What Is Mountain Mint – Virginia Mountain Mint Info And Care

What Is Mountain Mint – Virginia Mountain Mint Info And Care

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

The mint family is comprised of approximately 180 genera ofplants or 3,500 species worldwide. In the United States alone, there are about50 genera of native mint plants. While most of us are familiar with common mintrelatives like spearmint,catmint,and hyssop,there are also many lessor known mint plants with fantastic herbal andaesthetic benefits. One of these includes mountain mint.

What is Mountain Mint?

Virginia mountain mint (Pycanthemumvirgineanum) grows as a native perennial in most parts of North America.They are hardy perennials in U.S. zones 3-7. In the U.S., they range from Maineto North Dakota and south through Missouri to North Carolina.

Like mintplants, mountain mint plants produce the telltale square stems withopposing leaves, and all parts of the plant are highly aromatic. Mature plantscan top out at 2- to 3-feet tall. In the right conditions, growingmountain mint may spread or naturalize aggressively just as other membersof the mint family.

Virginia mountain mint produces nearly flat-topped clustersof small white flowers from summer through fall. After the blooms fade, theplant produces seed that will easily self-sow in suitable conditions.

As an herb in the garden, regular pruning and pinching willprolong the harvest of fresh aromatic mountain mint leaves for teas or herbalremedies. In recipes, mountain mint can be used as a substitute for othermints, such as peppermintor bergamot.In addition to teas, tinctures and salves, fresh mountain mint can be used innatural pest repellents.

How to Grow Mountain Mint

Though they are known as mountain mints, they are usuallyfound growing wild in areas with full sun but wet soil, such as sunny low landsand along the margins of natural waterways. In the landscape, Virginia mountainmint performs well in rain gardens and around ponds or other water features.

Mountain mint care is minimal but give it plenty of room togrow. Regular pruning can help keep the plant better managed or you can grow incontainers to minimize its spread.

Thanks to this plant’s strong minty aroma, mountain mintalso functions well in the landscape as an insect repelling border plant arounddecks or porches. Rabbit and deer may also be deterred by a planting ofmountain mint.

In the garden setting, you can pair mountain mint with othernative perennials such as:

  • Penstemon
  • Coneflower
  • Rudbeckia
  • Asters
  • Coreopsis
  • Irises
  • Joe pye weed
  • Spiderwort

Many beautiful ornamental grasses, such as switchgrass,littlebluestem, bluefescue and northernsea oats have similar soil and sun requirements and will do well ascompanions too.

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Mountain Mints - Pycnanthemum species

NABA member Mary Anne Borge shares the following report about mountain mints located in southern New Jersey:

Mountain mints are in bloom right now , and they are covered with a spectacular variety of butterflies, bees, wasps, and moths! These beneficial pollinators all graze for nectar contentedly, since these plants provide enough food for everyone simultaneously, and over a long period of time. From morning until evening these plants are alive with the dance of the pollinators.

The bloom period begins in July, and extends at least through August. Like other members of the mint family, these species have clusters of flowers that bloom progressively over a long period of time.

There are several species of mountain mint, but my favorites are short-toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) and hoary mountain mint (Pycnanthemum incanum). The genus name, Pycnanthemum, means densely flowered, hinting at the reason that these plants can accommodate so many hungry visitors simultaneously. The foliage of these two species is as showy as the flowers, extending the period of visual appeal.

Short-toothed mountain mint grows to a height of about 2-3 feet, topped with round heads of tiny white flowers smudged with bright magenta. The plants are truly ‘densely flowered’. The flowers are set off by the leaves that frame them, which a powdery pale blue-green with a velvety looking texture. Rub or crush the leaves and you’ll be rewarded with a sent that confirms that this is a mint family member. After the long bloom period, the flower heads dry to an eye-catching dark gray, making it an attractive plant throughout the winter.

Short-toothed mountain mint can tolerate part shade to full sun, and likes moist but well-drained, average soil. In this photo, an Eastern-Tailed Blue is stopping for a long drink.

Hoary mountain mint, as the name implies, has foliage very similar to short-toothed mountain mint, with the leaves just below the flower heads looking as if they had been lightly but evenly dusted with powdered sugar. The flowers grow in rounded heads much like Short-toothed mountain mint, but the flowers are somewhat larger. Each delicate flower is white with a sprinkling of tiny purple spots. The flowers generally grow in multiple tiers on each stem, with a branching habit that is open and graceful, showing off the additional layers of flowers. An Olive Hairstreak is enjoying this lovely plant’s offerings.

This species also grows to a height of 2-3 feet, prefers sun, and average to dry soil.

The mountain mints may be a gardeners’ dream come true – attractive, easy to grow, and they are deer resistant! [End of Mary Anne's text]

While the different species of mountain mint can be difficult to tell apart, they are all good garden plants and are worth seeking out. Mountain mints are suggested as an alternative garden plant to the (non-native) invasive oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare ) which is an aggressively spreading plant that decreases native plant diversity where it takes hold.

