At home at the tip of Italy’s boot, a citrus fruit found its way to Central Europe, which without exaggeration can be described as a miracle of fragrance and blossom. Refined into decorative little trees, the bergamot adorns the balcony and patio as a container plant with pure white blossoms and deep green shimmering leaves in spring and summer. In the heated conservatory or bright living room, the evergreen Citrus bergamia fills the winter ambience with Mediterranean charm and a beguiling bouquet. If you follow the practical care instructions, hobby gardeners will secure the best prospects for a rich harvest of the southern citrus fruits from November to March.


  • Plant family of the rue family (Rutaceae).
  • Genus of citrus plants (Citrus).
  • Scientific name of the species: Citrus bergamia.
  • Native to southern Italy.
  • Growth height in grafted culture up to 250 cm.
  • Evergreen foliage is rich in essential oils.
  • White flowers in spring exude an intense fragrance.
  • Small yellow fruits with green flesh in winter.
  • Grafted trees are mostly unarmed.
  • Common name: men’s pear

Among hobby gardeners, the bergamot is more of a distinctive ornamental plant than a fruit plant. The yellow to orange-colored citrus fruits are certainly suitable for consumption, but they taste quite sour to bitter. With more than 350 different flavorings, Citrus bergamia have firmly established themselves in the perfume and food industry. ‘Cologne’ can’t do without the essence, just like ‘Earl Grey’ tea, the famous bergamot jam and numerous soft drinks.


The non-hardy ornamental tree is preferably cultivated as a container plant, since in this form the annual move to the winter quarters is completely uncomplicated. This goes hand in hand with the advantage of being able to choose the location flexibly so that the bergamot feels as at home as possible.

  • Sunny, warm, sheltered position.
  • The bergamot does not tolerate the blazing midday sun well.
  • Place as bright as possible indoors.

Staying in the living room should be limited to the cold season if possible. The Citrus bergamia can only soak up enough sun outdoors to keep its pretty, round crown. Placed by the window all year round, the harmonious silhouette is inevitably lost because the light output is not evenly distributed over all areas of the ornamental tree.


Citrus bergamia need well-drained, high-quality soil, as they usually spend several years in the same pot. Commercial potting soil with a high proportion of compost and peat is completely unsuitable for citrus plants, even if the label says so. A look at the detailed composition of the substrate should reveal the following components:

  • At least 30% stony components such as expanded clay, grit or coarse sand.
  • In addition, each 30% nutrient-rich soil and fine bark humus (no mulch).
  • The addition of 10% styrofoam flakes is advantageous for even more permeability.
  • A pH value of 5.5 to 6.0 is ideal, i.e. in the upper acidic range.

Given the requirements for the potting soil for bergamot, hobby gardeners decide to mix the substrate themselves if they have the appropriate resources. In this way, they prevent the stress of premature repotting that slow-growing citrus trees are subjected to when the soil is prematurely depleted.

Tip: If you are critical of the use of polystyrene flakes for ecological reasons and do not want to work with peat, use coconut hum for a loose substrate.


Like all citrus plants, bergamot also needs plenty of moisture during the growing season. In the course of warm summer periods, it is quite normal to water every day.

  • Water the bergamot sufficiently as soon as the substrate surface dries.
  • Preferably use rainwater or stagnant tap water.
  • Do not water over the flowers and leaves, but directly on the root ball.

The denser the crown has grown, the less rainwater penetrates through. As a result, experienced gardeners do not rely on the natural rainfall, but rather water according to the thumb test. On hot summer days, a little water can stay in the saucer for a short time. Otherwise, excess irrigation water should be poured out after a while so that no harmful waterlogging develops.


In order to produce the enchanting flowers, the glossy foliage and the rich fruits, the bergamot depends on a regular supply of nutrients.

  • Fertilize weekly from March to October.
  • Special citrus fertilizer from specialist shops is ideal.
  • Never apply liquid fertilizer to dried substrate.

In terms of composition, a preparation is recommended which has at least an NPK concentration of 10% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus and 7% potassium. On the other hand, an NPK fertilizer with the values ​​20+4+14 plus other trace elements such as magnesium is better. Exclusive use of organic fertilizers usually does not meet the high nutrient requirements of a Citrus bergamia. Of course, there is nothing wrong with spraying the leaves with algae juice every 3 to 4 weeks as a supportive measure. This strengthens the immune system and promotes the rich green color of the foliage.

Note: Purchased citrus plant soil is usually pre-fertilized so intensively that the addition of additional nutrients only begins a year after potting.


