Prostanthera nivea var. nivea

Snowy Mint Bush

Family: Lamiaceae

Prostanthera nivea var. nivea is an upright shrub growing to a height of 4 metres.

It has a scattered and widespread distribution in NSW, growing as far south on the coast as near to and west of Merimbula; to as far west as Griffith-area and further north, extending north-west of here through areas such as Tamworth and Armidale (and west of), into SE Queensland. There are also records near Canberra, Dubbo, west of Batemans Bay and east of Tamworth. It is also widespread through Victoria, mainly in the central north and south.

It typically grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, in shallow sandy soils, on rocky slopes and ridges.

Prostanthera have simple, opposite and usually odorous leaves. In this species, leaves are light green, linear and about 4 centimetres long, to only 0.1 cm wide.

Flowers have a shape described as labiate (applied to all Lamiaceae flowers) with petals varying in their size, purple to lilac, produced in leaf axils. One of the identification features for Prostanthera is that the 5 calyx parts (sepals; basal whorl of the flower) are fused into 2 lips. In this species, flowers are white to mauve, produced solitarily in leaf axils, but clustered in leafy spikes; occurring from September to December.

Fruits are mericarps (can be called nutlets). Four are produced produced at the base of the calyx.

In the garden

Prostanthera nivea var. nivea is a handsome, eye catching shrub particularly during the flowering period. A wonderful addition to any garden, in a shady spot. It is reasonably hardy and a great feature shrub. It is commonly sold at native nurseries.

Pruning is advised as this will keep plants from becoming straggly and promote more flowers. It is advised that this particular variety may need regular pruning to keep it at its best.

A Prostanthera in full bloom is a magnificent sight and there are so many colours to choose from for your garden. These plants are found in all states in varied soil conditions and climate and thus while it may be a challenge to grow some species many are easy in a garden situation.

A few basic growing tips are:
• Good drainage is essential. Raised beds ensure this
• Water new plants until established, weekly or as required.
• Do not over water, as this can induce root rot and fungal infestation.
• They prefer moist root runs.
• Plant drooping is an indicator of dryness

Positioning of prostantheras as border plants or near pathways is recommended as the mint odour is released when brushed against.


Another virtue of this variety is that propagation from cuttings is rapid.

Plants may be grown from fresh seed. However, cuttings are frequently and reliably used, usually semi-hard wood or soft tip material, which strike well in spring or autumn.

Other information

Prostanthera is a diverse group of about 100 species, endemic to Australia, occurring in all states. There are still many unresolved taxa and species complexes, with new forms regularly being found. Natural hybrids occur between several species and most species appear to be capable of hybridizing when in cultivation. NSW currently has about 52 species, some of which are species-complex and others which are threatened with extinction.

Some 80% of mints contain aromatic oils within their leaves with oil of cineole being a major component. Prostanthera sieberi, P. incisa and P. staurophylla are quite pleasantly overpowering in their exudates when crushed. Oil from the leaves of some species is distilled for use in cosmetics and as soap additives.

Likely regenerates from seed after fire, possibly after 12 months.

Prostanthera – from the Greek prosthike (προσθήκη) which translates to “addendum” (root of prosthetic), and anthir (ανθήρ) meaning anther – referring to the anthers which have an appendage of tissue.

nivea – Latin meaning “snow” or “snow-white” – referring to the dense and appressed white hairs on this species.

This variety taxon is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Prostanthera nivea var. nivea profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=in&name=Prostanthera~nivea~var.+nivea 

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Nick’s Natives – Prostanthera nivea sales page                               https://nicksnatives.com/products/i-prostanthera-nivea-i-snowy-mint-bush-b-white-b

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke