Pycnanthemum incanum – Hoary mountain mint

Some times, I’ll just by a native plant for shits and giggles.

No prior research conducted.

No particular available space in the garden for it.

Some times, it is all in the name … like hoary mountain mint:

I had no idea what this perennial would look like in bloom or even what its ultimate size would be when I purchased a few at a local native plant sale. I was just intrigued by the name and in a mood to experiment.

It has been three years since that purchase and the jury is still out on this plant.

Before we get to my personal experience, some quick tidbits on the hoary mountain mint that I’ve discovered on the ‘net:

  • Is native to the dry woods of the Eastern U.S.
  • Size is roughly 3′ x 4′
  • Blooms from July to September
  • Survives in zones 4-8
  • Prefers full sun
  • Can be an aggressive spreader through rhizomes
  • Leaves are fragrant when crushed (spearmint) and has been used to flavor teas
  • Native Americans inhaled their vapors before entering sweat lodges (I have to try that)       

For me, it bloomed sporadically for the first time last year in a spot that only received afternoon sun and it didn’t grow taller than a foot or so.

But this year, they were relocated to a full sun spot and “shocker” have performed well.

The blooms first appeared in early June:

And were eventually in full bloom by the last week of June:

On the plus side, the foliage of this plant has an interesting airy quality which contrasts well with larger leaved plants.

It also draws in the bees like mad as there is always something going on with these natives:

But, on the downside, the two plants I have collapsed once in full bloom and I wonder if my soil has something to do with that:

From what I have now learned, post purchase, is that these plants prefer a lean sandy soil and that is the exact opposite of my soil conditions. Or maybe it was simply one of the powerful rains that kicked their ass. Who knows?

But I’m not ready to give up on them yet by any means. There is a lot more experimenting to do. 

I dig how the spent blooms look in the fall/winter, and anything that provides a level of winter interest deserves a stay of execution: 

Anyone else grow this? Would love to hear your thoughts.


7 thoughts on “Pycnanthemum incanum – Hoary mountain mint

  1. James Golden

    I grow it, along with another Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum (which has larger flowering bracts), in large masses. They look great now with the white/silvery flowers, and do fine in my (usually) soggy clay. Divide it and plant them closely in are area. They’ll hold each other up. And best of all, deer won’t touch them. They do well as a background to other larger plants.

  2. Landscape Design By Lee

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  3. Cat

    I like the hoary mountain mint and your blog! Just stopped by for the first time by way of Landscape Design by Lee. Anyone who starts a blog post with the line “shits and giggles” has my attention. I especially agree that the mint provides a nice texture for fall/winter and that’s always welcome.

  4. Patty

    I like the mountain mint – the flowers etc. That being said if it’s like regular mint you’ll be pulling it out for many years to come – I know – I’ve been pulling my mint out for the last 8 years – just when I get one area cleaned out it pops back and/or meanders under the fence – into the grass – all over the place. Hope yours is more respectable.

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