The Mint Bush Family - Cultivation

Of the Australian members of the Lamiaceae, only Prostanthera and Westringia are in widespread cultivation. Species of Ajuga, Hemiandra and Plectanthus are seen from time to time but most other genera are only grown by collectors.

All species that are in general cultivation perform best in well-drained, moist soils but they rarely succeed in continually wet soils. Generally they are at their best in light shade such as in the dappled light of eucalypts. A notable exception to the general rule is the coast rosemary, Westringia fruticosa. This has proven to be extremely hardy in a wide range of soils and climates and is particularly tolerant of exposed coastal conditions.

As it is the most commonly grown member of the family, the following general points for cultivating Prostanthera are worth noting:

  • Species should be selected that are native to a climate similar to that where they are to be grown. In humid, summer-rainfall areas, avoid species from drier climates.
  • Mint bushes are usually quick growing and are ideal for providing a quick, colourful effect in a new garden. However, they may be past their best after 6-8 years.
  • Mint bushes should be pruned back by about one third after flowering to maintain a bushy habit.
  • Mint bushes often wilt noticeably when moisture is lacking in a garden. They are excellent "indicator" plants because of this.
  • They are not demanding as far as fertilizing is concerned but they do respond to applications of slow release fertilizer applied after flowering.

The following table lists some of the more readily available members of the mint bush family and their characteristics.


Members of the Mint Bush Family for the Garden

Plant Common
Name
Size
HxW (m)
Flower
Colour
Comments
Hemiandra pungens Snakebush
Prostrate x 1.0
Pink/mauve Prickly foliage with very attractive flowers. May be short lived in humid districts. Upright forms and white-flowered forms exist. Best in a sunny, position.
Prostanthera aspalathoides Scarlet mint bush
0.7 x 0.7
Red Spectacular but difficult to maintain for long periods under cultivation. Despite the common name, a yellow form is available.
Prostanthera incisa Cut-leaf mint bush
1.0 x 1.5
Violet Attractive, small shrub for sun or semi shade.
Prostanthera lasianthos Victorian Christmas bush
6.0 x 5.0
White to mauve Quick growing and in good conditions may reach 8-10 metres. Tolerates heavy shade as well as full sun.
Prostanthera magnifica Magnificent prostanthera
1.8 x 1.5
Lilac to mauve Best in drier climates. Probably the most spectacular species but very difficult to maintain unless grafted.
Prostanthera nivea Snowy mint bush
3.0 x 2.0
White Quick growing. Needs annual pruning back by about one third to maintain a bushy habit. Sun or semi shade. the var. induta is smaller and has mauve flowers but is less reliable in cultivation.
Prostanthera ovalifolia Oval-leaved mint bush
2.0 x 1.8
Purple Very aromatic foliage. Quick growing and spectacular in flower. Needs annual pruning back by about one third to maintain a bushy habit. Sun or semi shade.
Prostanthera 'Poorinda Ballerina' None
1.5 x 1.5
White Dense flowering, small to medium shrub with pure white flowers. Best in semi shade to avoid burning of flowers but will tolerate sun.
Prostanthera rotundifolia Round-leaved mint bush
1.8 x 1.8
Purple or pink Very aromatic foliage. Quick growing and spectacular in flower. Needs annual pruning back by about one third to maintain a bushy habit. Sun or semi shade.
Prostanthera teretifolia None
1.5 x 1.0
Purple to mauve Attractive, narrow foliage. Flowers well displayed against the greyish foliage. For sun or semi shade.
Westringia fruticosa Coast rosemary
2.0 x 3.0
White Not spectacular in flower but extremely hardy in most areas. Good as a low, screening plant.
Westringia 'Smokey' None
1.0 x 1.0
White Greyish, variegated foliage. Very hardy and a good hedging plant.
Westringia 'White Rambler' None
1.0 x 2.0
White Hardy, spreading shrub. Useful as a groundcover where some height is required.
Westringia 'Wynyabbie Gem' None
1.5 x 1.5
Mauve Apparently a hybrid between W. fruticosa and W. eremicola. Hardy in most situations and a good hedging plant.


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