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Fantastic Design Plant: Virginia Mountain Mint

I enjoy it when I could suggest a U.S. Central Plains native plant that’s as tough as nails and as vital as oxygen. Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) may take nearly anything and thrive while being a bona fide nectar supply for virtually every insect in existence. Additionally, the leaves smell fantastic — I rub them on the backs of my hands so I could bring the garden with me where I go. Leave the plant up for winter to shield birds and provide the backyard four seasons of life, then sow the seeds any time of year to get simple and gorgeous blossoms.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Botanical name: Pycnanthemum virginianum
Common name: Virginia mountain mint, mountain mint
Origin: Native into the Central Plains, southern and northern Midwest, and New England
USDA Islands: 3 to 7 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Moist to dry (it’s elastic )
moderate requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: Slowly spreading clump to several feet
Benefits and tolerances: Insect magnet (every type visits); leaves are great for tea; easily dividable and shareable
Seasonal interest: Plenty of long-blooming flowers from mid- to late summer. In winter the grey seed heads look just like small poms.
When to plant: Spring to fall

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Distinguishing attributes. Brush by this plant and you’ll be minty, however unlike other mints this species isn’t aggressive. Butterflies, bees, moths, beetles… everybody comes for a visit, especially bugs you’ve never noticed before. I suggest grabbing your children and cataloging the distinctive insect species that drop by — the scope is unlike some other indigenous perennial’s.

The best way to utilize it. A good moon garden plant, too, Virginia mountain mint carries nearly any dirt from dry to wet, sandy to clay established, and prefers full sun to a 50/50 mix of sun and shade. This really is a native that helps out insect populations — songbirds rely upon it to feed their young — and is easily shared with friends as a branch or as a tea or baking fixing.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Planting notes. In winter the blossom heads maintain microscopic seeds deep inside, and they smell minty throughout the snows and rains.

In case you don’t like breaking plants, take the supereasy path: Simply crumple the blossom heads between your hands over bare ground to release the seeds. They do not need any cold stratification or pretreatment, so in spring you can go out and spread them onto the soil’s surface.

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