Stachys cooleyae

22 Jun

Hedgemint or hedgenettle is a wonderful hummingbirds plant that gets no respect in gardens. It is a mint, and spreads like a mint, which is to say it can be more than a little bit of a thug when happy, but if you give it garden space it will bloom through summer (with some dead heading of course) in moist shady spots with beautiful bright dusky pink flowers that will attract every hummingbird in the neighborhood.

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There are several species in the northwest, but the Cooley’s hedgemint is the most common. You can even find it in drainage ditches on the sides of the road when they are left to grow a bit. Naturally it grows in winter swampy areas that dry out a bit in summer, but not too dry. It can take full sun with enough water, as on the side of a pond, but it really prefers to be in semi-shade. An irrigated garden under open deciduous trees seems to suit it just fine.

Like many mints, it spreads by fast growing and fairly wide ranging underground runners, or stolons. These stems can be dug and divided in late winter easily to propagate. I haven’t tried seed myself, since vegetative propagation is so easy, but it likely is fairly simple as well. If you can find seeds that is. I’ve never looked, honestly, lol.

As well as moisture, it prefers a fairly rich soil, but will make do in heavy silt/clay if it stays moist in summer. I’ve successfully grown it on the edges of artificial ponds, and in pots kept wet in kiddy pools, so long as the soil level is well above the water level. In ponds this way it will quickly colonize the appropriate soil horizon and make for quite a show, though often by mid summer it’s exuberance leads to it over growing itself and flopping over.

Because this is also true in garden beds, I like to grow this in with other plants that can help support it, things like ferns, other aggressive plants like aster or goldenrod that will flower before or after its done, etc. I once saw a beautiful bed of this mixed with horsetail, water parsley and big headed sedge where the four interwove into a spectacular tapestry of color and texture. I really wish I had a picture to show, as it was a beautiful combination.

So for best garden results- give it room to roam, something to lean on, and plenty of moisture, even inundation in winter. It’s aggressive enough to compete with other garden thugs, but likes rich soil and constant moisture so isn’t too hard to discourage if it gets out of hand. And when in bloom, watch for hummingbirds!

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