Mountain mint is a rugged survivor: Think Grizzly Adams, except skinny and green. In my yard this wildflower has triumphed over dry shade, poor drainage, and periodic drought. Never once has it complained. Instead, it multiplies. Clusters of small white (sometimes lavender) flowers appear in late summer—a welcome bit of cool in the final weeks of summer heat. When the flowers fade, the gray seed heads remain, giving your garden some character in late fall and winter. In spring, the fragrant narrow green leaves are a pleasant backdrop for bulbs and other early flowers. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Common name: Mountain mint, common mountain mint, Virginia mountain mint
Botanical name: Pycnanthemum virginianum
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 2 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well drained
• Moisture: Average to dry
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by division
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to rust.
• Attracts bees, wasps, butterflies, and beetles.
• Like other mints, mountain mint has a bullying tendency. If it’s in poor soil, that may be enough to keep it under control—otherwise, keep it corralled, either in a container or in a bed with edging. Or plant it with other wildflower colonizers that will fight back.
• Grow mountain mint with other summer-blooming natives like black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, and purple prairie clover.
• Plant mountain mint where you’ll brush up against it and enjoy the strong mint scent.
• Mountain mint’s stems are strong and upright, making it a great cut flower.
All in the family
• There’s some confusion between mountain mint (P. virginianum) and slender mountain mint (P. tenuifolium). Slender mountain mint has even narrower leaves and a fainter fragrance.
• Other members of the Lamiaceae family are basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, and lavender. Lambs’ ears, Russian sage, bee balm, and coleus are also in this family.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)