Calamintha is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Like other mints, members of this genus produce a rich, distinctive scent that makes them very easy to identify in the garden. This genus is native to temperate northern climates in regions like France and is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens all over the world. It is also suitable for container gardening and cultivation in the greenhouse.
The number of species in Calamintha is a topic of some debate, but there are believed to be around eight. The plants have a low, mounding growth habit, producing small toothed and somewhat hairy leaves on the signature square stems associated with the mint family. The flowers are usually very small, and produced on stalks that rise above the foliage, creating a cloud of blue to purple color above the mounds of leaves.
Calamintha is ideal for borders, edges, and flower beds. It tends to remain relatively compact and neat without the need for frequent trimming, and can be a good addition to a low maintenance garden. The plants do need very well-drained soil, along with good air circulation. It is important to clear away dead foliage and to periodically clean out the ground around the plants to keep air moving around the stems. Failure to do this can result in mold and mildew colonization.
Showy Calaminth produces larger and more colorful flowers than most other cultivars, making it a popular choice for the ornamental garden. There are a number of other Calamintha cultivars available for gardeners to choose from. People can grow from seeds, cuttings, and divisions. Nurseries commonly carry or can order plants from this genus and gardeners can also participate in exchanges to access plants of interest.
In addition to being aromatic in the garden, Calamintha can also be clipped and dried to bring its sweet scent into the home. The dried leaves can be added to potpourri and other scent blends, or simply hung as is. Crushing or crumbling the leaves will reactivate the scent of an old spray of dried leaves and flowers. The plants can also be used in distillation to produce scented essential oils. The oils can be used in the production of perfumed and scented waters, along with other products. One species, Calamintha officianalis is used in the production of herbal medicines, including tisanes to soothe the stomach and address skin conditions.