The lesser calamint should not be missing in any garden bed, because this easy-care plant not only adorns itself with pretty small flowers, it also spreads an aromatic scent.
Profile of lesser calamint:
Scientific name: Clinopodium nepeta, syn. Calamintha nepeta
Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)
Other names: –
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: spring to autumn
Flowering period: July to October
Soil quality: stony to sandy, lime tolerant, low in nutrients, low in humus
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: borders, planters, dry stone walls, flower garden, roof garden, natural garden, rock garden potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of lesser calamint
Plant order, origin and occurrence of lesser calamint
Lesser calamint (Clinopodium nepeta or Calamintha nepeta) is a plant species of the genus Clinopodium. The species belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). The distribution area of Clinopodium nepeta extends from large parts of Southern and Central Europe via North Africa to Western Asia. It feels especially well in dry deciduous forests, on limestone rocks and scree in the mountains. Since the lesser calamint is versatile and has a particularly long flowering period, it has been found in more and more gardens for some years now.
Characteristics of lesser calamint
The upright and compact growing, bushy perennial has a short, creeping root and grows between 30 and 50 centimeters (12 to 20 in) high.
The approximately 2 cm (0.8 in) long, egg-shaped leaves of lesser calamint have varying degrees of hairiness and are usually serrated at the edges. When you rub the green leaves, an aromatic scent of mint rises to your nose.
From July to October, double-lipped flowers appear, which are about one centimeter large and sit on long, tubular, 5 to 20 inflorescences. The color of the countless, thyme-like flowers varies from a light violet to white. The flowers sit as loose clusters in the leaf axils of the stems and form together with the leaves a loose bush. Under optimal conditions, the flower is so rich that hardly any leaves are visible. At flowering time it attracts numerous hoverflies, bees and other insects.
Lesser calamint form inconspicuous little nuts.
Lesser calamint – cultivation and care
The lesser calamint should be planted in a fully sunny location. Only in a warm and sunny location the typical mint aroma will emerge. In shady locations, however, the plant is hardly willing to flower. If you want to enjoy the small, blue flowers until autumn, you should therefore choose an open, warm sunny spot for the Mediterranean plant.
The plant is considered quite undemanding. A dry, poor soil corresponds to the natural growing conditions. The substrate should not be too dense, because the water must always be able to run off well. The plants do not tolerate waterlogging. At the same time it is important that the soil does not dry out completely.
The lesser calamint can be planted all year round on frost-free days. Spring and autumn are the best times for planting. A planting distance of 35 to 40 cm (14 to 16 in) should be kept.
The plant should not be replanted if possible. This should be taken into consideration when choosing the location.
As the plants quickly form runners and therefore tend to spread uncontrollably, it is advisable to create a root barrier. Of course, the growth is also contained when planting in tubs.
The lesser calamint does not need to be watered regularly in the field. You only have to take care that the ground does not dry out completely. A need for water is indicated by the plants themselves by letting their leaves hang down. Water only moderately so that no waterlogging occurs.
Potted plants require more frequent watering, as the nutrient supply in the planter is much lower than in the open field. Any surplus of water must be able to drain off easily. Make sure that the liquid does not accumulate in the saucer and make sure that there are sufficient drainage holes in the bottom of the planter.
The nutrient requirement of the plant is low. Therefore it is sufficient to mix some ripe compost or horn shavings under the substrate when planting. This can then be repeated annually in spring. Any further fertilization is not necessary.
In order to prevent the plant from becoming bald, the lesser calamint is shortened by about two thirds of its length after the flowering period. To prevent the lesser calamint from eagerly sowing itself, you must cut back the plant shortly before the seed capsules are formed.
You can divide lesser calamint in early spring. This serves not only for propagation, but above all to rejuvenate the plant and should be done at the latest when the plant begins to become overgrown from the inside.
If older plants start to balding from their center, it is advisable to divide the lesser calamint. In this way you not only gain new plants, you also rejuvenate the mother plant and ensure strong and healthy growth.
Dividing the lesser calamint – step by step
- dig up the plant completely
- remove soil from the roots
- check roots for damage
- divide root ball with a pointed spade
- plant root sections separately
- care for the plant as usual
Propagation is also possible by sowing. The seeds can be grown upfront indoors or sown in spring directly into the cold frame. You can also cut and propagate cuttings. In doing so, you can be sure that the young plants have the characteristics of the mother plant. This is not guaranteed when sowing and the hobby gardener can experience one or two botanical surprises with this type of propagation.
Diseases and pests
The intensive aroma of the plants drives pests away. While bees and hoverflies romp about on the lesser calamint, snails avoid the plant. Occasionally, mildew can occur. The fungal infestation can be recognized by a coating reminiscent of flour that can be wiped off the leaves. Treatment with a milk-water solution or spraying with common horsetail broth helps against mildew.
Young plants should be protected from frost with a cover of leaves or brushwood. If the plants have grown well, the frost can no longer harm them and no additional winter protection is necessary.
Lesser calamint cultivated in a tub should move to a protected location during the cold season, wrapped with fleece and placed on a wooden block.
Use in the garden
Clinopodium nepeta sets beautiful accents on dry, sunny edges of a wood, on dry stone walls and on dry open spaces. In natural rock gardens, the perennial flowering plants thrive mainly on gravel and scree beds. Between high shrubs, baby’s breath (Gypsophila) and prickly thrift (Acantholimon), the lesser calamint also cuts a fine figure. The fragrant perennial is especially appreciated as a companion of roses. You can also place it in a tub on a sunny balcony. In the past, Clinopodium nepeta was used as a medicinal plant, but today it is mainly planted for its high ornamental value.
Especially popular is the variety Clinopodium nepeta ‘Triumphator’. It has small flowers in light purple to blue, which appear until October in mild weather, and has a strong, minty scent. The vigorous variety ‘Blue Cloud’ produces blue-violet flowers, which can sometimes be darker or pinkish.