Bringing bugs into the garden is the new norm, not spraying with insecticides every insect that alights on a leaf. A sea change in how gardeners operate is in motion and most gardeners are embracing it with gusto. Seeing the Monarch numbers plummet recently has brought home the importance of home gardeners taking charge and embracing this change for the better.
Not all plants are equal in their ability to support pollinators with nectar and pollen. Penn State has conducted a series of trials on different pollinator plants that evaluated plants for their numbers of insect visitation as well as for their vigor and blooming. Go to their site at Penn State trials to check it out. Not only the number of insect visitors is important, but also the diversity.
I will be profiling a series of plants in the next year that are really important to pollinators- be it honeybee, native bee, hummingbird, beetles, butterflies, or flies. Top of the list is a little-known mint, called Mountain Mint which blooms for 15 to 16 weeks.
According to Penn State trials, overall, the single best plant in both 2012 and 2013 and 2014 for attracting both pollinators and total insects was Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum). A 30-inch-tall, wood’s-edge native perennial with grayish-green leaves and pale-pink summer flower clusters, it is hardy in zones 4 to 8. Originally discovered in Pennsylvania in 1790, this plant increasingly is being rediscovered by savvy gardeners and added to landscapes.
Mountain Mint is both edible and medicinal. Raw or cooked, the flower buds and leaves are edible and have a hot, spicy, mint-like flavor that makes a great spice or seasoning for meat.
An aromatic herb used in potpourri and as a bath additive, Mountain Mint will freshen laundry in the dryer. Thrown into a drawer, it will keep clothes fresh and moths away. Said to be a good natural insecticide, the dried plant repels insects but the growing plant attracts them! Containing pulegone, the same insect repellent found in pennyroyal, it repels mosquitoes when rubbed into the skin.
Mountain Mint positively dances with all the pollinators that are attracted to it.
How To Grow
Mountain Mint grows up to 2 to 3 ft. tall, usually branched on the upper half, growing from slender rhizomes (underground stems) usually in clusters. The lance -shaped leaves are 1-2 inches long and light green turning to almost white as the plant matures. Blooming in late summer to early fall, flat clustered flowers top the plant with 1/2 inch long pale lavender blooms. Gather tops and leaves when flowers bloom and dry for later herb use.
Not attractive to deer, Mountain Mint will also grow in tough dry shade conditions. Being a typical mint member, this mint travels! So, place it in an out-of-the-way place that it can run free.
Mountain Mint is one of the best nectar sources for native butterflies, and is a nectar filled landing pad for all pollinators.
Many good nurseries will carry this plant. Locally, you can find it at Heartwood Nursery , a great native plant nursery in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. I found the plants on-line at The Monticello Shop in Charlottesville, Virginia, and even on Etsy and Ebay.
9 Replies to “Bee Catnip-Mountain Mint”
I found your post really interesting as I have just bought a couple of mountain mint plants for my plot and am looking forward to growing them.
Good! This plant needs more recognition so I am glad that people are starting to plant it!
Yes thank you very much for your post. I will be following your advice on which plants to grow best to encourage and feeds bees, butterflies and insects. I saw my first bumblebee today, and my plan is to increase plants for these all these guys to help bring up their numbers again.
Thanks for reading and commenting! I haven’t seen any bumbles yet, but my honeybees have been flying which is always a good sign that spring is coming!
I love it!
We were in Ithaca NY today and we did not know what this plant was until we researched it. We have never seen so many Honey bees on a plant as were on these plants, literally hundreds. I have bees so needless to say this was very interesting to witness. We are ordering the seeds now.
Hello! Do you know if this is the plant that is All over central park in N.Y.C? We visited A few years ago And there were some shrubby plants that were just heaving with bees and other pollinators. I managed to get some seedheAds, brought them home with me (sshhh!) And they grew really well. I was chuffed to bits!
I don’t know, but wouldn’t be surprised. If you had a picture, I could tell