.

  • This will result in your bergamot orange tree keeping a nice, tight shape.

Watering bergamot

In pots, water as soon as the soil is dry, without flooding the pot. During the growth phase, regularly add citrus-specific organic fertilizer.

Avoid all heat sources such as nearby radiators, because this could dry your tree out.

If your tree is growing outside in the ground, water only in case of prolonged dry spells or heat waves.

Diseases that are commonly found on bergamot orange trees

Just like many citrus plants, the bergamot orange and its tree are vulnerable to certain parasites such as scale insects and aphids, but also to a fungus called European brown rot which results in fruits rotting.

  • Scale insects – whitish masses colonize bergamot tree leaves
  • Aphids – bergamot tree leaves curl up and fall off
  • European brown rot – bergamot oranges rot while still on the bergamot tree

All there is to know about bergamot oranges

Bergamot benefitsBergamot oranges are much more famous for their role in perfume-making, herbal teas and infusions than they are for their taste as fruits.

Bergamot oranges are mostly grown in Italy, more precisely in the region of Calabre, where about 95% of the world’s production is grown.

There are 4 cultivars – Fantastico, Castagnaro, Calabrese and Femminello.

Bergamot essential oil

The fruit is harvested for the fragrant bergamot oil that is found in its rind. It is used for dietary purposes and for perfume-making.

It also is one of the compounds that form Cologne as well as other perfumes, but it also is an ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes like tajine.

Health benefits of Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot essential oil has stomach stimulating, antiseptic, antispasmodic and deworming properties. It is recommended in case of intestinal colics, intestinal parasites, difficult digestion or inappetence.

Bergamot essential oils contain bergapten, which was previously much used in suncream to speed tanning. However, bergapten was revealed to have carcinogenic side-effects, and is now removed from products before being made available to the public, following current legislation.

Smart tip about bergamot

Actually, in Europe and parts of the world other than Italy, the name bergamot is often given to another of the countless citrus hybrids: Citrus limetta. This variety is actually a type of sweet lemon, so called because although its lineage can be traced to mostly include lemons and citron ancestry, its taste is much sweeter and not acidic.

To sum it up, true bergamot boasts strong, intense flavor and its flesh is somewhat greenish. It is the one with the strongest medicinal value. Citrus limetta, on the other hand, is sweeter, blander and has yellowish flesh. The roughness of the skin and the outer skin color may vary also among sub-varieties, so it’s a bit tricky to rely on that exclusively.

Images: 123RF: Weerawat Trinerachanon, CC BY 2.0: John Loo; Pixabay: Rajesh Balouria, Hartono Subagio