Don’t let the name scare you – Downy Wood Mint is not like its aggressive cousins

Zabulon skipper on Blephilia ciliata. Photo (Flickr) by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren

Blephilia ciliata, or Downy Wood Mint is in the mint family and so related to known, and beloved, rampant spreaders and aggressive competitors such as Pycnanthemum muticum and Physostegia virginiana. Sometimes we want something that will fill in a space quickly and thoroughly, especially if it attracts pollinators and supports beneficial insects. And sometimes we want something a little more well-behaved that still supports the surrounding ecology.

Downy Wood Mint is a 1-2′ tall clump forming perennial that, like most members of the mint family, will support a wide variety of beneficial insects. Blooming for nearly a month, tolerant of part shade to full sun and most soil types, and deer resistant. Stiff, square stems and leaves covered with fine white hairs give this plant its common name. This plant’s differences from its family members do not stop at being well-behaved in the garden; this plant’s leaves and stems lack the strong fragrance typically associated with mint family members. Persistent seed heads and evergreen basal foliage last through winter giving this plant multiple seasons of interest if you remember not to cut everything back in the fall.

Flowers of Blephilia ciliata. Photo (Flickr): James St. John

Blephilia translates to ‘eyelashes’, referring to the long hairs on the bracts below the flowers. Though called wood mint – this species of Blephilia is more likely to be found in open meadows in the wild than other species.

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