Chocolate mint is a close relative to ordinary peppermint (Mentha piperita). This hybrid is formed by crossing M. citrata (orange mint) with M. piperita to make the 'Chocolate' cultivar. It is a sterile hybrid plant that produces no seeds. It has an aroma of chocolate, but its taste resembles the orange citrus flavor of citrata mint.
The plant grows about 2 feet tall and easily spreads by rhizomes into an attractive ground cover. The rounded, lance-shaped leaves are a darker green than other forms of mint. Its lavender-colored flowers appear in summer.
This vigorous, fast-growing plant is sometimes grown as an annual in colder climates. It is typically planted in the spring after the last frost has passed. The plant will spread as far as it is allowed, though it is not particularly hard to keep within its boundaries.
|Common Names||Chocolate mint|
|Botanical Name||Mentha × piperita f. citrata 'Chocolate'|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1–2 ft. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil pH||6.5–7 (slightly acidic to neutral)|
|Bloom Time||Mid- to late summer|
|Flower Color||Lavender, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||5a–9a (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe and the Middle East|
Chocolate Mint Care
Chocolate mint is planted from nursery starts or stem cuttings. Chocolate mint grows best in rich, moist soil that is slightly acidic or neutral. Plant about 2 feet apart in spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Although growing herbs in less than rich soil tend to concentrate their essential oils (and therefore their scent and flavor), mint prefers moist, rich, humusy soil, so it’s good to add some organic matter before planting. Mint is one of the few culinary herbs that prefer part shade. However, you can grow it in full sun if you provide adequate moisture.
All mints are aggressive growers and will cover as much space as possible. The chocolate mint cultivar does not grow as rampantly as ordinary mint, but you may still want to grow it in containers or with some type of barrier in the ground. Alternatively, you can plant the whole container in the ground to control its rhizomatous roots from spreading. However, if you want a spreading ground cover, mints are a good choice.
Chocolate mint plants prefer partial shade. You can grow them in full sun if you water them frequently.
Just about any rich, moist soil will successfully grow chocolate mint. Very dry, sandy soils are likely to cause problems, but you can overcome this if you water frequently. Top-dress the soil yearly with organic matter to keep it well-draining.
Chocolate mint requires 1 to 2 inches of water each week (rain and irrigation) but does not respond well to constantly boggy conditions. If growing in a container, never let the pot dry out completely and ensure it drains well.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant is not fussy; it will tolerate all climate conditions within its hardiness range. You will need to provide substantial humidity if grown indoors since indoor conditions are usually dry. You can provide moisture in the form of misting or placing the container on a tray filled with pebbles and water. Extreme humidity may cause fungal diseases to develop.
Chocolate mint is a vigorous plant that needs little more than a single dose of balanced fertilizer each spring.
You can begin pruning leaves when the plants are at least 4 to 5 inches tall. Regular shearing helps keep the plants in check, so they do not take over the yard. Don’t take more than one-third of the leaves at any one pruning session. Prune or harvest at least three or four times during the growing season.
When your plants bloom, shear them back, and new tender leaves will fill in. If you notice the stems getting longer and the leaves getting sparse and small, it’s a sign that harvesting has not been enough to reinvigorate your plant. Cut the plants back by one-third to one-half, and the new foliage that appears should have much larger leaves.
Propagating Chocolate Mint
Once you have your first mature plant, you can take cuttings and make as many plants as you like. You cannot grow this plant from seeds since chocolate mint plants are sterile hybrids that do not produce seeds. The plant will respond to pruning or stem harvesting by becoming bushier and keeping new foliage coming in.
To propagate by stem cutting:
- You will need sterilized pruning snips or scissors, clear glass or jar of filtered water, and a sunny spot. After a week or so, you will also need a pot filled with all-purpose, quality potting soil.
- Cut a 3- to 5-inch stem just below a node where a leaf grows out from the stem.