There are over 20 native species of mountain mint in the United States. The following commonly are used in butterfly gardens and are often found for sale in native plant nurseries:

  • Hoary Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) has a native range as far north as Ontario, south to Florida, with a western range into Illinois. While often found for sale at native plant nurseries, this species is listed as endangered in New Hampshire, Canada, and Vermont.
  • Short-toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) has a native ranges as far north as Maine, south to Georgia, with a western range into eastern Texas. Also called blunt mountain mint, this species is listed as threatened in Kentucky, Michigan, and New York.
  • Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) has a large native range stretching into Ontario in the north, appearing in northern Florida in it's southern range, and reaching the eastern parts of Kansas and Texas in it's most western locations.
  • Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) covers much of the same range as other mountain mints but also includes upper midwestern states such as South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Virginia mountain mint is listed as endangered in New Hampshire.

Plants are propagated from cuttings taken here at the nursery.

Leaves can be made into a refreshing herbal tea and was used historically by Native Americans to treat a wide variety of illnesses.

States Cost per order
AL, DE, GA, KY, MD, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, and WV $12
AR, CT, FL, IL, IN, LA, MA, MI, MO, MS, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT, and WI $14
IA, KS, ME, MN, OK, and TX $16
CO, NE, ND, and SD $18

Sorry, we can't ship plants outside of the continental United States or to AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, NM, NV, OR, and WA due to agriculture restrictions.

When will my order be shipped?

All plants are shipped from our nursery in central North Carolina. We ship on Monday and Tuesday so your plants don't get held up over the weekend. Orders placed after Sunday may (especially in spring) be shipped the following week.

Can I place an order and have it shipped at a later date?

Sorry, all plants are shipped within 8 days of placing an order.

How will my plants get delivered?

Most orders are shipped via UPS Ground with some smaller orders being delivered by USPS Priority Mail.

Are your plants shipped in their containers?

Yes, all our plants are shipped in their growing containers. The dimensions are 4.5 inches wide by 5 inches deep and 32 fl. oz. / 946 ml in volume.

Do you guarantee your plants?

We guarantee our plants to be healthy, ready for planting, and correctly named. We are not able to guarantee whether a plant will grow in your garden as there are too many circumstances that are beyond our control.
On rare occasions, a plant shipped dormant may fail to emerge from its dormancy. If this happens, please let us know. If you are concerned about a plant, please contact us within 14 days to let us know. If we can’t help you make it grow, we’ll send you a new plant or issue a refund.

Can I return my plants?

You can return your plants if you no longer want them once they arrive. To receive a refund (minus 15% restocking fee) the plants must be returned in good condition. Return shipping is the customer’s responsibility.

Is there a fee if I decide to cancel my order?

If you cancel an order and the plants have been pulled and prepared for packing and shipping, there is a 15% restocking fee.

What about sales tax?

We propagate our own plants and are not required to collect North Carolina sales tax.

Where can I find information about your plants?

Mountain mint has a zippy, burning mint flavor. Not as heavy as the flavor of monarda. Though different than regular garden mint, it can still make a pleasant beverage. Its scent is strong and minty.

Just ask in the comments at the bottom of my article. I am sure I missed plenty when writing this. My Quick Plant Care Guides are meant to be short and to the point.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Over the years, my wife and I have been planting a diversity of nectar/pollen-producing plants in our gardens. This has been done in an effort to provide our backyard pollinators with sources of food throughout the year. This approach has offered us the opportunity to watch pollinators feed at a parade of plants from week to week as well as season to season. As the blossoms of one plant wither and die, pollinators redirect their attention to plants that are currently blooming. Right now, many of these pollinators are visiting mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.), one of the more recent additions to our landscape.

Mountain mint is a native perennial herb that grows two to three feet tall. Eight species of this hardy plant are found in the Southeast. Plants grow two to three tall. They exist in a variety of soil conditions, including the dry clay soil found in our yard. While the plant does best in moist soil types, it is drought tolerant. Mountain mint will grow in partial shade as well as full sun.

Mountain mint has a unique, eye-catching appearance. What makes this plant stand out is the fact that the leaves growing just below its flowers look like they have received a dusting of powdered sugar. In fact, to me, this foliage is far more attractive than the plant’s small white-purple blooms. In fact, these blossoms or so small you might overlook them if they were not arranged in clusters.

However, though mountain mint plants won’t win any awards for beauty, the fact that it blooms from June into October makes it an important source of food for wild pollinators.

Speaking of awards, in 2013 the Penn State Extension Service evaluated 88 pollinator-rewarding perennial plants for their importance to pollinators. At the end of the trial, mountain mint (P. muticum) received the highest rating for longevity of flowers, diversity of pollinators that use the plants, and the most insects attracted during the trials. In one trial, 76 insects visited the plants in just two minutes.

I am not surprised at these findings. When my wife and daughter found our mountain mint blooming a few days ago, they saw a stand of mint being visited by three species of butterflies (juniper hairstreak, red-banded hairstreak, and pearl crescent). They competed with the likes of thread-waisted wasps, hornets, and bumblebees.

One thing I like about mountain mint is that it is easy to grow. A friend gave us some mountain mint plants two summers ago. We set them out and kept them watered. The very next year the plants produced a crop of flowers.

If you like to create dried arrangements, you will love mountain mint. Each fall after the flowers have disappeared, you are left with scores of unique prickly, round, brown seed heads displayed on long stems.

Mountain mint is a plant that definitely deserves a place in your flower gardens.

Watch the video: Wild Mints, Monardas, u0026 Mayhem in the Medicine Gardens