Mint (Mentha spp.) species and variants are hardy perennials that are easy to recognize because of their fresh, spicy aroma. All members of the mint genus have opposing leaves and square stems. The tall stems climb upward before flopping over and rooting to spread.
Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are attracted to the little white or purple summer-flowering blooms. Mint plants grow quickly and should be planted after the threat of frost has passed in the spring. When consumed, mint is poisonous to animals.
Mint Planting Instructions
Keep mint aside from your usual garden beds since it is an aggressive ground cover that will steal nutrients. When the leaves are walked on and crushed, the mint releases its aromatic perfume. Plant it in walkway crevices and between stone regions in high-traffic locations.
When Should You Plant?
After the fear of frost has passed, plant mint outside in the spring. Rainfall in the spring will be beneficial to the mint.
Choosing a Planting Location
Choose a location where mint can spread without producing problems when planting it in the ground. Mint thrives in a humid, moist environment with well-draining soil, as well as in the full sun or partial shade. The plant prefers fertile, compost-rich soil.
Support, Depth, and Spacing
Outdoors, space cuttings, or tiny bought plants 18 to 2 feet apart. Because it spreads quickly, two plants should be enough to cover a few feet of the ground. Mint has shallow roots, so you won't have to go too deep while planting it, just enough to set it down and spread its roots gently.
Trimming back your mint plant to prevent its runners from growing to undesirable locations may be your mint management duty. Edge the area where you plant mint with edging 18 to 24 inches deep into the soil to discourage further spreading.
Mint Plant Care
Light Mint plants grow best in partial shade, although they will grow in full sun if watered frequently. Even so, it's better to keep them out of direct sunlight throughout the afternoon. Mint may also thrive in shaded areas; however, it will become leggy and produce fewer less tasty leaves.
Soil Mint may grow in various soils, although it favors a rich, slightly acidic to neutral pH. It's also essential to have good soil drainage. Mint plants love water, but their roots might rot if the soil is too wet.
During dry weather, water your mint to keep the soil hydrated. Mint grows best in soil that is mildly wet but not soggy. Give your plant some water if the ground seems dry around an inch down. If the leaf on your mint plant starts to droop, it's an indication that it needs more water. It's ideal for watering your mint first thing in the morning so that it has plenty of moisture when the day heats up.
Humidity and Temperature
Temperature tolerance varies depending on the species, although mint plants are often flexible. Peppermint (Mentha piperita), for example, is extremely cold hardy and can tolerate the freezing temperatures of USDA hardiness zone 3. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a heat-tolerant plant that may be grown in zones 11 and 12.
Mint plants may also struggle in low humidity. If you're growing mint inside, spray the plant between waterings or lay the container on a water-filled tray of pebbles to improve humidity. During the dry winter months, this is especially important.
If you have nutrient-deficient soil, feed it during the growing season (spring to fall). You won't need to add any additional fertilizer to your mint if you already have rich garden soil. Feeding container plants and plants grown in nutrient-deficient soil with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer throughout the growing season, beginning when the plants emerge in the spring, will benefit them. Follow the directions on the label.
Mint comes in a variety of shapes and colors, as well as a variety of flavors. They are as follows:
- Mentha piperita: Peppermint grows in USDA zones 3 to 11 and has a pleasant, minty flavor.
- Mentha x Piperita f. citrata Chocolate mint, a first cousin of peppermint, has minty chocolate flavor and scent in its leaves.
- Mentha spicata: Spearmint is a great way to add flavor to teas and salads, and it's also one of the best mints for landscaping. It thrives in zones 5 through 9.
- Mentha piperita citrata: One of the tangiest of the fruit-flavored mints is orange mint. It thrives in zones 4 through 11.
- Mentha suaveolens Apple mint mixes the flavors of apple and mint. It thrives in zones 5 through 11.
- Mentha suaveolens Variegata Pineapple mint is a variegated offshoot of apple mint. It thrives in zones 6 through 11.
Lemon Balm vs. Mint
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, yet it has a distinct flavor and aroma from other mints. However, because it resembles a large mint plant, it is frequently mistaken for mint. It has a citrus aroma with a hint of mint. Lemon balm has bigger leaves than mint and grows taller.
Mint leaves can be harvested once the plant has numerous stems that are 6 to 8 inches long. If you're starting from seed, this should take approximately two months, but if you buy nursery plants, it should take less time. Before the shoots die back in the summer and fall, mature mint can be collected. Harvest no more than a third of a plant at a time, as doing so will weaken the plant.
As needed, snip sprigs and leaves. If you don't harvest your mint regularly, shearing it in the middle of the season will help. You'll probably see the stems getting longer and the leaves getting shorter at some point. Now is the moment to prune the plant back to one-third to one-half of its original size. This will encourage it to produce new, healthy foliage with large leaves.
Mint in Pots: How to Grow It
Mint is an easy plant to cultivate in a container. It's ideal to use an unglazed clay container with plenty of drainage holes so that excess soil moisture can escape through the holes and the container walls. Make sure to use a good potting mix and keep the soil moist but not saturated.
Long stems touching the surrounding soil may take root, so be careful where you place the container. It's best to grow it on a patio or paved area. To keep the roots from escaping the container and into the ground, place a double layer of landscaping cloth inside the pot over the drainage holes.
Pruning Mint is a ground cover that prefers to be pruned. Pruning the stems also results in a bushier, more appealing growth habit. Grow your mint in a limited space, such as a pot or between paved sections, to avoid having to do a lot of pruning.
Cutting mint is a cost-effective and straightforward approach to propagate fresh plants. When the plant is actively developing and before it has blossomed, it is preferable to propagate it in the late spring to early summer. Here's how to do it:
- Cut a healthy piece of stem 4 to 6 inches long with sanitized scissors or pruning shears.
- Remove the lower half of the stem's leaves.
- Put the stem in a container of water or a small pot of moistened potting mix. Place the container in a light that is both bright and indirect.
- Change the water every few days when rooted in it to keep it fresh. Plant the cutting in soil once the roots have grown to a length of a few inches.
- Water to keep the soil mildly moist when roots are in the soil.
- The rooting process can take up to two weeks. When you can gently tug on the stem and feel resistance, you know roots have grown. The mint can then be replanted in the garden or another container if desired.
How to Start a Mint Plant from Seed
Sow seed outside in late spring when there's no risk of frost, or start seed inside eight to ten weeks before the last predicted frost date in your location. It's worth noting that certain mint kinds are hybrids that won't grow true from seed.
- Apply a light layer of dirt to the seed.
- Keep the soil moist for 10 to 15 days or until the seed germinates.
- Seed-grown plants should be ready to harvest in two months.
Mint Repotting and Potting
When your mint container gets root-bound and roots appear above the soil, it's generally easier to take a clipping and start a new plant instead of repotting. A minty flavor will be lacking in an old plant.
Even in the dead of winter, it's difficult to destroy a mint plant. Trim your mint plants low to the ground, cover them with leaves or mulch (some gardeners use an old sheet), and leave them alone until spring. Before the possibility of frost, bring potted mint indoors to be overwintered. Place the containers in bright light, water them regularly (but not until they are wet), and inspect them for bugs.
Common Plant Pests and Diseases
Pests and illnesses aren't frequently a problem for mint. However, typical garden pests such as whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs can wreak havoc on stressed plants. Rust, which shows as little orange patches on the undersides of leaves, can affect mint plants. Use a fungicide and let plants dry out between waterings.