The bergamot does not necessarily have to be repotted every year, because it grows very slowly. The decisive factor is the degree of rooting in the tub: if the soil is completely covered with a tight network of fine roots, it is advisable to transplant the Citrus bergamia.

  • The best time is before the new shoots in March/April.
  • The new planter is approx. 2-5 cm larger than the previous one.
  • Drainage above the water drain hole prevents waterlogging.
  • An air- and water-permeable fleece is spread over this.

If a hobby gardener discovers the extent of the rooting later, it is possible to carry out the measure up to and including July without any disadvantages for the citrus tree. After that, the measure is postponed until next spring, because otherwise the fresh soil remains rootless for far too long and gradually compacts, which can cause damage to the roots.

Tip: The lighter the color of the bucket, the lower the risk that the sun will heat up the root area in summer and that the roots will limit their activity or even stop it altogether.


As the outdoor season draws to a close, the time is approaching for Citrus bergamia to move to winter quarters. If the night-time temperatures hover around 5° Celsius, it will be too cold outside.

  • The winter quarters are bright, with a maximum of 15° Celsius.
  • The cooler the room, the lower the light requirement.
  • Water less without the root ball drying out.

Fertilize as long as growth is visible. Depending on the location of the tub, it may be necessary to continue applying fertilizer well into November or beyond.
Incidentally, leaf shedding during the winter is not a cause for concern. In a dark location, this process is perfectly normal. If you take all other care components into account, the citrus plant will sprout again next spring.

To cut

One of the central care aspects is a regular shape and thinning cut. Since the bergamot is exceptionally tolerant of pruning, it does not mind a pruning into old wood.

  • Shoots that grow out of shape can be trimmed at any time.
  • Apply disinfected scissors just above an outward facing eye.
  • In late winter, thin out the dead wood, stunted branches and those growing inwards.

An extensive crown correction ideally takes place towards the end of the hibernation, when the bergamot is not yet fully in the juice and has not been harvested. Larger cuts are sealed with charcoal ash. Grafted Citrus bergamia tend to shoot water shoots out of the wild rootstock. Since these branches use up water and nutrients unnecessarily, they are immediately removed. To do this, the root area is exposed and each Wildling is torn off with a jerk. Otherwise the shoot of water will sprout again from the tiniest remnant of the trunk.

diseases and pests

Provided the pear is cultivated as recommended in the care instructions, it has excellent natural defences. Only when it is repeatedly stressed do diseases and pests strike. In summer there is a threat of spider mites and aphids, which are replaced by scale insects in winter. Hobby gardeners who cannot bring themselves to use chemical preparations to combat them can use an effective home remedy. To do this, mix 1 tablespoon of pure curd soap, 1 tablespoon of spirit and 1 liter of water. This soft soap solution is used for several days in a row and at least keeps the infestation under control.


Propagating citrus plants is not exclusively the job of experts. With a little patience and species-appropriate care, hobby gardeners can also manage such a project. In contrast to professional tree nurseries, which use grafting, the propagation of cuttings is ideal in the private sector.

head cuttings

  • Take 10 cm to 15 cm long cuttings in March or April.
  • Remove all foliage except for the top pair of leaves.
  • Plant individually in small pots filled with potting soil.
  • Keep constantly moist in a bright, warm place at 22° to 25° Celsius.

After about 6 weeks, rooting begins, which can be seen from the above-ground shoots. In the weeks and months that follow, the young Citrus bergamia are gradually transplanted into larger pots as soon as the previous container has rooted through. In this phase, the application of fertilizer begins, initially in a diluted concentration. By regularly removing the side shoots and pruning, the growth habit of the plant is steered in the desired direction at an early stage.


In principle, propagation by sowing is also conceivable, with the seeds being dried and sown. A disadvantage, however, is that it takes at least 3 years for a sizeable tree to develop. In addition, this wildling will not flower and therefore will not bear fruit. Anyone striving for this goal is again faced with the problem of carrying out the complicated refinement on an adequate game rootstock.

The bergamot is rightly one of the citrus favorites among hobby gardeners. Immigrated from southern Europe, the ornamental tree exudes a bewitching scent on the balcony or in the room all year round. To ensure that it stays that way and that white flowers and lemon-yellow fruits appear after 3 to 4 years, you should heed the various aspects of these care instructions. The Citrus bergamia is not very demanding; however, their cultivation differs from conventional plants in a number of respects. This includes the composition of the substrate, the nutrient and water balance and overwintering.

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