Mountain Mint

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We were seeking a native perennial for the Lawn/Meadow that was about three feet tall and a robust grower.

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It had to be able to live and thrive amongst the tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass that was originally the only spot of lawn grass on our property before being turned into a meadow type planting that was cut low but once yearly. Click here for the history of this space.

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Speaking about finding such a plant with my friend Ruth of Mouse Creek Nursery, she suggested mountain mint.

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She had none for sale since it can be a bit of a thug in some situations, she said. She had been yanking it out of her loamy garden beds so it did not completely take over. She offered me some of those castoffs and they were happily accepted. Thugs are welcome in the Fairegarden, being just what we need for the difficult growing conditions on our steeply sloping garden, it has been found.

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It was late in the season so I decided to take cuttings of the best pieces and grow them in the greenhouse over the winter. The healthy plants were set out the following spring of 2012, just behind the row of lilies in the two beds in the Lawn/Meadow. Though small, they managed to live through the first year in the ground and in their second year have decided to bloom.

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The hairy leaves, leading me to believe this is hairy mountain mint, Pycnanthemum pilosum, read as white from a distance. Added: Astute reader Sue of A Corner Garden suggests that this is actually short toothed mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum. I believe she is correct. That is the perfect touch to brighten the mostly green coloration of summer for this area in addition to the red of Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ that was added last summer and the purple flowers of Verbena bonariensis. Click here to read that story about shopping for plants in your own garden, if you so desire.

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Mountain mint attracts many insects to its flowers, including various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies and beetles. The leaves are very fragrant, when crushed they have a strong minty odor. Tea may be brewed from the leaves. The flowers of mountain mint can be white to shades of light purple, some with purple spots. Our plants have the purple spots. Mountain mint has proven to be a perfect addition to the Lawn/Meadow. The mint fragrance is a bonus as I browse the mown paths of this part of the yard and brush the Pycnanthemum muticum.

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Some Plant Facts:

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun and moist to slightly dry conditions. Will tolerate drought once established. Growth is best in fertile loamy soil; it also flourishes in rocky soil.
Common Name: Short toothed mountain mint
Bloom Time: Mid to late Summer, July, August
Bloom Color: White to light purple, some with purple spots
Max Height: 12 inches to 3 feet
Botanical Name: Pycnanthemum muticum
Plant Type/Life Cycle: Perennial
Light Requirements: Full Sun, Half Sun / Half Shade
Native to Eastern and Central United States
Ideal Growing Region: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, West, Pacific NorthWest
USDA Zones: 4-8
Suggested Uses: Hummingbirds & Butterflies, Fragrant, Erosion Control, Showy Flowers, Multiplies / Naturalizes

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This post is part of my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone’s ongoing rejoicing in Wildflowers that is held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, or whenever you feel like giving wildflowers some love.


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14 Responses to Mountain Mint

  1. gail says:

    Dear Frances, Love, love, love your wildflower rejoicing this month. Mountain Mint is a keeper and a wonderful plant for pollinators. Speaking of which, your photos of the Bumbles and honeybees are fantastic! Happy Wildflower Wednesday my dear, xoxoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks so much. To be honest, I didn’t realize what a great and beautiful plant mountain mint was. The whitish leaf color really sets off the whole area which can look kind of blah after the lilies are done.

  2. Lea says:

    Very pretty, both flower and foliage!
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    Hi Lea, thanks and happy WW to you! The mountain mint is really beautiful and smells divine. The pollinators love it, win, win, win!

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This sounds like an ideal plant for a difficult spot. The blooms looks similar to monarda blooms. Happy WW.

    Happy WW to you, Lisa and thanks. This is a cutie pie plant and has not spread at all so far, although the plants have grown larger, but not too tall. I am smitten with it, as are the pollinators.

  4. Georgia Burns says:

    My brow furrowed in concern when I read the word “mint” having battled a yard overrun with it in the past. But yours is so pretty particularly the flowers. The contrast with the darker shades of green add such sparkle to your meadow. I look forward to future posts of your adventures with this plant. The bees certainly look happy.

    Hi Georgia, I too was concerned about adding this plant, but it may be that the lawn grass matrix keeps it in check. So far there has been no spreading beyond the original cuttings. I wish it would spread more!

  5. It has to be fun to have an area where you welcome the aggressive tendencies of some plants that you might be wary of in the more “genteel” parts of your garden. It really does look great wandering in and around the Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ .

    Hi Michaele, thanks for visiting. I don’t know how fun it is to only be able to grow those aggressive plants, but they are the ones that do best here. We don’t have any genteel garden beds, it is a jungle out there! HA

  6. I enjoyed seeing your mountain mint plants having lots of room to grow. I did my post on the 4 kinds of mountain mint that I have. My Short toothed mountain mint looks a lot like yours. I forgot how many varieties there are, but it’s quite a few. The pollinators love mine, so I’m glad to have them.

    Thank you, thank you, Sue! I believe you are right that my mountain mint is indeed short toothed mountain mint and the post has been changed to reflect that including a link to your post. I love when readers help me to get it right. In my friend Ruth’s garden, from whence this plant came, it is too aggressive she said. So far it has not been aggressive enough here in the former lawn.

  7. Ogee says:

    You have found a perfect use for this prolific, but beautiful plant. What a wonderful contrast it provides to the green and burgundy.

    Thanks Ogee. It is in the perfect spot and I hope it becomes prolific here. The red dragon sets it off nicely, or vice versa.

  8. I agree that thugs can be very useful plants in difficult conditions. The trick is to find the right plant for the conditions at hand, and that is one of the great pleasures of gardening, I think. Like you, I also love to shop in my own gardens.

    Thanks for the vote of support, Kathy. Anything planted in an existing lawn of healthy grass has to be tough here. Right plant in the right place is certainly the key to gardening happiness. Finding those plants already growing in your own garden, like the red dragon is gravy.

  9. Rose says:

    I’ve always avoided planting anything with “mint” in its name, but you have me re-thinking that philosophy with these beautiful photos, especially seeing the bees so attracted to this plant. Sometimes thugs are just what you need in a tough neighborhood:)

    It seems this particular mountain mint, while very minty does not spread like its namesake, Rose. It is gorgeous and plays well with others in what some might call a tough neighborhood!

  10. Shirley says:

    The mountain mint is so pretty with or without the flowers. Your meadow is the perfect place for it. Love the photos with the bees at work! I’ll have to check on local availability in central Texas.

    Hi Shirley, thanks. This mountain mint is not a bad spreader here, so far. Do look for it, the pollinators are in love with it.

  11. Sounds like it’s highly adaptable, and it’s pretty, too. The pollinators must find it hard to resist. Does it tend to spread slowly over time, or does it pretty much stay in one spot?

    Hi Beth, thanks for visiting. So far this mountain mint has not moved a bit, although the plants have gotten larger. It is very, very attractive and lights up an otherwise darkish space.

  12. Hannah says:

    I have terrible weed problems, but just being aggressive doesn’t bother me. I also find I need “thugs” to fight all the bad weeds. Your mint looks lovely, I like the white leaves. I have several mint beds, they are useful and loved by the bees. What I consider a problem is lemon balm, it spreads far beyond what is acceptable and is very hard to get rid of.

    Hi Hannah, thanks for sharing here. This mountain mint’s white leaves are really outstanding. It has not spread at all, yet, and I wish it would. I might have to manually spread it myself, like I do with many other so-called thugs. We do grow lemon balm in the most difficult spot on the property, under tall pines in a bed overrun with winter creeper and vinca major. Tough plants are the only thing that can live in such conditions.

  13. I also like aggressive plants, but I have to be careful because the conditions are fairly deluxe. Your Mountain Mint does look like a great native to help fill in a difficult site.

    Hi Robin, thanks for joining in here. Mountain Mint may not be for everyone, but this particular species in my garden seems a perfect fit. It looks great and the pollinators adore it.

  14. reinbeau says:

    I have this in my herb garden and yes, it’s a bit of a thug, but the bees love it so much it’s worth beating it into submission every once in awhile 🙂

    Hi Reinbeau, thanks for visiting. I feel it is better to plant those things that might be too happy than fuss and fret over those plants that don’t want to live in my garden conditions. The pollinators have a large voting block here, as well.

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