Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday: Blephilia ciliata

Downy Wood Mint and I have been gardening friends for over 30 years. I met it the first summer after we moved into this house. It looked like Monarda growing in the shady freedom lawn behind the carport shed. Although, it wasn't Monarda, it was definitely a mint with its square stems, opposite leaves and whorled light lavender flowers at the top of the stalk!

Downy Wood Mint is a beautiful flowering plant with upright unbranched stems. The foliage is lance shaped or oblong and opposite along the stems. Leaves and stems are pubescent/hairy and faintly aromatic when crushed.

 I have never seen it growing in the wild, but, once upon a time my neighborhood was a woodland and there are still wildflowers growing in lawns and woodland edges. I wonder how many of my neighbors are even aware that this pretty and others might be growing along the edges of their yards.

As more people move into Nashville and older ranch homes are torn down our freedom lawns with Salvia lyrata, Western Daisies, Fog Fruit, Ruellia humilis, clover and other "lawn weeds" are herbicided away. It makes me very sad and motivates me to continue to advocate for planting for wildlife in our gardens through my garden writing. 
watch out little bees there are crab spiders waiting to capture you

The literature from native plant nurseries suggests that it grows best in full sun or part sun with average or dry soils. I love that it's tolerant of dry shade, but doesn't seem to be bothered by our winter rain. While it does slowly spread from a central taproot, it's not aggressive like its Monarda cousins and it easily transplants. It might be time to test it in the sunny Susan's bed to see if it will flower and how much it might spread.
scads of native pollinators visit the flowers.
In late spring and summer, dense whorls of clustered flowers encircle the stems for about a month.  The tiny individual flowers are two lipped and pink, lavender or white with purple spots.
Scads of native pollinators visit the flowers. According to Illinois Wildflower the flowers attract long-tongued and short-tongued bees, bee flies, Syrphid flies, butterflies, and skippers. The numerous bee visitors include honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, little carpenter bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictine bees, masked bees, and others.
After bloom and pollination, attractive seed heads form. The seed clusters remain on the plant all winter along with the green basal leaves.

Blephilia ciliata ranges through most of Eastern North American and through parts of the Central United States. It's been found growing in fields, steep slopes, disturbed sites and roadsides. Plants often occur in thin soils over limestone. You can see why it's a perfect plant for Clay and Limestone!

While it's shade tolerant, too much shade and competition from neighboring plants can cause plants to weaken and decline. So give it some room to spread and a few hours of sunshine.
the flowers are white, light pink, or lavender, and individually slightly less than ½" long.
LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a pollinator garden, wildlife garden, prairie garden, rock gardens, Butterfly garden, water wise gardens, or, in a meadow. If you're patient it will eventually make a lovely ground cover. 
 There are two prominent lips, with small purple spots on the lower one, and fine hairs in the back.

 COMPANION  PLANTS:  You can pair it with other plants that enjoy similar cultural requirements, like Aster laevis, Phlox pilosa, Coreopsis tripteris, Solidago nemoralis, Bouteloua curtipendula, Sorghastrum nutans or Schizachyrium scoparium. In my garden it's planted with Western Daisies and Porteranthus. It's still growing in the way back freedom lawn.

The particulars:
Family: Lamiaceae
Blephilia ciliata
Common names:  downy wood mint, downy pagoda plant, sunny woodmint and Ohio horsemint.
Type: herbacious perennial
Range: Native to eastern North America.
Occurs in rich open woods, glades, valleys and ravines, borders of woods, old fields, and along roadsides. It naturally occurs in thin soils over limestone
Hardiness zones 4-8
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Flower: Showy
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: Blue, purple, pale, almost whit with dark dots
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Deer resistant
Comments: Needs a few hours of bright sun to flower best. Flowers in early summer in my garden.
The seed heads are attractive all winter. Basil leaves remain green all winter. The leaves can be used to make a mild mint tea. NOT browsed by dear or other mammals.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday.  This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I planted some of this last year. I loved the blooms. I am anxious to see how it does. Where it is will eventually dry out. We are having so much rain this spring it is crazy. I hope it doesn't drown.

  2. An excellent plant profile, Gail. When I started my garden nine years ago, I asked a botanist friend to recommend the best plants for bugs and wildlife. He immediately said, "Members of the mint family." I always follow his advice, to good ends. Thank you for introducing me to a new plant.

  3. Beautiful!
    Hope you are having a wonderful week!

  4. How beautiful. Texas misses out again!

  5. These are in Percy Warner Park!

  6. It's a beauty, and it grows happily at the Arboretum. I tried to plant some here, but I don't think it took. I'll have to check the spot again to see if maybe it came through this year. It's a wonderful native plant. :)

  7. I so agree with you on people destroying freedom lawns (love that term!) and losing our natural wildlife habitat. I truly love Downy Wood Mint: so sad we can't grow it here. And what an informative post!

  8. Very informative post about a plant I know nothing about. At first glance at the photo I thought it was a Monarda.


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