Would you like an easy-to-grow perennial that flowers from July to August and is a magnet for many pollinating wasps, skippers, bees, and moths? Then consider mountain mint for your garden.
Mountain mints are well adapted to our state’s growing conditions, as there are approximately 11 species of mountain mints (Pycnanthemum species) in South Carolina. Most occur naturally in the Piedmont and mountainous sections, but four species are indigenous to the coastal plains.
The blooms of mountain mints are dense clusters of small white to lavender, tubular flowers held above whitish, modified leaves called bracts. These bracts provide a visual aid to the multitude of pollinating insects in discovering the small, nectar-rich flower clusters.
Mountain mints grow well in sunny to partly sunny sites with well-drained soils. Although they grow best in soils that are somewhat moist, they are very drought-tolerant plants once established. They spread by rhizomes to make a colony and may become invasive, but their spread rate can be restricted by keeping the soil more dry. Plants grow to 2 – 3 feet tall with the flower heads held at the top. The highly aromatic foliage contains pulegone, which has a minty but medicinal fragrance. This fragrant chemical is also present in pennyroyal and helps protect these mint plants from foliage feeders.