Planting mint was one of the first things I did as a new gardener. Fun at first … it grew and grew and, then, as you probably know, oh no! It went everywhere. If you are looking for mint for your watermelon salad or iced tea, plant the herb in a container and enjoy. For your garden, go with native mountain mints (Pycnanthemum species).
There are four commonly available types native to our area. Known as mountain mint or short leafed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), pictured above, is the mountain mint for moister locations. Narrow leaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) is versatile in terms of soil conditions and full sun or part shade. It’s a tad shorter than some of the others. Hoary mountain mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) is described as more drought tolerant. It’s flowers are slightly different in that they bloom in tiers of three and are sometimes more lavender. Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) can be taller than the others.
Regardless of which you choose, this is an easy care perennial for full sun or part shade and unforgiving conditions such as poor soil, drought, beating down sun … it will take it once established. These perennials are generally three to four feet high, minty green in color and contrast well with other greens.
Mountain mint remains green, provides subtle flowers but, later, striking seed heads, above, for tons of small pollinators all summer and into fall. The upright stems will stay that way for winter interest. About the only maintenance it needs is in spring, grab the dead stems by hand for clean up and that’s it!
Your mountain mint moment of zen:
A concise description of the four types of mountain mint native to the U.S. from the North American Butterfly Association.
Lurie Garden in Chicago explains why and how they use mountain mints in its gardens.