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Bored Of Catmint? 5 Beautiful Perennials To Grow Instead

It’s everywhere. Across the street at your neighbors. Every house in that new development has it. Your sister grows it in her flower bed next to the backdoor. It’s at the bank as you walk in and in the concrete planter when you walk out of the hairdressers. Every garden center carries it.

Catmint along a walkway
Is it really a landscape if it doesn’t have catmint?

And boy, does it show; you can find it practically everywhere.

Catmint flowers are undeniably beautiful

It makes sense, really. Catmint is hardy in zones 3-8. It’s drought-resistant and cold-tolerant, blooms all summer long, and is easy to grow. It’s no wonder this perennial has found its way into so many gardens and planters.

Catmint growing in a planter
Oh, look, more catmint.

But for some gardeners, that’s kind of the problem.

What if you’re tired of the same old plants on offer at your local garden center? What should you grow if you want your flower beds to stand out from every other house on the block?

If you’re tired of the same old catmint everyone else is growing, I’ve got five beautiful alternatives that will have friends and neighbors stopping to ask, “What is that?” They’re all similar to catmint in shape and growth habit, and all have purple-blue flowers.

Try growing one of these perennials instead of catmint, or get really wild and grow them in addition to it.

5 Beautiful Perennials to Grow Instead of Catmint

1. Russian Sage (Salvia yangii, previously Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Russian sage plant

I’m starting with Russian sage as this is a personal favorite of mine. Russian sage looks like a cross between catmint and lavender. It has gorgeous silvery-green foliage that almost glows at dusk. The flowers are tall sprays of lavender-purple.

Russian sage is a pollinator magnet. I don’t think I’ve ever walked by mine when it’s blooming and not seen a bee or butterfly sipping from the tiny flowers. And it smells heavenly. I love dragging my fingers along the stem and smelling its fresh, herbal-lavender-like scent.

Bee on a Russian sage plant

Varieties to try:

  • Blue Jean Baby – 2-3ft tall and one of the earliest blooming varieties.
  • Little Spire – the perfect variety when space is limited as it only grows to about 2ft tall.
  • Sage Advice – 3ft tall and 3ft wide, this is a vigorous growing variety.
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, average soil
  • Water: Drought tolerant once established, water often in the first growing season
  • Mature Height: 2-4 feet tall, depending on variety
  • Bloom Time: Summer to early fall

2. Sea Holly (Eryngium spp.)

sea holly flowers

If you want something completely different, then you’ll love Sea Holly. This intriguing perennial is a true departure from the easily recognizable flowers of catmint. With its spiky, blue-green leaves and cone-shaped metallic blue flowers, Sea holly is a breathtaking conversation starter. Their sturdy blooms and interesting foliage also make for excellent fresh and dried cut-flowers.

Some varieties also have silver blooms instead of blue. Sea holly is a tough plant that does well in poor, sandy soil. If you’re having trouble getting other plants to grow in an area of your yard with poor, sunbaked soil, give it a try.

Varieties to try:

Blue sea holly flowers
  • Blue Glitter – 3ft tall with icy blue blooms.
  • Jade Frost – 2ft tall with shimmering foliage.
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
  • Water: It has a long tap root, which makes it quite drought-tolerant—water as needed once established.
  • Height: 1-3 feet tall
  • Bloom Time: Summer to fall

3. Bluestar (Amsonia spp.)

Light blue flowers of bluestar

Bluestar is a compact perennial shrub with lovely, pale blue flowers that are (naturally) star-shaped. The foliage ranges from a vivid green to a deep olive green.

As the season progresses, the leaves turn a beautiful gold in the fall, adding another pop of color while other plants are waning. When it’s blooming, it looks like bursts of blue fireworks on top of mounds of green foliage. Depending on the variety, blooms can be pale sky blue to an almost electric blue-purple.

golden foliage of bluestar plant
Blue flowers fade into golden autumn foliage in the fall.

Varieties to try:

  • Blue Ice – 1.5 ft tall, much deeper blue, almost purple flowers.
  • String Theory – 1.5-2ft tall, feathery, green leaves with compact blooms on top.
  • Storm Cloud – 2-3ft tall, black stems and periwinkle blooms.
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-9
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Water: Average water needs
  • Height: 1-3 feet tall
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

4. False Indigo (Baptisia spp.)

false indigo

False Indigo is an underrated stunner with a growth habit similar to catmint but with much more striking blooms. This perennial grows stalks of pea-like flowers in shades of electric blue, deep purple, buttery yellow, or white. They also have lovely blue-green leaves, making them appealing even when they aren’t in bloom.

false indigo

Varieties to try:

  • Lunar Eclipse – 3-4ft tall with gorgeous flowers starting blue at the base and fading to white at the top.
  • Pink Lemonade – 3-4ft tall, a beautiful sunset pink fading to yellow
  • Sparkling Sapphires – 3-4ft tall, the name says it all, a beautiful “blurple.”
  • Hardiness Zones: 3-9
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained, fertile soil
  • Water: Water while the plant is getting established and as needed if you experience long periods without rain.
  • Height: 3-4 feet tall
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer

5. Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)

blue delphinium

While delphiniums don’t grow an abundance of green shrubbery like catmint, I had to put them on this list. Grown in a cluster, their tall spikes of showy, spurred flowers in shades of blue, purple, pink, or white look like something out of a watercolor painting. They add height and interest to areas of your flowerbed where catmint would fit in. They also make lovely cut flowers, whether in bunches or a single bloom in a vase.

Varieties to try:

mix of delphinium growing
  • For delphiniums, I highly recommend ordering a mix of varieties, as they look best with several different colors planted together.
  • Hardiness Zones: 3-7
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil: Rich, well-drained soil
  • Water: Even moisture
  • Height: 3-6 feet tall
  • Bloom Time: Early to midsummer

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with growing catmint. There’s a reason it’s so popular – it’s beautiful, easy to care for and one tough little plant that keeps coming back year after year. Whether you choose to keep growing catmint or try something different, your garden will be beautiful.


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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,

Tracey
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