Pycnanthemum virginianum. The native range of this cousin of traditional mint stretches from Virginia north to southern and central New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. It is called Mountain Mint, but it actually prefers moist soil in swampy terrain or near running water in full sun. This herbaceous perennial is hardy in Zones 3 to 9, and grows 60-90cm (24-36″) tall. It is a bushy plant with many branches that blooms from July to September. The clusters of white flowers (which may be flecked with purple) are attractive to a host of beneficial insects, including wild and domestic bees, tachinid flies, predatory wasps, and butterflies. Its leaves and flowers have a strong minty scent when crushed. Although this plant is technically edible, it has more utility as a companion plant, attracting beneficial insects to the herb or vegetable garden.
How to Grow Mint
The mint family is vast and cross pollination is difficult to control, so many sources suggest that mint will not come true from seed. Our mint seeds are grown in isolation and bred with care in a greenhouse setting. Follow this handy How to Grow Mint for seeds guide and grow some flavour.
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Zone: Hardy to Zone 5
Sow indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost, or direct sow in April/May. Seeds should sprout in 10-16 days. Bottom heat will speed germination.
Sow seeds no more than 5mm (¼”) deep in moist soil. Space plants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart.
Mint spreads in the garden with gusto via a vigorous root system, so it may be preferable to confine it to planters on the balcony. Prune plants back hard in early summer to promote good top growth. Bring some inside to grow in a small container over winter if you have a brightly lit windowsill.
Clip leaves or branches as needed throughout the year. Mint is so hardy and tough that it will grow right back. Dry the leaves and flowers for peppermint tea, or use them fresh. The flowers are edible and make salads and sweets come to life.
Mint attracts earthworms, hoverflies and predatory wasps, and repels cabbage moths, aphids, and flea beetles. Mint is invasive, so it may be better to use cut mint as a mulch around Brassicas, or to restrain it in containers around the vegetable garden. Avoid planting near parsley.
More on Companion Planting.
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