How to Grow and Care for Mint

closeup of mint leaves

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Mint plants (Mentha spp.) are very hardy perennials that are simple to identify not just because of their fresh and spicy scent, but because all members of the mint genus have opposite leaves and square stems. Long stems grow upward, flop over, and roots will form where the stems touch the soil enabling the mint plant to spread quite aggressively. Its small white or purple summer-blooming flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Mint plants grow quickly and should be planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Mint is toxic to animals.

Common Name Mint
Botanical Name Mentha spp.
Family Lamiaceae
Plant Type Perennial, Herb
Size 12–18 in. tall, 18–24 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, Partial sun
Soil Type Loamy, Moist, Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Hardiness Zones 3–11 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Africa, Australia
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Watch Now: Caring for and Growing Mint Plants

How to Plant Mint

Because mint is an aggressive spreader, keep it separated from your regular garden beds or it will consume nutrients and overgrow other plants in the bed. Growing mint in containers is recommended to keep it contained from spreading rampantly to other areas of your garden. If you plant mint in pathway crevices and between rocky places in high traffic areas, the mint will release its aromatic scent whenever the leaves are stepped on and crushed.

When to Plant

Plant mint outdoors in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Mint will benefit from springtime rainfall. Check the last average frost date for your specific region before planting mint, and keep an eye on the upcoming weather forecast to avoid planting before a cold front.

In zones 3 and 4, mint can usually be planted in early to mid May. In zones 5 to 7, mint can be planted in April. Zones 8 and 9 are suitable for planting mint in late February to early March, while zones 10 and above do not typically experience frost (meaning mint can be planted at any time).

Selecting a Planting Site

Mint can be grown in containers indoors and outdoors or planted directly in the ground in your garden. When planting mint in the ground, choose a place where it can spread without causing any problems. Mint fares best in a damp, moist area with well-draining soil, but also in a spot that's in either full sun or part shade. The plant favors fertile soil enriched with compost. Plant the root ball completely in the ground, covering it with at least 1 to 2 inches of soil on top.

Spacing, Depth, and Support

Plant mint cuttings or small purchased plants 18 inches to 2 feet apart outdoors. Two plants should be enough to cover a few feet of ground, as mint grows aggressively. This plant has a shallow root system, so you won't have to dig down too far—just enough to gently lay the plant and spread its roots with 1 to 2 inches of soil on top. To discourage mint from spreading in the garden, add edging around the planting area 18 to 24 inches deep into the soil or grow it in a container.

Mint Plant Care


Mint plants prefer part shade, though they will grow in full sun if you water them frequently. Still, it's best to protect them from strong afternoon sun. Mint can also survive in fairly shady conditions, though it might be leggy and not produce as many or as flavorful leaves.


Mint can adapt to most soil types, but it prefers rich soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Good soil drainage also is essential. Mint plants like water, but waterlogged soil can rot their roots.


Water your mint during dry spells to keep the soil lightly moist, adding more water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Maintaining lightly moist—but not soggy—soil is the ideal environment for mint. If you notice the foliage of your mint wilting, that's typically a sign the plant needs more moisture. It's best to water your mint in the morning so it has plenty of moisture during the day as temperatures rise.

Temperature and Humidity

Mint temperature tolerance depends on the species you are growing, but in general, these plants are widely adaptable. For example, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is very cold hardy and is able to tolerate the cool temperatures in USDA hardiness zone 3. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) handles the heat well and can grow in USDA hardiness zone 11.

Mint plants might struggle in low humidity. If you are growing your mint indoors, increase humidity by misting the plant between waterings or set the container on a water-filled tray of pebbles. This is especially necessary during the dry winter months.


Feed mint plants about once per month (every 4 to 6 weeks) during the growing season if you have nutrient-poor soil. If you already have rich garden soil, you likely won't have to give your mint any supplemental fertilizer. Container-grown plants and plants grown in nutrient-poor soil will benefit from feeding with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer throughout the growing season, starting in spring when the plants emerge. Follow the label instructions of your specific fertilizer to dilute it as needed.


Mint plants are cross-pollinated, meaning that different varieties will pollinate each other if planted closely. This results in new seeds that will grow as a hybrid of both plants. To keep your mint plants from producing hybrid seeds, grow them completely separately from each other in different containers or garden beds.

Gardeners can encourage cross pollination by growing two varieties of mint together, which will make the plants produce seeds with combined characteristics like taste and smell.

mint closeup
The Spruce / Kara Riley 
propagating mint
The Spruce / Jordan Provost
Potted mint plants
Dorling Kindersley: Peter Anderson / Getty Images
mint flopping over in an effort to spread
The Spruce / Kara Riley 

Types of Mint

There are many types of mint that come in a range of appearances and flavors. Popular mint varieties include:

  • Mentha x piperita: Peppermint features a sweet, minty flavor and grows in USDA zones 3 to 11.
  • Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Chocolate': Chocolate mint, a first cousin of peppermint, has leaves with a minty-chocolate flavor and aroma.
  • Mentha spicata: Spearmint is excellent for flavoring teas and salads and is one of the better mints to use as a landscape ground cover. It grows in zones 5 to 9.
  • Mentha piperita citrata: Orange mint is one of the tangiest of the fruit-flavored mints. It grows in zones 4 to 11.
  • Mentha suaveolens: Apple mint combines the flavors of apple and mint. It grows in zones 5 to 11.
  • Mentha suaveolens variegata: Pineapple mint is a variegated offshoot of apple mint. It grows in zones 6 to 11.

