Who ever said ground cover need be a matte of low-growing, often boring little plants? Sometimes, bigger is better… especially when large spaces need to filled. And for the biggest bang for your gardening buck, it’s hard to beat Walker’s Low catmint as a beautiful space-filler. A relative of catnip and other mints, this variety grows to a full, bushy 3-foot radius, usually within the first year of planting. Their blue-green foliage, combined with long-lasting blue-purple flower spikes makes them an excellent specimen for contrast against other plants. But mass-plantings of cat mint are what will really draw ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from your garden visitors.
Here in planting zone 5B, catmint are among the very first plants to emerge in early spring (or late winter, if conditions are right). By April and May, these plants have already grown to their full, bushy size, choking out obnoxious weeds before they can get started.
Walker’s low catmint start their show in mid-May and often continue until late in the year. Varieties sold today are so hardy, they often flower non-stop until the coldest Fall weather shuts them down. If you do find that your catmint stop blooming early, these plants can be cut back and will likely flower again as long as the weather is favorable.
Despite performing best in full sun, Walker’s Low not only tolerates part shade, it easily thrives and blooms there. You can get away with growing this plant in full shade as well, provided they get plenty of early spring sun before overhead trees fill in with leaves. But blooms and plant size will likely suffer in shadier areas.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
Blooming catmint are an absolute magnet for bees and hummingbirds. And given the long-flowering nature of this plant, that means you’ll have these garden-friendly visitors hanging around five or more months of every year.
What makes them a great candidate for a large-sized ground cover is not only their bushy three-foot spread per plant, but also how easily catmint can be divided to make more plants. The best time to do so is in early spring, as the plant first begins to emerge from the ground, but before it has grown more than an inch or two. Still, these are hardy plants and division in mid-summer or early fall can be done – just be sure to allow them a few weeks to establish new roots before colder weather sends them to dormancy.
THE FINE PRINT
Every plant has it’s caveats, and Walker’s Low is no exception. Probably the biggest environmental issue they face is excessive moisture. Once established, catmint can survive brief drought conditions. But these plants do not tolerate standing water for long, and will quickly turn yellow (or die). Be sure to plant in an area with enough elevation, and well-draining soil. Also, catmint completely re-grow from the ground up every spring. Which means you’ll need to cut dead growth down to the ground in fall or late winter.