Gardening Groundcovers Perennials

THE 2021 PERENNIAL PLANT OF THE YEAR®

CALAMINTHA NEPETA SUBSP. NEPETA

(syn. Clinopodium nepeta nepeta)

Lesser Calamint

Lesser calamint with tiny white flowers.
Lesser calamint (Calamintha nepeta nepeta). Photo: Stonehouse Nursery

Like a cloud of confetti, tiny white flowers (sometimes touched with pale blue) appear from early summer to fall. Undemanding and dependable, calamint provides the perfect foil for other summer bloomers and foliage. This full-sun perennial has a low mounding or bushy habit, ideal for the front of the border, rock gardens and more. The tiny leaves redolent of lemon mint are edible and can be used in teas.

While durable and pest-free, calamint also checks two important boxes for gardeners: bees and other pollinators work the flowers throughout the summer and the aromatic foliage is deer-resistant.

Calamintha nepeta nepeta is a favorite low-growing component in stylized meadows, matrix plantings and other modern perennial designs. Gardeners can also create a lovely monochromatic garden with more sure-thing perennials including past Perennial Plant of the Year winners such as Anemone ×hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ and Phlox paniculata ‘David’ or complement lesser calamint with ornamental grasses such as Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (switchgrass) or Schizacharium scoparium (little bluestem).

Clump of Allium ‘Millenium’, a former Perennial Plant of the Year winner, surrounded by two plants of lesser calamint. Photo: Midwest Groundcovers

Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 to 7 (AgCan zones 3 to 8)

Light: Full sun 

Size: Up to 18 inches (45 cm) tall and wide 

Native Range: Great Britain to Southern Europe

Soil: Best with good drainage. 

Maintenance: Low-maintenance deciduous perennial. Can shear back lightly if desired to create neater habit or refresh spent blooming stems. Tolerates drought once established. 

Rooting cuttings of lesser calamint. Photo: Stonehouse Nursery

Propagation: Easy by stem cuttings or seed. Press seeds into soil without covering and expose to light for best germination. Germinates in 14 to 30 days at 70°F (21°C). Will flower the first year from early sown seed. Also propagates by self-sowing where conditions allow.

Further Notes

Despite its many positive garden traits, lesser calamint is not suitable or recommended for every region. The Perennial Plant Association cautions against growing lesser calamint, particularly in unmanaged landscapes, in parts of the South and mid-Atlantic where it has escaped cultivation. Shearing plants after flowering greatly reduces self-sowing, which can be prolific and problematic where growing conditions are favorable.

Article derived from the website of the Perennial Plant Association, a trade association composed of growers, retailers, landscape designers and contractors, educators, and others that are professionally involved in the herbaceous perennial industry.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

3 comments on “THE 2021 PERENNIAL PLANT OF THE YEAR®

  1. What?! That’s it?! Well, at least it is nothing too weird or unusual. I happen to like the white (rather than blue). It sure is delightfully prolific too, without being too garish. I don’t subscribe to fads or even trends, but I do dig this one.

  2. Spotted this plant in a local garden centre and picked it up as I am always looking for deer resistant, drought tolerant plants. I was followed around the centre by a very determined bumblebee who insisted on visiting all the blooms before I could take it to the cash. Definitely bee friendly plant.

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