Mint vs. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is part of the mint family, but it tastes and smells different than other typical types of mints. Because it looks like an oversized mint plant, it is often mistaken for mint. It has a more lemony scent but with a twist of mint. Lemon balm also has larger leaves and grows taller than mint.

Harvesting Mint

Harvest mint leaves once the plant has multiple stems that are 6 to 8 inches long. This amount of growth should take about two months if you are growing plants from seed or less time if you buy nursery plants. Mature mint can be harvested in summer and fall before the shoots die back. Do not harvest more than a third of a plant at one time, as removing large amounts can weaken the plant.

Snip sprigs and leaves as needed. If you don't harvest your mint regularly, it will benefit from a shearing mid-season. At some point, you will probably notice the stems getting longer and the leaves getting shorter. This is the time to cut the plant back by one-third to one-half. This will encourage it to send out fresh new foliage again with good-size leaves.

Use your freshly harvested mint as garnish for various recipes or in mixed drinks, salads, soups, tea, baked goods, and more. Mint can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days, but its freshest flavors are most prominent within the first day of harvesting. Mint can also be chopped and frozen to maintain its aroma.

How to Grow Mint in Pots

Growing mint in containers is recommended to keep it contained from spreading rampantly to other areas of your garden. An unglazed clay container with ample drainage holes is best because it allows excess soil moisture to escape through the holes and the container walls. Use a quality potting mix and keep the soil moist, but not soggy.

Be mindful about where you place the container. Long stems touching surrounding soil might take root. Placing the pot on a patio or paved area is ideal. If placing the pot in the garden, add a double layer of landscaping cloth inside the pot over the drainage holes to prevent the roots from sneaking out of the container and into the surrounding soil.


Your primary maintenance task with mint might be to trim back your plant to prevent its runners from spreading to unwanted places. Mint prefers to be a ground cover. Pruning back the stems also makes for a bushier and more attractive growth habit. To relieve yourself of major pruning maintenance, grow your mint in a confined location, such as in a pot or between paved areas.

Propagating Mint

Mint can be propagated by cuttings as a simple, cost-effective way to create new plants. Propagation is best done in the late spring to early summer when the plant is actively growing and before it has bloomed. Here’s how:

  1. Use sterilized scissors or pruning shears to cut a healthy piece of stem that is 4 to 6 inches long.
  2. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem. 
  3. Place the stem either in a container filled with water or a small pot filled with moistened potting mix. Put the container in an area that receives bright, indirect sunlight.
  4. When rooting in water, change the water every few days to keep it fresh. Once roots grow to a few inches long, plant the cutting in potting soil.
  5. When rooting in potting soil, water to keep the soil lightly moist.

The rooting process takes a couple of weeks. You’ll know roots have formed when you can gently tug on the stem and feel resistance. After that, you can transplant the mint into the garden or another container if you wish.

How to Grow Mint From Seed

Sow seeds outdoors in the late spring once there's no danger of frost, or start seeds indoors about eight to 10 weeks before your area's last projected frost date. It's important to note that some mint varieties are hybrids and will not grow true to seed.

To grow mint from seed, lightly cover the seed with potting soil. Keep the soil moist until the seed germinates, which takes about 10 to 15 days. Plants started from seed should reach harvestable size within two months. 

Potting and Repotting Mint

Repot mint once the plant becomes root-bound and you see roots growing up above the soil or through the drainage holes. It's often simplest to take a cutting and start a new plant rather than repotting, as an older plant won't have the best minty flavor.

To repot the plant as a whole, remove it from its pot. Prepare a pot that is one to two sizes larger with fresh potting soil. Gently loosen the roots before replanting it in the new pot, then water it thoroughly and care for the plant as usual.


It's difficult to kill a mint plant, even in the winter. If you have mint planted outdoors, trim them low to the ground, cover with leaves or mulch (some gardeners use an old sheet), and leave them alone until springtime. Overwinter potted mint indoors before the threat of frost. Put the containers in an area that receives bright light, water consistently (but do not let the soil become soggy), and inspect the plant regularly for pests.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Mint is usually not affected by pests or diseases. However, stressed plants can be bothered by common garden pests, including whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs.

Mint plants can sometimes contract rust, which appears as small orange spots on the undersides of leaves. Use a fungicide, and try to allow plants to dry between waterings.​

  • Does mint prefer sun or shade?

    Mint grows best in partial shade. It can tolerate morning sun, but strong afternoon sun can wilt the foliage.

  • Are mint plants easy to care for?

    Mint plants require little maintenance to keep them healthy and vigorous. Provide your mint plants with enough water to keep the soil moist, but not soggy, and plant them in an area with partial shade.

  • How fast does mint grow?

    Mint plants grow quickly, typically taking about two months to reach a harvestable size after being planted as seeds.

Article Sources
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  1. Mint. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  2. Mint. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.