Slender mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) is one of nine species of mountain mints native to Kentucky. Mountain mints are in the mint family, but despite their name are not restricted to mountainous regions. They can be found growing throughout the state and many of the surrounding states. Slender mountain mint, specifically, is native to much of the eastern U.S.
Honey bees, native bees, and many different species of butterflies are highly attracted to this 2-4 foot tall native wildflower. A study in New Jersey counted 20 different species of bees and butterflies visiting slender mountain mint, while an earlier study in Illinois counted 29 species of just butterflies using this plant.
Slender mountain mint blooms between June and September in Kentucky. It produces tight clusters of white to light purple flowers that often have small purple dots on the petals. For beekeepers, this is a good plant to cultivate because it blooms during the summer dearth.
In the wild, slender mountain mint typically grows along woods edges and in open areas. It can also be grown as a native ornamental. It grows best in full sun to part shade and dry to moist soil. Slender mountain mint doesn’t spread as rapidly as spearmint or peppermint. However, it is still a mint and can spread significantly if it likes the area where it is planted. Therefore slender mountain mint, and any of the other mountain mint species, are best planted in areas where they have room to expand and won’t be competing with less aggressive plants.
If given the proper conditions, many of the mountain mints can make terrific pollinator-friendly additions to the garden. In fact, short-toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), a less common mountain mint native to Kentucky, was named the 2018 Plant of the Year by the Garden Club of America. Slender mountain mint is definitely one I would recommend to anyone wanting to plant for honey bees, native bees, or butterflies if they have room to let it expand – that’s why I grow it for Busy Bee Nursery and am planting it on our farm.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.