Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum-muticum-en-masse
Of all the plants that I would recommend most everyone include in their garden, mountain mint or Pycnanthemum muticum would be near the top of this list. I knew of mountain mint before moving to Maine but really had not paid it a lot of attention because someone had first described the plant to me as being weedy and too floppy for the well-kept garden. I now wish that I would not have taken that person at their word and tried mountain mint on my own.
In this age when more and more gardeners of all levels are looking for good native plants, here is an herbaceous perennial native to most of the eastern US states, including Texas. It can tolerate periodic drought, is relatively pest resistant (including deer!), and pollinators love the flowers. On top of all of the good qualities of Pycnanthemum, the leaves also have a wonderful smell like peppermint oil. The leaves contain the essential oil pulegone, which can act as an insect repellant. If you rub mountain mint on your skin, the pulegone oil from the leaves can help deter mosquitoes.
Pycnanthemum muticum mountain mint
Mountain mint has attractive, pointed leaves and while the pink flowers may be extremely small, their silvery bracts are beautiful when the plants are massed. We can plant our mountain mint in the full sun here in Maine but as you move southward, you probably want to give the plants more shade. Pycnanthemum can survive many different soil types but will do best in soils that stay moderately moist. If your soils are rich, loose, and moist yet well-drained (i.e. perfect gardening soil), you definitely want to give Pycnanthemum muticum some room to run. The plant will spread, once established, via stolons that emanate from the main clump. Mountain mint grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4-8 and again, I would recommend that you provide a bit more shade and moisture, the higher the number of your hardiness zone.
As you begin to edit your garden this fall and think about changes for 2015, be sure to consider adding mountain mint as it is a wonderful native with a beautiful appearance and is great at attracting pollinators including our native butterflies.
Rodney
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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.

4 Comments

  1. Susan Krzywicki on September 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Ooooh, we have a native version out here in California – Pycnanthemum californium – that has many of the same delightful characteristics. Super beautiful.

    http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/pycnanthemum-californicum

    • rodney eason on September 19, 2014 at 7:51 am

      Cool, Susan! I will check it out and maybe give it a try. We ordered from Las Palitas earlier this year.

  2. rochelle on September 19, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Rodney – I’ve never heard of this plant…..must try!

    • rodney eason on September 19, 2014 at 7:50 am

      You will love it, Rochelle! – re

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