And many perennials will spread or multiply by root or seed so you end up with a whole garden of them. It is the perfect plant. You pay for it once and end up with a bunch of them that are permanent residents. The Calamintha nepeta, or calamint, is a perennial that does just that. And it is a beautiful flowering plant that is very hardy.
Why it is Also Known as Calamint
The Calamintha nepeta is called calamint because it is part of the mint family, and it smells like a combination of mint and oregano. The birds and bees love it, and you will too when you are sitting outside during the summer, enjoying the scent on the breeze. And although the life expectancy is only about four years, it will spread if you let it so you will continue to enjoy the beauty and scent of the calamint for many years.
The Characteristics of Calamintha
Not only is it good in full sun, but Calamintha nepeta can also flourish in shady areas as long as it gets at least a little sun during the day. They make great border plants with their low-growing status of about 12 to 18 inches and they can spread to about 24 inches, so it is also good as a ground cover. And in most zones, the Calamintha continues to bloom into the fall season.
With oval grayish-green to olive-green leaves, this plant will become dense and spread well. The flowers are small and tubular, usually white with a touch of blue or purple. It has been described as looking like a cloud of confetti. It typically blooms in late May or early June, depending on your zone, and will bloom until late October or November.
Good for Zones Five Through Nine
The calamint does best in zones five through nine but can also be grown in pots if you live in any of the other zones. These are beautiful and easy to care for, so they make a great gift for those who do not have time to do much gardening or who have a “brown thumb.” They can tolerate drought and rocky soil and need very little maintenance.
Although the Calamintha nepeta prefers soil that is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, this perennial is tough and may grow in just about any soil type. The soil can be dry as a bone for days without damage but, of course, it is best to keep the soil damp, especially during the summer. This is especially true for those planted in sunny locations.
Native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, the Calamintha nepeta likes the heat and does not do well in cold weather. It is best to grow it in a pot if you live in an area where the temperature goes below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Or just leave it outside and it will hibernate during the winter. You can start the Calamintha nepeta easily from seed, but you can also get it already potted from a nursery or even Walmart.
Birds and Bees Love it Too
As I mentioned, the birds and bees love the Calamintha nepeta so it will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. But it is deer resistant, so you do not have to worry about them eating all your flowers, which is good if you live in the country like we do. The deer out here will eat just about anything, but we keep them happy with salt blocks and corn.
You Can Use it for Cooking
The smell of mint and oregano is not just a fragrance with this plant. You can actually use it as a spice. In fact, in southern Italy it is often used in pasta dishes and goat cheese called cassiedu. Another interesting fact is that the Calamintha nepeta was first introduced in writings from Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Also, there are several subspecies including Calamintha nepeta spruneri, Calamintha nepeta subisodontum, and Calamintha nepeta savi.
It is Also Used for Medicinal Purposes
Another use for this perennial is medicinal. It has been used in the Mediterranean area for intestinal issues, congestion, fever reduction, and to reduce heavy sweating. I am not recommending that you use it for deodorant or any other medical use since I am not a doctor. However, these are proven uses as described in a study published in the Journal of Food Research International.
The Perfect Perennial
So, of course, this should be the perennial of the year. It looks good, smells good, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, resists drought and deer, and it basically keeps multiplying and reseeding itself so it kind of lives forever. And you can use it for cooking, coughing, fever, and to stop sweating all over the place.