Meet Calamint, the 2021 Perennial Plant of the Year

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Introducing Calamint

Find Out Why It's The 2021 Perennial Of The Year

The prestigious Perennial Plant of the Year award typically goes to a relatively familiar face – favorites like Rozanne geranium‘Millenium’ allium, and Asclepias tuberosa have all been past winners. But the 2021 winner is one that’s not quite so well known: Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta, commonly known as calamint. If you’ve never seen or grown this sun-loving, drought-tolerant perennial, now’s the perfect time to get to know it better, and see for yourself why it has earned its place in the proverbial pantheon of perennials.

Its Super Power? Flowers.

One of the longest blooming perennials around.

Calamint blooms in summer for weeks – and those weeks turn into months, providing a practically unmatched display. Though each individual floret is relatively tiny, their combined effect is considerable, creating a dreamy drift of white flowers. Your neighborhood pollinator population will love it almost as much as you do, as it brings them in like a magnet, providing a long-lasting, sustained nectar source. Calamint’s long-blooming habit has made it a popular choice for garden designer Piet Oudolf, who used it extensively in Chicago’s Lurie Garden. That’s where the photo above was taken, and despite that it was mid-August, you can see it’s still looking fresh and fabulous. If it can do this well in the middle of the city after the hottest part of summer, imagine what it will do in your backyard!

The soft green foliage of calamint lining a brick path in Lurie Garden in Chicago

High Performance, Low Maintenance

Close up of Calamint with green foliage and vibrant white blooms

Perfect for beginners and experts alike!

Calamint is adaptable and easy to grow, thriving in a wide range of climates and conditions. It requires virtually no fussing to stay looking healthy and blooming well, so it’s the perfect plant for gardeners of any skill level. Just plant it in full sun (6+hours/day) and well-drained (never wet) soil, and enjoy the show! It will go dormant in autumn, but no worries- that’s totally normal. Come spring, just cut back any dry, brown stems that persisted over winter, and get ready for another flower-filled season.

Thanks to its Mediterranean origins, it thrives in dry, rocky, or difficult soils. However, that does come slightly at the expense of hardiness, as it has poor survival in areas colder than USDA zone 5.

Are Calamint And Catmint The Same Thing?

two rounded calamint shrubs with white blooms next to yellow flowers
The bright purple blooms of the Cats Meow Catmint topping its vibrant green foliage
'Cat's Meow' Catmint

Though their names sound similar and both are members of Lamiaceae, the mint family, they are two totally different species with distinctly different characteristics. Calamint is known botanically as Calamintha nepeta subspecies nepeta, and blooms all summer with small white flowers. Catmint is known botanically as Nepeta, and it has intense purple-blue flowers, with blooming concentrated primarily in the first half of summer. Though there are several species of catmint that are grown in gardens, Nepeta x faassenii is the most popular, earning its fame through popular varieties like ‘Walker’s Low’, ‘Cat’s Pajamas’, and ‘Cat’s Meow’. Newer types of catmint are being introduced, as seen by the spectacular ‘Blue Prelude’, which is just starting to get the attention it deserves.

Wondering how the herb catnip fits in here? Botanically speaking, it’s also a Nepeta – Nepeta cataria, to be exact. We don’t offer it here on Great Garden Plants, as it doesn’t quite have the ornamental value of its relatives, and it can get a bit rangy and rowdy in the garden. Now, we guess you’re wondering if catmints attract cats the way that catnip does: some people do report cats being mildly interested in ornamental catmints like ‘Walker’s Low’, though they don’t have anywhere near the same content of nepatalactone – the chemical responsible for cats’ euphoric behavior – as true catnip, so they tend to leave them alone.

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Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

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