- Suspend the cutting in water. Trim any leaves above the waterline. Add a little water every few days to maintain the waterline. If you notice a film developing on the water, completely change the water. This water change prevents bacterial growth. Wait for a substantial root structure to form, usually three to four weeks.
- After rooting, plant the stem and its new roots in potting soil or the garden.
Potting and Repotting Chocolate Mint
Growing mint in a container is a good way to enjoy the plant without this prolific grower from overtaking your garden. You will need at least a 12-inch deep pot with drainage holes. If you use something like a strawberry pot, you can grow multiple types of mint in the same container. With its dark green leaves and stems, chocolate mint is also nice in a hanging basket.
If you live in hardiness zones 3 to 5, potted chocolate mint can overwinter outdoors with some protection. Cover the mint bed with a layer of coarse mulch, straw, or shredded wood or bark will allow it to be insulated. To overwinter potted chocolate mint, move it into a basement or unheated garage for the winter. Give it a little water when the soil is dry a few inches below the surface, and move it back outdoors when the weather warms in the spring.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Mint is usually problem-free; however, it can sometimes be affected by rust, a fungal disease that manifests as small orange spots on the undersides of leaves. Use an organic fungicide and allow the leaves to dry out between waterings. Make sure the plants are not crowded and get plenty of air circulation. Chocolate mint is also deer resistant.
If your chocolate mint plants should become stressed, they may become susceptible to pests such as whitefly, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. Citrus oil is a good remedy for these insects.
How to Get Chocolate Mint to Bloom
Mint plants usually flower in late spring or early summer when the heat gets intense with pink to lavender-colored panicles of blooms. The little flowers look like tiny knots. Bees and pollinators are attracted to its blooms. The flowers are not known for their scent; the leaves are the sweet-smelling star of this plant.
If growing this plant for its flavorful leaves and culinary uses, you will want to cut down buds before they flower. By allowing a plant to flower, the plant puts its energy into flower production, reducing the intense flavor of the leaves.
If you want to get your mint to bloom and it isn't, make sure to feed your mint during the growing season using a balanced fertilizer. Another reason your plant fails to bloom could be that the container is too small, and the roots have become rootbound. To prevent a plant from becoming rootbound, repot in a new container 2 to 3 inches larger. A new pot should increase the growth rate and may encourage flowers.
Common Problems With Chocolate Mint
All mints are prolific growers. However, some growing conditions can profoundly affect mint growth, namely water level, overcrowding, and poor soil.
Wilting, Browning Leaves
A mint plant that looks to be dying can occur if it does not get enough water or if its pot is too small. Roots crowded in a pot will compete for water and nutrients. To remedy this condition, repot in a larger pot, prune your plant, and give more water. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer.
Yellowing, Droopy Leaves
If your mint plant has yellowed, droopy leaves, take a closer look at its roots and soil. Does the soil appear soggy? Mint does not like constantly wet feet. Waterlogged soil or pots without drainage can cause mint to turn yellow and droop. Also, check the roots. If the plant has started to turn dark brown or black and has developed a mushy, rotting texture, it may have fungal root rot. If caught early, you can save the plant. You will need to unpot the plant, cut away the blackened root parts and replant in a sterilized pot with fresh potting soil. Before planting, you can also dip the remaining healthy roots in a fungicide solution. Ensure the pot has ample drainage holes to prevent root rot from recurring.
Leggy Stem Growth
If your chocolate mint plant develops leggy stem growth with few leaves, it is often due to lack of sun or too much nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Change your fertilizer, weaken it, or stop giving it. Also, leggy growth can be caused by a rootbound plant looking to spread someplace more hospitable. If your plant is placed in too shady of a spot, give it more light. Also, frequent pruning can make your plant appear bushier and stimulate new leaf growth.
How long does chocolate mint live?
Under good growing conditions, this plant can live five to 10 years. Propagate with stem cutting to keep this plant growing longer in your home or garden.
Can chocolate mint grow indoors?
Where should I place chocolate mint indoors?
Chocolate mint needs bright, direct light. Position a chocolate mint plant in a sunny, south-facing window when growing it indoors.