Mint: How to Grow Mint
Mint is quite possibly one of the most useful plants to have in your garden. It’s wonderfully useful in the kitchen, and it has a strong scent that’s very invigorating. You can also grow it quickly and with little maintenance on your part. If you’re new in gardening – mint would be a newbie-friendly plant to start with.
Mint is a perennial herb with a very distinctive fragrance. There are actually different types available today – but all of them are known for the coolly unique smell of the leaves that’s often used for cooking, cocktails, and even medicine.
Each one has specific requirements when it comes to growing conditions – but these requirements tend to overlap, allowing you to actually grow different varieties in a single plot. Note though that some varieties are aggressive spreaders so you want to give them tons of space to grow into.
Facts About Mint
Mint is grown in practically every country, especially since it comes in tons of varieties – making it perfect for practically all kinds of weather. While each variation is different, most types of mints love the sunlight and survive best on moist soil, needing little fertilizer to keep them thriving.
They’re also invasive, so care is needed when planting them to avoid overwhelming your garden. There’s no set origin of the plant as each country seems to have their unique variation of the plant. For example, there’s Corsican mint, Egyptian mint, Vietnamese mint, and so on.
They’re not very picky when it comes to growing conditions. Well-draining soil, a moist environment, and tons of sun would be perfect for these plants – allowing them to literally invade spaces in a garden. If you’re growing this plant directly on the ground, make sure to keep them two feet apart.
When grown alongside non-mint plants, you’d want to space it even farther as the mint can easily suck up all the nutrients in the soil. In the USDA Hardiness Scale, these plants thrive best in areas in Zones 3 to 8.
With more than 20 varieties today, it’s tough to pin down the exact height of this plant. Some grow upward, while others are crawlers so if you want a definite number, knowing the variety is the best way to start. Generally however, this plant grows from 2 to 3 feet with a spread of around 1 to 4 feet. Without proper pruning, it can rise upwards up to 8 feet and quickly invade a garden.
Leaves are mainly ovate in shape with serrated edges and deep markings on the surface. They’re fairly small – just a few centimeters in length, and growing in opposite sides of the stalk. The color of the leaves depend on the type but they’re almost always a light shade of green. The minty smell comes primarily from the leaves and the juice produced when you smash them together. These leaves are often covered by a fuzzy spread of hair.
Mint coloring is no different from any other plant. The leaves are a variety of green shades while the flowers produce a stark pastel contrast once they show up.
If given the chance, this plant will grow flowers with shades ranging from purple, white, and even dark blue – depending on the variety. You can easily tell the variety of the mint once the flower pops up because each one is different. These flowers can blossom anywhere from June to September – but make sure to cut them off before the buds mature. The flowers may be pretty but they actually decrease the freshness of the mint leaves.
Varieties of Mint
Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)
When people hear the word “mint”, this is the plant they picture in their head. The peppermint grows up to 3 feet in height and thrives best in USDA Hardiness Zones of 3 to 11. It’s actually a hybrid of the spearmint and the watermint, but managed to grow a reputation of its own.
The stems are thick and square-like while the leaves are ovate with serrated margins. There are actually subtypes to it with the most common one having slightly fair foliage. The most defining feature however would be the smell, which is a lot like gum.
Orange Mint (Mentha Piperita Citrata)
Also known as Eau de Cologne Mint, this particular variety became popular in 1970 and is being used today for garden hedging. The flowers are lilac-colored and the leaves are often dried out to be used for tea.
Apple Mint (Mentha Suaveoloens)
This particular type also goes by the name of Pineapple Mint because of the fruity aftertaste to the leaves. The Pineapple Mint however, is actually a variety of the Apple Mint so don’t get confused. Unlike other mint plants, it does well under full sun as long as you keep the soil moist.
The leaves are a bit round and light green while the flowers are pale pink. It can be planted directly on the ground although you’d want to keep it away from your vegetables since they’re very good in sucking up nutrients.
Pineapple Mint (Mentha Suaveolens Variegata)
Being a variety of the Apple Mint, it’s not surprising that the Pineapple Mint looks a lot like its mom – or dad. A perennial herb, the pineapple mint is also used to make tea or fresh juices. This particular variety boasts of green leaves with a white margin – allowing for easy distinction. The leaves are fuzzy white pale pink flowers.
Corsican Mint (Mentha Requienii)
The plant got its name because it is a native to Corsica. The leaves are distinctly different from other varieties in that they are small and rounded with a growing trajectory of downward – almost like a vine. It grows low and if you don’t put careful attention to it, the mint can actually become invasive. Incredibly fragrant, it is often used as an added ingredient to cocktails.
Spearmint (Mentha Spicata)
It’s tough to say which variety of mint is popular – spearmint or peppermint. Note though that when it comes to cooking, spearmint is the obvious winner. The leaves are heavily green and narrow with a scent that’s not as pungent as peppermint. It’s also invasive and best grown in pots.
Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium)
Pennyroyal is vine-like, which means you’ll have to be careful where you plant it. It can grow anywhere from 6 to 12 inches and is best grown in hanging pots to manage invasiveness. It used to be a favorite inclusion in cooking but today, the Pennyroyal variety is more commonly used as herbal remedy. The flowers are often pale blue or lavender with delicate leaves.
Basil Mint (Mentha x Piperita f.Citrata)
Having an upward growth of around 60 centimeters, this particular variety has a sweet and spicy smell to it, making it a good choice for Italian recipes. It also goes by the interesting name of “Bastardo Mint” and has toothed leaves with a slightly red shade to it. When mature, the plant grows purple flowers.
Calamint (Calamintha Nepeta)
Having distinctive and delicate lavender flowers, the Calamint works best as an ornamental plant. They’re not popular used for cooking and planted primarily for the lemon-scent and the beautiful blooms. They’re also deer-resistant and good for driving away insects around plants.
Catmint (Nepeta Mussinii)
The plant is primarily used for ornamental purposes – mainly because of the stunning purple flower heads. It’s a lot like catnip – hence the name – but perhaps not as popular. It is also planted alongside vegetables as it helps deter insects. Again – it’s invasive so try to keep it in pots.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha x Piperita)
The name for this variety is perfect because it has a minty chocolate scent that makes it a common ingredient for desserts, shakes, and ice cream. The leaves are rounded and during the summer, you can easily spot it thanks to the lavender-colored flowers. As with most mint varieties, the plant requires a consistently damp soil.
Ginger Mint (Mentha x Gracilis syn. Mentha x Gentilis)
Also known by the name “Vietnamese Mint” – this is the kind you’ll often find on top of Vietnamese cooking like the Pho noodles. It has a very gingery-like aroma and adds flavor to meat products like beef, pork, or chicken. It grows pretty fast and can be quite invasive if the conditions are right.
Horsemint (Monarda Citriodora)
No – this doesn’t have a “horse-like” scent to it, but it does grow fairly tall at a maximum height of 3 to 4 feet. Compared to other mints therefore, the Horsemint makes for a beautiful center in a garden, especially once the flowers start to appear. The flowers are spiked together and are pale pink in color. Unlike other types, the horsemint can tolerate dry soil from time to time.
Lavender Mint (Mentha Piperita)
Planted for their beautiful flowers, this variety of mint can grow up to 2 feet tall and best used as hedging. The plant itself is seldom used as herb or for medicinal reasons – but it has a pleasant smell that makes it perfect for flowering gardens.
Licorice Mint (Agastache Rupestris)
Considered a hardy plant, the licorice mint boasts of beautifully colored flowers that bloom during the summer. It has an upward growth and reaches around 42 inches tall when fully grown. The flowers are wonderfully fragrant and very attractive to hummingbirds.
How to Grow Mint
Mint prefers a well-draining soil that’s kept constantly moist so that it can get lots of water. You can plant it directly onto the ground, but most people prefer to put it in pots because it can be mildly invasive. When grown alongside vegetables, the mint can easily take all the nutrients that’s supposed to be for the other plants, so be careful when placing it on your garden. The pH level of the soil should be anywhere from 6.0 to 7.0. While it will grow in more acidic soil, it won’t thrive as well.
When planting mint on the ground, try to put it in a container first. Plant this container into the soil instead, making sure that the top edge is one or two inches above the level of the soil. Put mulch around the bottom to help retain moisture and keep the soil consistently wet for the plant.
As mentioned, the soil needs to be constantly moist for this plant. It loves the water and will grow aggressively well if given sufficient fluid. With most plants, the top layer can be dry as long as the soil is damp around one inch in. With mint however, this isn’t enough. You have to make sure that the top soil is also a bit moist for proper growth.
Once a day, place your finger on the topmost layer of soil and feel for some moisture. If your hand comes up slightly damp, then there’s no need to water it just yet. This is why most people prefer to grow mint on pots so there’s proper water control for the plant.
This is one of the few plants you can put in places where there’s full sun. As compensation however – the soil needs to be constantly moist or damp so the plant doesn’t dry out. If you’re planting outdoors, make sure it gets at least five hours’ worth of sun per day. Pay close attention to the color of the leaves – it should be a vibrant green. A brown-ish coloring means you’re not giving it enough sun or water.
Temperature & Humidity
At night, mint will need at least 12 degrees Celsius of temperature while daytime can be around 16 degrees Celsius. If grown outdoors, there’s really no need to mist the plant in order to stimulate humidity. For indoor growth however, you’d want to mist it a few times each week to keep the plant healthy.
Not a heavy feeder, starting mint off with good soil is often enough to keep it happy and healthy for the first year of its life. Of course, it’s always best for some extra nutrients through the introduction of fertilizers. For mint, an all-purpose fertilizer would be enough, introduced in the springtime as the new growth pops up. Try to put in more fertilizer every 6 weeks or so to encourage spreading.
Also note that this plant can be vulnerable to certain pests. Mildew, leaf spots, stem cankers, and rust are just some examples of problems they can have. Fortunately, this can be easily treated through organic or chemical pest-control products.
To keep this plant healthy, you actually have to constantly harvest some of its leaves, in effect pruning it into the growth direction you want. In fact, you have to constantly harvest the plant to maintain peak flavor and delaying the production of flowers as much as you can. If you only prune once in a while, try cutting around 2/3 of the full length to avoid a leggy upward growth. You can also “graze” the plant by making frequent cuttings.
Pruning involves cutting off the young leaves before there’s any hint of flowers. The young leaves are fresh-tasting and have the hint of coolness that makes the plant distinctive. In contrast, the older leaves can get bitter if left alone. When pruning, make sure to cut on top of the nodes so the new growth creates a denser plant.
Propagating this herb is best done through cuttings. You can cut about 6 inches worth of mint, making sure to remove most of the leaves but the top two. Next, just grab a pot of water and place the plant inside it. Allow it to stay there until the roots start to sprout out of the nodes. You can also add rooting solution to the water if you have any on hand. Don’t bother with seeds as this will only take longer to produce the plant you want. If this is your only option however, know that it takes 90 days for mint to grow into full maturity starting from seed.
Spring is the best time to plant cuttings of mint since the weather is just right to sprout the roots without being too harsh on the leaves. Of course, if you bring the pot indoors and just let it soak up the early morning sun every day, you can easily grow this plant in the summer. During the winter time, it’s perfectly normal for the plant to wilt and drop its leaves. Come spring time however, this perennial will grow new shoots and be ready to provide you with their produce again.
Health Benefits of Mint
Mint – especially peppermint – has many health benefits. In fact, peppermint essential oil is a favorite for many people, helping with stress relief, nausea, and tension headache. When consumed in tea form, mint can also introduce lots of vitamins and minerals into your body. It contains antioxidants, which help remove toxins from the body even as it introduces Vitamin A, Iron, and Folate.
Frequent consumption of mint tea can also help with digestion problems. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, this is the perfect companion to relieve the symptoms. The cool minty taste of the mint also works for coughs and colds – helping flush away the phlegm and nasal drip.
One interesting study shows that mint water also works best for areola cracking, which happens as a result of breastfeeding. There are also claims that it helps improve brain function – and you don’t even have to ingest it for that effect! When peppermint essential oils are diffused, the aroma improves the concentration of people – making it a good choice for students.
Uses of Mint
For cooking purposes, spearmint and peppermint are the top favorite varieties by chefs. While it still depends on the recipe, spearmint is generally preferred when making savory dishes. For dessert – you want to use peppermint for its stronger minty tasty. Both are happily added onto cocktails or even frozen in ice cubes to add a bit of freshness to water or any kind of juice.
Mint is often used as an ingredient of modern health products – primarily to relieve pain and tension. If you have mint plants in your garden, you can compress the mint leaves and gingerly apply the leaves to your temple to relieve headaches. Some people also find the scent relaxing and help prevent nausea.
Other uses for the plant include deterrence of insects. They’re perfect for parts of your home where mosquitoes seem to congregate as the smell of mint helps minimize their presence in the place. They’re also excellent for gardens because the smell can drive away pests that feast on your vegetables.
To wrap it up – you can fill an herb greenhouse with just varieties of mint plants thanks to how many types there are. With most of them needing minimal care, you can quickly create a jungle by just allowing these plants to do their thing. Careful monitoring is therefore needed to prevent this plant from invading your garden. Cared for properly – mint will provide you with endless supplies of medicine and seasoning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I grow mint indoors?
Yes – mint can definitely grow indoors, but you have to be careful about exactly where indoors you will be placing it. All plants need a degree of sunlight to survive and for the mint, it enjoys a full sun. This means that if you do grow it indoors – make sure you place it where the sun shines the most.
Does mint keep bugs away?
Yes, some mint plants have been known to repel insects – including mosquitoes. In fact, they’re used for companion gardening for this very reason. Certain varieties are planted alongside vegetables to naturally deter the onslaught of insects and other pests on the plant. Note though that for this to work well, you’d need to keep the mint in a pot so as to prevent it from aggressively spreading in the garden.
Does mint regrow after cutting?
Yes. They’re determined little survivalists and when left in water, mint can easily sprout roots and be ready for planting. If you’re cutting from the top however – such as when harvesting leaves – you’ll be glad to know that the mint will continue to thrive. In fact, frequent cutting is advised to keep mint plants healthy.