How to Grow Calamint

Close up of a blooming Calamint

hawk111 / Getty Images

Native to Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe, calamint is a delicate and petite perennial flower suitable to USDA hardiness zones 5 through 7. There are around eight different species of calamint, all belonging to the Lamiaceae family and, though they share the name with true mint, their care requirements are considerably different.

The pretty and fragrant calamint flowers grow in small clusters and come in a range of colors, including white, purple, pink, and red. Known for being attractive to pollinators, calamint is well-suited to cottage and herb gardens, as well as perennial borders. Additionally, calamint's tolerance of drought and poor soil means the plant is a popular addition in xeriscape landscapes.

Calamint seed should be started indoors (or in a greenhouse) in early spring, and moved outdoors as seedlings in about mid-summer, once the plants have had time to develop a strong root system. The plant is a steady, moderate grower—it will reach maturity by late summer and bloom well into the end of fall.

Botanical Name  Calamintha nepeta 
Common Name  Calamint, field balm, basil thyme
Plant Type  Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size  12–18 in. tall, 12–18 in. wide
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Moist but well-drained
Soil pH  Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time  Summer, fall
Flower Color  White, pink, red, purple
Hardiness Zones  5–7 (USDA)
Native Area  Europe, Africa, Asia
Toxicity  Non-toxic
A close up of the lavender flowers of the Lesser Calamint
Lesser calamint is the most well-known and ornamental species example Paul Starosta / Getty Images

Calamint Care

Calamint is a relatively low-maintenance little flower that can tolerate a variety of soil types, lighting, and temperatures. These small, bushy, aromatic perennials are known for being so versatile that it makes a popular choice for even the most novice gardeners.

Calamint tea is known for being fresh, fragrant, and sweet, and is also known to help aid in healthy digestion. You can harvest the leaves from your calamint plants at any point through their growing season, though picking the leaves at the start of the season and first thing in the morning is recommended for the fullest flavors.

Light

Plant your calamint in a spot that boasts full sunlight for at least six to eight hours a day. That being said, calamint can also tolerate partial shade, especially during the hot summer months. If your plant is located somewhere that receives afternoon shade, it will likely be just fine.

Soil

Known for being able to adapt to pretty much any soil type, calamint can grow in infertile, gravelly, loamy, and sandy varieties without issue. The only truly important factor is that the soil it's planted in boasts good drainage to prevent root rot and other diseases.

Water

Calamint likes to be kept consistently moist, but it copes surprisingly well through periods of drought. To prevent stress in prolonged drought conditions, you should still lightly water your calamint after the top inch of soil has dried out. Overwatering, however, is a bigger problem. Calamint roots don't like to be sitting in standing water and can easily develop root rot if kept moist for too long without being allowed to dry out.

Temperature and Humidity

If you experience chilly winters, calamint could be suited to your garden. They're relatively cold hardy and can survive even when temperatures reach below freezing. However, this isn't a plant that appreciates extreme heat or humidity—those conditions may necessitate a slight change in your care routines, such as more shade or more frequent watering.

Fertilizer

Unless planted in highly infertile soil, your calamint won't need any fertilization. If your soil is particularly deficient in nutrients, applying a balanced fertilizer just once at the start of the spring could help to increase the plant's vigor.

Varieties of Calamint

There are at least eight species of calamint and many hybrid cultivars too. Some of the most common varieties include:

  • Calamintha nepeta: Also known as lesser calamint, this varietal is one of the most popular options. It flowers abundantly, has a pleasant fragrance, and is fast spreading. The blooms are usually white but can sometimes be purple or blue.
  • Calamintha grandiflora: This varietal, also known as mint savory has larger flowers than most other species in this genus. It's available with variegated foliage and also smells delicious.
  • Calamintha sylvatica : This lilac-hued variety can cope with higher temperatures and produces a particularly flavorful tea.
Calamint Calamintha nepeta (lesser calamint) flower cluster
Calamintha nepeta (lesser calamint) Alpamayo Photo / Getty Images
Calamintha sylvatica close up as it is starting to bloom
Calamintha sylvatica Inahwen / Getty Images

Pruning Calamint

The most important part of pruning your calamint plant is deadheading the flowers before they start to seed (which typically happens in late summer or early fall). This is an important to-do if you want to control your calamints spread, which can become a bit unruly if left to its own devices. You could also confine them to a container, use landscaping fabric or, more simply, select a hybrid cultivar that is sterile.

Trimming back the plant to half height after its growing season can also encourage new growth come spring and help to keep this bushy perennial from looking untidy. It can also redirect the plant's energy into blooming more vigorously instead of maintaining a too-large size.

Propagating Calamint

Calamint has long, spreading rhizomatous roots, which can be easily divided or cut to develop new plants. It's best to take any healthy cuttings in the spring after the last frost and make sure that they're kept moist but well-drained during their establishment period. They should also be protected from too much harsh, direct sunlight.

Common Pests/Diseases

Though calamint is fairly disease and pest-free, you may end up contending with powdery mildew towards the end of the growing season. To avoid this issue, water the plant at the base where the roots meet the soil to avoid adding excess moisture into the plant's dense foliage.

Occasionally, you may find your calamint afflicted with whitefly as well. If you notice signs of infestation, you can treat your plant with a mild insecticide or horticultural oil like neem oil.