The species and varieties of mint (Mentha spp.) are some of the easiest and most popular herbs to grow. Plants in the mint genus are very hardy perennials with vigorous growth habits. Left to their own devices, they will spread quickly and don't require much care. Mint plants are simple to identify not just because of their fresh and spicy scent. All members of the mint genus have square stems. Mint really wants to be a ground cover. The long stems grow upward and then flop over and root, spreading the plant wherever it can reach. And the summer-blooming flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Mint plants have a fast growth rate and should be planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Note that the essential oils of mint are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
|Botanical Name||Mentha spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial, herb|
|Mature Size||12–18 in. tall, 18–24 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Purple, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||3–11, USA (depends on species)|
|Native Area||Eurasia, North America, Africa, Australia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets|
Watch Now: Caring for and Growing Mint Plants
It's pretty hard to kill a mint plant. There's not much these plants need besides adequate moisture and rich soil. In fact, your primary maintenance task might be to trim back your plant to prevent it from spreading to unwanted places. 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.
In addition to pruning as needed, plan to water your mint during dry spells to keep the soil lightly moist. And feed it during the growing season (spring to fall) if you have nutrient-poor soil.
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 also can survive in fairly shady conditions, though it might be leggy and not produce as many or as flavorful of leaves.
Mint can adapt to most soil types, but it prefers a 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.
Maintaining lightly moist but not soggy soil is best for mint. If the soil feels dry about an inch down, give your plant some water. 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 once the heat of the day hits.
Temperature and Humidity
Temperature tolerance depends on the species you are growing, but in general mint plants are widely adaptable. For example, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is very cold hardy, able to withstand the cool temperatures in USDA hardiness zone 3. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) handles the heat well and can grow in zone 11. Moreover, 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.
If you already have rich garden soil, you likely won't have to give your mint any supplemental fertilizer. Container 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 label instructions.
Types of Mint
There are many types of mint that come in a range of appearances and flavors. They include:
- Mentha piperita: Peppermint features a sweet, minty flavor and grows in USDA zones 3 to 11.
- 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.
Propagating mint by cuttings is a simple task. It’s a cost-effective way to create new plants, and it even allows you to bring small plants indoors to continue growing for the winter. Propagation is best done in the late spring to early summer when the plant is actively growing and before it has bloomed. The easiest propagation method is via taking cuttings. Here’s how:
- Use sterilized scissors or pruning sheers to cut healthy a piece of stem roughly 4 to 6 inches long.
- Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem.
- Place the stem either in a container filled with water or a small pot filled with moistened potting mix. The cutting should root easily in either scenario. Put the container in bright, indirect light.
- The rooting process generally takes a couple weeks. 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 soil. When rooting in soil, water to keep the soil lightly moist. You’ll know roots have formed when you can gently tug on the stem and feel resistance. After that, you can replant the mint in the garden or another container if you wish.
How to Grow Mint From Seed
Sow seed outdoors in the late spring once there's no danger of frost, or start seed indoors about eight to 10 weeks before your area's last projected frost date. Just lightly cover the seed with soil, and keep the soil moist until the seed germinates, which takes around 10 to 15 days. Seed-grown plants should reach harvestable size within two months. It's important to note that some mint varieties are hybrids and will not grow true from seed.
Potting and Repotting Mint
Mint will readily grow in containers. An unglazed clay container with ample drainage holes is best because it will allow excess soil moisture to escape through the holes and the container walls. Use a quality potting mix, and make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Be mindful about where you place the container, as long stems touching surrounding soil might take root. Growing it on a patio or paved area is ideal. Once your container becomes root-bound and you see roots popping up above the soil, it's often simplest to take a cutting and start a new plant rather than repotting. An old plant won't have the best minty flavor.
You can start harvesting mint leaves once the plant has multiple stems that are around 6 to 8 inches long. This should take about two months if you are growing plants from seed or less time if you buy nursery plants. Do not harvest more than a third of a plant at once, as this 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. That 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.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Mint is generally not bothered by pests or diseases. But it can sometimes get rust, which appears as small orange spots on the undersides of leaves. Use a fungicide, and try to allow plants to dry between waterings. Stressed plants also can be bothered by common garden pests, including whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. Sometimes fixing the problem can be as easy as correcting the growing conditions.
Common Problems With Mint
Under optimal growing conditions, mint is typically free of problems. But some common issues can arise in subpar environments.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing leaves are often a result of overwatering, not enough sunlight, or a combination of both. Make sure your plant is never waterlogged. And if it's in the shade, move it to a sunnier spot.
Drooping leaves are common on mint plants that are in hot and sunny conditions. Giving the mint some water should perk up the leaves. If possible, move the plant if it's in direct sun.
Does mint like 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.
How fast does mint grow?
Mint grows quickly, reaching a harvestable size from seed in about two months.