With its pleasant fragrance, lesser calamint is a great choice for mixed containers

May 5, 2021

Some names just beg the question of why? Before the town was even built, a surveyor plotted out land that already belonged to someone. It was an accident and the town of Accident, Maryland, was born. Dakota sounds daunting enough so why add “North” to the name? At one time there was a push to rename the state simply Dakota.

Which brings us to calamint, or more accurately, “Lesser calamint.” This easy-to-grow perennial has airy plumes covered in countless tiny, white flowers with a hint of blue above mint-scented foliage. Often the flowers are so dense they completely block out the leaves. Once established, it blooms continuously from June into October. The plants form clusters two feet tall and equally wide.

A native of Europe and the Mediterranean, it is easy to grow from seed, and will even bloom the first year planted. It grows best in full sun, although it does tolerate partial shade. It thrives in soils that drain well and is quite drought tolerant.

Calamintha seems to exude relaxtion, so plant it where its pleasant minty fragrance can be enjoyed. It does well as an edging plant, or in mixed borders and cottage gardens. Plant calamint underneath taller, leggy flowers such as Echinacea or mixed in with baby’s breath (Gypsophila).

With its pleasant fragrance, lesser calamint is a great choice also for mixed containers.

After a few years you may want to divide the clumps of lesser calamint. Do this in early spring.

This is a hardy plant that tolerates both dry and moist soils. It attracts pollinators including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

You can start the seeds indoors and transplant them later, or direct sow right in the garden. Indoors, slightly cover the seed with compost or vermiculite. Wet the surface and keep it moist but not soggy.

Seeds will germinate in seven to 21 days. Pot the seedlings up into three-inch pots. Harden the plants off by setting them on a porch during the day for a week or two. This helps prevent transplant shock.

After all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed up, directly sow seeds where they will grow in the garden. You can broadcast seeds mixed with sand for huge informal drifts or you can plant the seeds in more formal rows. 

Once established, thin the seedlings to stand about a foot apart.

Cut the plants back after blooming to encourage more flowers, and to keep the plants shorter and denser.

There are several named varieties of Lesser Calmint. Montrose White Lesser Calamint (Calamintha nepeta Montrose White) is a tidy foot-tall plant with white blossoms that will never go to seed because it is sterile.

The very showy White Cloud Lesser Calamint (Calamintha nepeta White Cloud) has more flowers than the more common strains.

Plant Lesser Calamint and you will have a healthy magnet for honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The fragrance of mint and clouds of flowers swaying in the breeze will relax you, even if you happen to be in Accident, Maryland or Ding Dong, Texas.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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