Cat's Whiskers Plant

Tips on a fun bloom, also known as Java tea.

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Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 to 11

This elegant mint relative is sometimes sold as Java tea, but "cat's whiskers" is a much more enchanting description of its showy blooms. Held above bushy clumps of glossy, medium- to deep-green leaves, the delicate, tubular flowers have long, curved stamens that extend an inch or two past the petals, giving the long bloom spikes an attractive, whisker-like appearance. The flowers are often white but may also appear in shades of bluish-purple. In most areas, the dense, bushy plants grow about two feet tall and bloom in late summer and fall; in very mild climates, they can shoot up to three to four feet (or even taller) and bloom through much of the growing season.

How to use it: Enjoy cat's whiskers in containers, or try it as an accent or grouping in garden beds. The white-flowered form is especially nice in evening gardens, where the pale blooms appear to glow in the dusk. Indoors, cat's whiskers is great as a houseplant or for use as cutflowers.

Culture: Cat's whiskers thrive in evenly moist soil and can adapt to full sun or partial shade. Afternoon shade and frequent watering are especially helpful in hot climates. Snipping off the flower spikes as they fade encourages new blooms to develop. It's easy to propagate cat's whiskers from cuttings to increase your collection or to bring indoors for overwintering north of USDA Zone 9. No serious problems with pests or diseases.

Special notes: A favorite with butterflies, cat's whiskers also provides plenty of nectar for bees and hummingbirds.

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