One of an occasional series of guides on growing popular plants. Other guides include peony, redbud, azalea, elephant ear, coleus, lantana and echinacea.
The savory calament is an attractive, compact and aromatic perennial that would be welcome at any time, but is especially valued for its exposure during the hottest weeks of the year. It begins its long flowering period in early July – a time when many perennials flex or decline due to the heat – and continues to flower until fall. Calamente produces plume-shaped stems covered in tiny white or lavender-blue flowers that keep coming for months. When brushed or crushed, the leaves give off a pleasant minty aroma.
Calamente is unmatched as a pollinating plant and is particularly loved by honey bees, but you don’t have to be a bee to recognize that it deserves more use.
The plant forms erect, bushy tufts about 18 inches high and wide.
Use and location
Calamine lends itself to a variety of uses: as a filler plant in a container, as a low border plant along walkways and patios, and massaged as a ground cover in the perennial border.
Planting and maintenance
The savory calament is native to the Mediterranean region and dislikes humid climates, but is well suited to the mid-Atlantic as long as it obtains optimal growing conditions. This means well-drained soils and a windy site. It will work in areas of light shade. It is not a plant for heavy clay soils in stagnant corners of the garden. Avoid heavy organic mulch.
Cut it back after the initial bloom to encourage bushy regrowth and bloom again until fall. It spreads by rhizomes and also sows freely, but the plant is easily controlled. Cutting it off after the first flowering will reduce any seedling.
White Cloud is a particularly floriferous white flowered version that begins to flower a little earlier than the species. Blue Cloud has lavender blue flowers and Gottfried Kuehn has mauve pink flowers.
The White Cloud variety of calamintha nepeta. (Walter Gardens, Inc.)
The Blue Cloud variety of calamintha nepeta. (Jelitto)
LEFT: The White Cloud variety of calamintha nepeta. (Walter Gardens, Inc.) RIGHT: The Blue Cloud variety of calamintha nepeta. (Jelitto)
Another calamine called large-flowered calamine (Calamintha grandiflora) has larger, mintier leaves and fewer but larger pink-pink flowers. A variety named Variegata has creamy spots on the leaves.
Main illustration by Washington Post staff / iStock / Mt. Central Cuba. Icon illustrations by Jeannie Phan.