Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) was initially considered to belong to its own species. However, it was later realized that the herb was, in fact, a hybrid between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and watermint (Mentha aquatica).
This amazingly aromatic herb is one of the oldest herbs used for ritual, culinary, and medicinal purposes. Today it is used for aesthetics, being cherished for its lovely refreshing fragrance and taste.
|Botanical Name||Mentha × piperita|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. wide, 1-2 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Adaptable except extremely dry|
|Bloom Time||July to August|
How to Care for Peppermint
Caring for peppermint is easy. Whether you decide to plant it in your garden directly or in a container, it will grow with very little effort on your part. Because peppermint aggressively spreads, most gardeners plant it in containers. No matter the planting method, peppermint is a marvelous herb that has many uses.
Before planting peppermint, be aware of its invasive nature. It is a vigorous grower and its roots need to be contained or the plant will send out runners and spread all over your garden. If planted in the ground, consider installing soil barriers. If container-grown, you can sink the container into the ground or into another larger container of soil.
Peppermint can grow in full sun or partial shade. It can even tolerate some dappled shade, unlike most herbs.
The adaptability of peppermint is one of its best features; it is also one of its worst features, allowing it to grow almost anywhere, making it a nuisance. Peppermint’s ideal soil is rich, loamy, and moist, though it's known to grow along trailside ditches and craggy outcrops—it can and will grow anywhere.
Consistently moist soil is the key to making sure your peppermint plant is happy and possesses tons of flavor. But be careful not to overdo it. Peppermint, like most mints, cannot tolerate standing water or soaking soil. Having soggy roots is a surefire way to kill or harm your plant.
Temperature and Humidity
Peppermint is unusually hardy and can survive light frosts but cannot endure extended cold snaps in cold climates, USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 5 and below. Its ideal growing conditions fall between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can survive nicely above and below that range with little negative effect. If you expect temperatures to be on the warmer side, keep the soil moist while also watching for excess growth from humid conditions.
Avoid fertilizing most herbs, especially plants in the genus Mentha. The flavor of herbs relies on the oils in their flowers and leaves. Accelerating their growth can lead to small profuse growth with many flowers and leaves and leggy stems rather than large, rich flowers and foliage with concentrated oils. You can often see this difference in the taste of homegrown compared to store-bought herbs.
Mint might be one of the easiest plants to propagate from cuttings. Use sterile scissors or snips to cut a stem section four inches in length just below a leaf node. Remove the leaves below the node and submerse the cutting in distilled water and place it in a location bright light and good air circulation.
Watch for root formation, which should occur within a few weeks. Let a good root system develop, then transplant the cutting into a pot fill with quality potting soil. Trim the top two inches from the plant to allow most of the energy to go into the root system. In a few weeks, you will have a thriving peppermint plant ready to be transplanted into a larger pot or into its new place in your garden.
Growing from Seed
Press the peppermint seeds on the surface of seed starting mix. The seeds will be tiny, so use care and do not press too hard. You do not need to bury the seeds with soil. Keep the soil moist and germination will occur in five to ten days and perhaps sooner if the soil is kept warm with a heat mat. If you are direct sowing into the garden or when you are ready to transplant seedlings, wait until the threat of frost is past. Space the peppermint seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.
Potting and Repotting
Because mint has the habit of spreading everywhere, growing peppermint in a pot is a wise choice. Choose a large pot with adequate draining holes that will accommodate vigorous root growth. Provide your plant with good drainage while also maintaining a moist environment with proper mulching. Potted mint tends to become leggy usually due to a lack of sun or too much fertilizer. Trim container-grown mint often to maintain a bushy, compact plant, and you will have a healthy plant for years to come.
- Mentha × piperita 'Chocolate Mint' has blooms that open from the bottom up; its flavor is reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
- Mentha × piperita 'Citrata' has a citrusy fragrance and is often called orange mint.
- Mentha × piperita 'Crispa' has a trailing habit with bright green crinkled leaves with tiny pale lavender blooms.
- Mentha × piperita 'Lavender Mint' is a fast-growing ground cover with reddish stems, dark green leaves, and profuse lavender blooms. It is ideal for use in savory meat and vegetable dishes.
- Mentha × piperita 'Lime Mint' has attractive bronze-green leaves what have a fresh lime-scent.
- Mentha × piperita 'Variegata' is a ground cover that produces spikes of violet flowers. Its green leaves have a creamy white variegation.