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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wildflower Wednesday: Clustered Mountain Mint

 Pycnanthemum muticum is quite possibly a pollinator perfect plant.

But you don't have to take my word for this! Just google Mountain Mint and every nursery selling it, State Native Plant Society or blogger who writes about it extols its insect attracting virtues. Trust me and others, this is the best mountain mint species for attracting and supporting pollinating insects! Here's more! The researchers at Penn State's The Pollinator Trial found that Clustered Mountain Mint was the best plant for flowering longevity; for pollinator visitor diversity; for sheer number of insect visitors (78); and, for sheer number of bee and syrphid visitors. Wowzer!

fly visiting for nectar

If that's not enough to garner your attention, check out its showy silver bracts that highlight the dense clusters of small pink spotted flowers. The tiny flowers appear to lay on those silvery modified leaves with their velvety looking texture.

 blooms from summer to early fall

I planted it before I knew it was a pollinator magnet or saw the silvery bracts and the cute flowers. I fell in love with the silvery gray seed head that stood straight and tall and grabbed my attention across the nursery aisle. I had to have it in my garden!

The seedheads add structure to a winter yard and the seeds feed small songbirds.

That was well over a dozen years ago and it's still here.

Originally it was planted in the Garden of Benign Neglect, but, I wanted to be able to observe all the insect visitors, so I transplanted it along the front walk. It's shadier there than what the mint prefers, but, I still get to see insect activity. Visitors who walk to the front porch might accidentally brush against the leaves and release a wonderful minty fragrance. When I am out there I deliberately reach down to release the scent...It's one of my favorite fragrances in the garden.

The flowers are the tiniest little spotted tubular blooms clustered together to make it easy for the pollinators to stop by for a snack

This might be a good time to talk about mints. They have a well deserved reputation for aggressive spreading.  "Unlike true mints (Mentha species), blunt mountain mint is not invasive although it will slowly spread by rhizomes. Unwanted spreading of this species can be controlled by cutting of the underground rhizomes by a spade."  Although, I don't consider it invasive, some of you might. I don't mind a ground covering of this fantastic pollinator plant.


Mountain mint with aster and river oats

I also planted it in the sunnier front garden. It has not outcompeted New York Aster, River oats or Goldenrod. Plant them together if you have the space and let them duke it out. You can always edit them later. If you haven't the space try planting it in a large container and set that in the garden. Mountain mint would look beautiful with Joe-pye weed, Red Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Purple Cone Flower, sunflowers (Helianthus) and Black eyed Susan. Plant spring blooming wildflowers with it to insure you have blooming flowers all season long.

Please close your eyes and picture mountain mint blowing in the breeze with bees and butterflies dancing above it. You can smell its minty aroma. It's delightful. Now go find some plants to add to your garden!

The Particulars

 Pycnanthemum muticum  

Family: Lamiaceae  

Common name:  Clustered Mountain Mint, blunt mountain mint. Pycnanthemum, means densely flowered  

Hardiness zones 3 to 9 

Range: a native range as far north as Maine, south to Georgia, with a western range into eastern Texas. This species is listed as threatened in Kentucky, Michigan, and New York.

 Height:  1 to 3 foot 

Spread:  1 to 3 foot 

Bloom Time: June to September 

Bloom Description: tiny pink spotted flowers 

Sun: Full sun to part shade; edge of woodland 

Water:  Easy to grow in almost any average to fertile, well-drained soil. Although it prefers moist soil it has tolerated our dry summer months...caveat,  dry not drought. 

Maintenance: Let it go and don't worry, unless it's too dry. If you have a smaller garden plant it in a container.  

Comments: Mountain Mint is a perfect Clay and Limestone rough and tumble take care of itself wildflower. It is a good choice for a wildlife garden, meadow, butterfly and pollinator garden.  It's a fabulous nectar plant. Mass plantings/letting it spread will bring in the most insect visitors.   Wildlife value: Excellent nectar and pollen source for lots of garden visitors including beneficial insects, and bees, beneficial wasps, flies, beetles, skippers and small butterflies (especially hairstreaks) frequent the blossoms. Seeds  are eaten by small songbirds. Stems and seedheads provide cover for insects and other critters during the winter 

Extra: It's an insect repellent! Try rubbing bruised leaves and stems on your clothing to deter chiggers and mosquitoes.

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday. It's the fourth Wednesday of each month and time to celebrate wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. I am always glad when you stop by and I so appreciate when you make a comment. 


Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2023 and beyond that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Helping others learn about nature is included. Golly gee whiz, there are so many things you can do. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. Wouldn't an article in the local paper be a coup for nature! Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

Why now?  My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day an older home along with many (if not all) of the mature oak, hickory, maple, Eastern cedar and hackberry trees that have been there for over 75 years are cut down. In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Claytonia, Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, Violets, self-heal, clovers, and dandelions that grew so well in the shallow soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock are sodded non-native lawns that get daily watering, whether it rains or not. Gone are the lightening bugs. Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees. Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. Gone is plant diversity. Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects. Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. It breaks my heart. We can't stop the multi-million dollar houses from going up, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters.

A gardener can hope!

Here's an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden, but don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source)

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Get rid of the plastic weed barriers in your garden, it's not good for anything.

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves. Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds. 

Turn off your yard up-lighting, eave lights and porch lights after 11pm. This is important for nocturnal critters including mammals, snakes, insects, bats, birds (especially during migration). (Birdcast suggestions)

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society (Tennessee Native Plant Society)

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group. (Middle Tennessee WildOnes)

Support your local native plant sellers. (GroWild in middle Tennessee, Overhill Gardens in east Tennessee,  Resource Guide TN Native Plant Society)

Encourage your local garden clubs to offer native plant talks.

If your garden club has a plant sale encourage them to sell more native plants.

Get trained as a naturalist (Tennessee Naturalist Program, Almost every state has their own Master Naturalist training program)

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. Buy them nature books.

Give nature books as baby shower gifts (Nature books for infants and toddlers)

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you are already gardening with wildlife in mind then add a few signs that help educate your neighbors. (Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership)

Set up an information station where neighbors can pick up brochures about your garden and other info. 

Get certified (National Wildlife Federation, check to see what your state offers)



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’ll have to seek this one out, Gail. Thanks!

  2. Wonderful plant, Gail. The related P. tenuifolium and P. virginianum are native here. I see that this one is native in nearby states. Lovely.

  3. Gail, thanks for the plant information. Maybe I can find it in this area. Would be nice to add it to the native garden area.

  4. It’s not a perennial, but I’ve found African Blue Basil to be a similar bee magnet! Have you grown it?

  5. I would rather have this beautiful mountain mint than the one I have. I don't know which variety it is, but it is tenacious and spreads everywhere. I also have the one with the fine leaves. I like the blue-green leaves and how beautifully you have photographed them. ~~Dee


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson