Mint

Caption

Mint is an easy herb to grow in your garden and can add flavor to every meal.

Botanical Name
Mentha
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Subhead

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Mint

The Editors

Mint practically grows itself! Not only does mint add fruity, aromatic flavor to foods and tea, but also it’s useful for health remedies such as aiding digestion and relieving headaches. All you need to do is confine this spreading perennial herb to a container or confined bed to keep it from taking over your yard! See tips on planting, growing, and controlling mint!

About Mint

Mint is a perennial herb with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. There are many varieties of mint—all fragrant, whether shiny or fuzzy, smooth or crinkled, bright green or variegated. However, you can always tell a member of the mint family by its square stem. Rolling it between your fingers, you’ll notice a pungent scent and think of candy, sweet teas, or maybe even mint juleps.

As well as kitchen companions, mints are used as garden accents, ground covers, air fresheners, and herbal medicines. They’re as beautiful as they are functional, and they’re foolproof to grow, thriving in sun and shade all over North America. Since mint can be vigorous spreaders, you simply have to be careful where you plant it.

Planting
  • Mints are vigorous perennials that thrive in light soil with good drainage.
  • Ideally, they prefer a moist but well-drained site, something like their native habitat along stream banks.
  • Most will grow in sun or partial shade; the variegated types may require some protection from direct sun.
  • For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall.
  • Mint is a vigorous grower and needs to be contained or it will send out its runners and spread all over your garden. The key is to contain the plant’s roots. Whether it's in the ground or above ground, plant mint in a pot. We suggest each mint is planted in a 10-inch pot that has drainage holes. You can then sink this pot into the ground or another larger container of soil. 
  • If you fine with mint becoming a ground cover and understand that it may become invasive, plant in its own raised bed or separate area.
  • In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes—in pots, again, in order to prevent it from spreading and stealing nutrients from your crops!

Check out this video to learn more about how to grow mint. 

Care
  • Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean.
  • For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • At first, mints develop into well-behaved–looking, bushy, upright clumps, but they soon set out to conquer new territory with horizontal runners and underground rhizomes. Unless you block the advance, a pert peppermint plant can turn into a sprawling 4-foot giant in just 1 year. It’s not the stuff of horror movies, however. Mints benefit from picking and pruning. They are shallow-rooted and easy to pull out, so there’s no reason to worry, as long as you provide physical barriers such as walls, walkways, or containers.

mint-basket_full_width.jpg
Photo Credit: Juta/Shutterstock

Pests/Diseases

Spacing for Mint

Harvest/Storage
  • Frequent harvesting is the key to keeping mint plants at their best. Young leaves have more flavor than old ones, and mint can be harvested as soon as it comes up in spring. Although fresh is best and sprigs keep for a few days in water, mint leaves can be frozen or air-dried in bunches.
  • Right before flowering, cut the stems 1 inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant two or three times in one growing season.
  • You can also just pick the leaves as you need them.
  • You can grow the plants indoors for fresh leaves throughout the winter. If you want to dry them, it's best to cut the leaves right before flowering. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.

Propagating Mint

The best way to propagate mints is by taking cuttings from those that you like best. It’s easy—take 6-inch cuttings of rooted stems and plant them horizontally in the soil. Mint stems will also root in a glass of water. Start with a small cutting from an established plant. Any gardening friend will give you a cutting of a favorite mint.

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Photo Credit: Joannawnuk/Shutterstock

Wit and Wisdom

"If any man can name . . . all the varieties of mint, he must know how many fish swim in the Indian Ocean.”  –Walafrid Strabo (c. 808–849)

Cooking Notes

Serious cooks generally prefer spearmint for savory dishes and peppermint for desserts. For a delicate mint taste in fruit salads, yogurt, or tea, try apple or orange mint. Mint lurks in the background in Middle Eastern salads, such as tabouli, and does well with lamb. It also goes with peas, zucchini, fresh beans, marinades for summer vegetables, cold soups, fruit salads, and cheese.

See our recipe for a delicious (and healthy) Mango Mint Smoothie!

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Credit: Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Tip! Make flavored ice cubes by freezing trays of strong mint tea, then use the ice cubes for your drinks!

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Comments

Kaye Blewett (not verified)

1 month 1 week ago

I am growing mint cuttings indoors in small 3" pots under a growing lamp so that I can have a regular supply throughout the winter. My query is that the leaves never get that large. Would I be better to move them to larger pots to achieve this?

Virginia Gallion (not verified)

4 months 2 weeks ago

how do I use chocolate mint ,,,I have
it in large pot and it smells wonderful but I don't know what to use it in or how to use it

Sherri M Damon (not verified)

4 months 2 weeks ago

Please add spider mites to your list of peppermint pests. They all but destroyed my once-bushy plants. I had to clip and root some healthy tops just to save them. I also must spray a rosemary oil-detergent-water mixture on the reviving stems still outside. <:-(

Denise T (not verified)

4 months 2 weeks ago

Years ago a golf ball sized hole popped up overnight in my parking area. I assumed it was a mole/vole or some such critter. I kicked some gravel into the hole and tamped it down. That worked for a day or two and then it reappeared. Since it was right near where I got out when I parked, I didn't want to turn my ankle or provide an open invitation for additional holes so I decided to pour some used kitty litter (no poops included) down the hole and covered it over again. It seemed to work but a similar hole appeared about six feet away. More litter and the critters got the idea until this year. This time instead of litter I crushed a few stalks of mint and shoved them down their doorway. It was never removed and I haven't seen any more holes anywhere. This wasn't a scientific survey by any means, but if you're having problems with diggers in your lawn or garden and have a supply of mint it's worth a try before using chemicals or nasty traps. This might make them move to a different area on your property, but if you have a supply of mint like I do it shouldn't be a problem driving the little monsters out of the back forty.

Eric Aschendorf (not verified)

4 months 2 weeks ago

Pineapple mint - Grow it for the Hummingbirds! They LOVE it!

I love my mints. I have them everywhere. Don't forget to add some Catmint to your variety. Pollinators are highly attracted to it as well as the fact that it provides an attractive flower most of the summer. Spearmint was one of the first plants, if not the first, that I planted almost 40 years ago when we moved into this house & I still have it growing (although I suspect that it is not the exact same plant but an offshoot thereof). I have a couple of areas where I have not been able to grow anything so mint will be the last resort.

As for the Catmint, Our cat said, "Thank you," to which I answered, "Don't Mint-tion it!"