A Few Plant Updates

So nearly two years ago now, I wrote a post in praise of the genus Pycnanthemum, the mountain mint.

I praised it for its pollinator attraction, for its toughness, for the attractive foliage. It’s as low maintenance as a plant gets—whack it down in mid-fall when it’s gotten woody, and you’ll find a low, glossy green mound of leaves starting at the bottom. In my climate, that mound of leaves is nearly evergreen. It’s a fantastic plant.

And I stand by all those statements, with, perhaps, one teensy smidge of a caveat.

Turns out if you plant P. muticum, “short-toothed mountain mint” in a tough, dry, miserable pile of clay, it is a fabulously well-behaved plant. It spreads by three or four inches a year, making a larger and larger clump. It resists direct strike by UPS truck. It’s awesome.

If, however, you are foolish enough to have a spare chunk lying around and think “Oh, this will be perfect for my lovely recently created flowerbed, which is full of mushroom compost and six inches of beautiful, friable soil…”



About that…

It turns out, given optimal conditions, P. muticum throws aboveground runners like you would not believe. I spotted one, pulled it up, realized it was attached to the plant, actually took a close look, and discovered that the mint had devoured a dwarf goldenrod and was fighting an aster for dominance.


I have planted other mountain mints in fairly good conditions, and P. incanum doesn’t do that at all. P. tenufolium, given rich soil, just flops over. But P. muticum…goodness.

Also, since we’re talking about plant updates, camphor pluchea reseeds pretty heavily into wet soil. And Salvia coccinea reseeds like nothing I’ve ever met in my life, although it’s supposed to be an annual and may freeze out this winter. And Hyssop-Leaved Thoroughwort is also pretty crazy with the seeds, and I did finally find a pineapple sage seedling, after five years, and it turns out that deer will eat wild quinine if they’re hungry enough (or possibly worried about malaria.)

But my mind is still blown about the mountain mint. It was like discovering that your straight-A student happens to be a Mafia hit man after school.

Now, there’s a couple spots where, given the chance, I’d LOVE that behavior. (The plant. Not the hit man. Well, not in the garden. I suppose…no, we’re talking about gardening.)

Not so much next to the house. So I tore up the mint.

It took nearly an hour. There’s still roots left in the ground. I can only hope they won’t spawn.

So, be warned. Learn from my mistakes! Great plant! Still love it!

But give it all the water it wants, and…err…stand back.

© 2012, Ursula Vernon. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    I have the camphorweed, the thoroughwort and salvia, all, I have to say behave (too much competition from the other stuff that appears here, I suppose.

    I often wish they would become more garden bedding style, but having more species than can be believed due to just letting nature do it’s thing keeps it country like. I’ll never be “garden beautiful”, but I suppose that’s what keeps all my creatures coming back, which kinda makes it “garden beautiful”. :)

    Love your analogies, as always!
    Loret recently posted..Caterpillar Tartare?

  2. says

    Ha, love it. I planted mint (unknown var. ) in my yard 2 years ago and it’s popping (or Pooping) up everywhere – many yards from the original plant. It’s almost an invasive here in South Florida – only in my opinion – but that is so often the case here in our balmy, humid conditions. I think we originally planted it for some occasional mint tea.
    Dawn Schneiderman recently posted..October Yields – A Veggie Preview

  3. Carole says

    I returned home today to find all the seed trays covered with wind blown thoroughwort seeds. I do love thoroughwort, but……….

  4. Renee says

    I had a similar experience. I first planted P. muticum in my last garden and it was quite well-behaved. But that’s because it was in unamended soil between a paved driveway and a couple of mature Viburnums that evidently cast enough shade to thwart the mint’s ambitions. Who knew? But even in my city garden, the mint drew an astounding variety of pollinators that I’d never seen before — giant glossy black wasps as long as my thumb, plus lots of bee-ish critters. I always wondered how the pollinators had survived in a neighborhood planted with norway maples, yews, and not much else.

    In my new garden, new city, the mint went wild in the sandy loam. So I dug it out, put pieces in 5-gal. pots and planted a couple back in the same spot, with plenty of pot rim exposed, to make searching out the stolons easier. Also planted pieces, sans pots, in a shadier spot where I need plants to compete with the local invasives (black swallowwort, privet, smartweed, etc). Will report back in a year! I do love Pycnanthemum.

  5. says

    Oh how well I know this mistake as I planted one tiny spring of mint in my walled rain garden…needless to say it has taken over in one year…and no matter how much I rip it out, those roots send up new plants…good luck!
    Donna Donabella recently posted..Healing Rain


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